Poacher turned gamekeeper, I have worked in the ERP and business management software industry for over 10 years in sales, marketing and project management roles. During this time I have worked with most of the major brands such as Microsoft, IRIS, Sage, SAP and Infor either directly representing their applications or providing complementary solutions which expand and increase their functionality.
I have completed over 40 successful ERP deals in my career, covering a number of vertical markets and ranging from £10k to £250k in size. I was personally responsible for project managing the implementation of more than half those sites.
My extensive knowledge of the ERP market means I can provide a realistic approach to what can be achieved and I have an awareness of the underlying pitfalls associated with system and process change.
Using this knowledge, in December 2008 I started Recenseo with a trusted colleague /PQ Accountant to deliver consultancy service to authors, resellers and end users alike regarding the various ERP options available today.
Recenseo is a business consultancy providing a range of services including:
- ERP Systems - search and selection
- Marketing and sales consultancy
- Interim financial management
- Pre sales and sales support to resellers and authors
- Financial report writing skills
- Proposal/RFI/Requirements analysis - preparation
We work with suppliers and end users alike to help them achieve their business goals and become more efficient through the improved use of software solutions.
You Cannot Beat Google
@Gone Sailing Google offers you up content based on a number of factors, primarily:
Based on your search queryYour geographic locationYour past browsing history and 'online profile'what you seem to like
Let me explain these in more detail.
Search Query - We are increasingly talking to Google and being more narrative in our search. In years gone by we used very clinical search terms and got clinical results. But today, with Google glasses, watches and voice operated systems such as Siri on Apple, we speak to the search engines and so they offer up content which is more narrative. You will notice in your own search results now that you see a lot more forums, videos, images and news sites popping up at the top of the results, rather than simple websites, as they seek to answer your question.
Location/history/profile - As we go about our days we leave a trail of information breadcrumbs all over the net. Google et al come along behind and hoover these up, creating a profile of you - age, gender, likes, interests etc. They then use this information to offer up search results they think you will find interesting. Most of you will have noticed remarketing taking place. You look for a hotel on Expedia or hotels.com and then go off to another site, only to see adverts for the exact same hotels you have just looked at, popping up in that screen. This is Google etc following you based on your past search. Google now offers 'similar marketing' too whereby it would put those hotels in front of other people that have a similar web footprint to you e.g. same age, likes etc.
We have all been accepting cookies for years but maybe you never realised what they do! Here is a prime example. Your are organising holiday 2015. You look for flights on easyjet and find some nice cheap options. You go and speak to the family and when you go back to book, the deal is not so amazing. This is cookies in action. They now know you are interested in those flights and if you go back to them you are showing a buying pattern. So, the website pushes up the price because they know you are likely to buy it - so why not make a few more quid out of you....! So next time, you are browsing for deals, look on one device and book or another and you wont get stung.
In answer to your specific point about your website seemingly doing well and always popping up when you search this will be as a direct result of all of the above. Google offers it up because it thinks you want to see it! To avoid this, do as I do and use different browsers and devices and then you will get a more aggregated view of your positioning - or pay a company to track your site.
This discussion boils down to one simple question. Do you want to be exactly the same as everyone else in your industry or do you want to be different, promote your uniqueness and have your own opinion?
Why does that matter I hear you ask? Well, lets pick PracticeWeb as an example because it is top of the list of supposed 'top providers'. Earlier this year I downloaded the content from 2 PracticeWeb supplied sites for 2 competing firms of local accountants. What percentage of those sites (both around 650 pages) do you think was identical? I remind you that these are competing accountants in a small local market.... The answer... over 90% was absolutely identical.
Furthermore, when I spoke to the marketing partner at each firm, neither of them actually knew a)how many pages they had on their site and b) what most of their content actually said, because they had played no part in putting it there.
The reason being is they both subscribe to a PracticeWeb sausage machine website which as far as they are concerned ticks the box for marketing. They can pay one sum to Sift Media (yes the same one as has put their own product top of their own independent review) and for that they get a fully content populated website, regular 'industry news' and if you tick some more boxes on the order form 'SEO' and white label budget reports and other literature. All you have to do is supply your logo, favourite colours and direct debit details and the rest is simple - you can sit back and not worry.
But why would you do this? Would you move into the offices of your competitor, have an identical logo or profess to offer exactly the same service in person...? No.. so why would you do it with your website?
Aside from making you all look the same, Google and other search engines are really cracking down on duplicate content and as someone that monitors more than 20 websites on a weekly basis for my clients, I see the adverse effect of Google updates on their search positioning all too frequently.
Furthermore, in terms of how clients read this content bear this stat in mind - A recent eshot using PractieWeb 'fed' news received just 40 opens or click throughs. An eshot to the same base with news specific to the practice and its profile clients, got over 800 engagements. So it is not just about what you want, think or can afford - one thing you must remember is there is a client on the other side.
Oh and if that client has already signed up to news from one a sausage machine site and then trys to sign up on yours, the first site trumps the second so they will not actually get your news but will continue to have your competitors name flashed in front of them on a regular basis!
So before you base your decision on cost or the ease of a one stop shop solution ask yourself what you want your website to say about your practice/company. If you want to be lost in the crowd then go for an off the shelf template site but if you actually do have something worth saying or a reason for clients to choose you over someone else, then start from scratch, use an independent CMS like Wordpress and employ a webdesign agency - not a website farm. There is no fixed % rational for how much to spend on a website - just ask B&Q who have spent £60m on theirs because it is what fits for their business and their customer demands.
