By David Fletcher
Please feel free to share our comics via social media networks such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest. Clear attribution (Twitter example: via @cloudtweaks) to our original comic sources is greatly appreciated.
By David Fletcher
Please feel free to share our comics via social media networks such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest. Clear attribution (Twitter example: via @cloudtweaks) to our original comic sources is greatly appreciated.
Over the last decade, the Cloud has transformed the costs and capabilities of customer relationship management (CRM) tools. Users can now update and access contacts and sales data anywhere, whether in the office or at an impromptu meeting a hundred miles away. These systems promise an easy setup, decreased cost, and third-party integrations for many of the apps you’re already using. The following six fill a variety of sales-oriented needs while helping users prioritize customer satisfaction.
You might already be familiar with the company behind Highrise. Basecamp released their CRM system in 2007, but they’ve been making web apps since 1999. Highrise’s interface emphasizes team communication, providing task tracking and reminders as well as email capabilities and contact management. Blinklist calls Highrise a “viable option” for those who may not need the “typical full range of CRM functionality,” while CRMCog warns that Highrise may be “too simple,” and users in need of customization features should steer clear.
Integrations: Highrise supports 96 third-party app integrations, including Tracks, MailChimp, Zapier, and Wufoo.
Pricing: Highrise presents users with a 30-day free trial for any of the three tiers: Basic ($24/month), Plus ($49/month), and Premium ($99/month).
HubSpot has been around since 2006. This company’s CRM system focuses on cutting down on a user’s “tool time,” or minutes lost logging and managing data, in order to increase time spent selling. Another significant principle that went into making the software is ensuring that salespeople have customer information available in its totality when they need it. The system features a customizable “deal and task board,” simplified contact communication, and a database of potential leads. The Sales Lion classifies HubSpot CRM as “a lighter-weight CRM tool that offers some really cool features which enhance the power of the HubSpot platform,” but notes that the comparative depth of other CRM platforms may not merit a switch if your company is already using another system.
Integrations: HubSpot CRM integrates with the company’s other platforms, HubSpot Sales and Marketing (both paid services). There are 49 additional third-party apps to choose from, with the most popular including Zendesk, FreshBooks, and HelloSign. HubSpot is also developer-friendly, allowing for developers to build their own third-party integrations.
Pricing: HubSpot is free, with options for paid premium features.
Pipedrive was made “by sales pros, for sales pros” and released in 2010. As a result of its creators’ history of sales experience, Pipedrive caters to the issues that typically hold sales professionals back. The “Pipeline” dashboard provides users with a data overview, “Timeline View” assists in prioritizing, and charts visually aggregate sales data and progress. Merchant Maverick points out that most of Pipedrive users complaints are related to the system’s mobile app, but nevertheless praising the platform’s application across a spectrum of business models.
Integrations: Pipedrive allows for 43 total integrations, with the notable inclusion of two-way syncing Google Apps. Other third-party options include Yesware, MailChimp, Zapier, and PandaDoc.
Pricing: Pipedrive has just one plan, which costs $12/user/month. There’s also a free trial for customers looking to test out the service before committing.
Founded in 1999 and headquartered in San Francisco, Salesforce is the company more or less responsible for creating cloud-based CRM software. Salesforce operates on a philanthropic model that donates 1% of its resources to “giving back” through employee volunteering, community grants, and more. As far as its CRM features go, the service hones in on sales administration, personalized customer service, brand marketing for all channels (email, social media, etc.), employee communication, and analytics for customer info. Automation is also important to Salesforce, as a slew of integrations allow users to centralize information taken from a variety of compatible platforms. Salesforce’s aggregate rating on G2 Crowd is 4.1 out of 5 stars (978 ratings). The most helpful review labels Salesforce “the leading CRM platform for sales and service,” praising ease of administration and complex analytics but raising the concern that Salesforce may be rolling out too many products at once, stretching company resources too thin.
Integrations: Salesforce provides 2,973 total integrations through its business app store, AppExchange. Offerings are split into categories