How interesting that AccountingWeb chose PracticeWeb to go top of the list - I wonder what was behind that thinking?
Franchisee Advisory Councils
This is great to see a Franchisor and Franchisees working in close partnership. I was reading about the idea of Franchisee Advisory Councils the other day for a prospective client - it is an idea devised by Susan-Ann Hills, a great proponent of 'ors and 'ees working collaboratively - and I think the ultimate outcome of such an arrangement would have to be what TaxAssist have managed.
Really Useful Guide
I have just been helping a friend of mine who is a skipper on a boat based i nthe Med, research the issue of residence for tax purposes and found a really useful guide here The Fry Group - SRT guide. If you look at the bottom of the form, you can download it without giving them your details so you dont get inundated with marketing fodder!
Jo Sutton wrote:
This is a very interesting article, giving an unsually clear overview of the mid-market players in the cloud accounting market. I am particularly grateful to Nigel for mentioning Xledger before I had time to add my comments!
Xledger is now expanding actively outside our home market in Scandinavia, with customers in both the UK and the US. We aim to provide more than just ERP functionality delivered by a different technical route. We also offer a number of supporting services, only possible because of the cloud infrastructure.
John - can we talk further?
Further to my previous post, X Ledger was one of the options we looked at with our client last year and I must say it was a great addition to the process and a really nice system. It offers very good value for money and some really neat functionality.
I agree with JC
We work with clients to help them select the new ERP/CRM and Accounting systems for their business. Last year we carried out our first search and selection project whereby the client demanded Cloud only solutions in the long list. Previously we had always recommended our clients have at least 1 cloud offering in the long list becuase this is the way the market is headed. Most of our clients are in the traditional mid market space and as this and previous articles alude to, the market has been slow to respond and provide a cloud offering that TRULY rivals the traditional on premise options.
In carrying out a cloud only search we realised just how few options there are, but we were also amazed at how the old guard were dressing their systems up as cloud, when clearly they are not.
Sage, IRIS, Coda and SAP B1 all claimed to offer hybrid Cloud solutions but when you scratch the surface you find it to be a privately hosted traditional system, financed over 3 years - or - a series of web apps that connect to the on premise software. This is not true Cloud as the systems lack the agility that a truly web developed system offers.
Sarah Palin had a good phrase for this. "If you put lipstick on a pig, it is still a pig". - Not saying the old gaurd are pigs - but you get the point.
I fully accept that recoding Sage 200, SAP B1 or IRIS Exchequer (or similar) to a cloud footing is like turning a tanker on a tuppence, but surely pretending to be Cloud is harmful to the good name they have built up over many years? Rather than developing web enabled add ons and apps, I would really like to see some of the traditional on premise authors focussing on recreating their entire systems in a true Cloud environment, as the one thing the mid market Cloud lacks at the moment is competition and the full range of functionality users had come to enjoy with good old fashioned software.
another new technology
And where would they print 500 dot-matrix payslips to at home? Or would they be printing directly from their hosted payroll application anyway? :)
Alan I hate to chuck more new technology at you but have you come across email....?
Then give them a POETS day and send them home early to do the payroll from there where they do have internet.
ah now you see, you could not do that with a corrupted server!
"'I'm sure a day will come where fast broadband is ubiquitous and almost 100% resilient, and cloud platforms are almost 100% resilient (you will remember to renew your Azure certs, won't you Microsoft)"
I love the way in which everyone has conveniently forgotten the times their servers fell over or they had a power cut in their offices and all the staff sat around looking at each other. Ultimately nothing is 100% assured in terms of up time, be that on premise or web based. This is such an old arguement against web based or cloud solutions and one we really should stop trotting out
Thanks though Alan for pointing out my erorr on the broad use of the term Cloud, you are correct about hybrid solutions. However, this is ultimately not new technology just deployment.
Eastleigh beckons for mid range vendors!
I would suggest that the mid range vendors should all be in Eastleigh today as they would make superb politicians given some of these responses.
The fact is these boys have been caught napping and dismissed the cloud early on - something which has come back to bite them now as hoards of customers leave in search of genuinely new technology.
(Print and frame this bit as it rarely happens) I agree with Paul Sparkes that there is currently a ceiling in the cloud market functionality but (and here is where reality kicks back in) dismissing this as a long term situation is a fools errand. Unlike the legacy on premise solutions the cloud market is youthful, energetic and agile; it will change, quickly and new functionality will appear every 4-6 weeks, something Iris, Access etc can only dream of delivering.
It is hard to blame the on premise vendors for getting themselves into this position. They have become used to their maintenance base and it is very hard to wean yourself from a cash cow like this. However, I fear that many have left it too late and now that the pressure is on they realise how hard it will be to re engineer their old architecture onto a viable cloud platform. Instead we see these token gestures or small elements of web/cloud based functionality - which dont really offer clients the same flexibile solution.
In 2012 we undertook our first search and selection project where the client specified Cloud only. We were worried that the market was not ready, especially given some of the complexities of the clients requirements. However we were pleasantly surprised by the outcome.
As this article points out many people consider the cloud market to be limited to the book keeping solutions from Free Agent, Quickbooks and Xero - but that belittles a maturing market. Solutions such as Netsuite, XLedger, SAP BBD, Aqilla, Brightpearl and Financial Force are offering a true alternative to the sleeping giants.
I know the mid range vendors will put a pretty dress on their solutions which some customers will accept as an improvement, but it is not a long term solution. I really do like a lot of the on premise solutions and would suggest their time/money might be better spent on re engineering their established and functionally rich products into true cloud solutions as I think the market would be a better place for it.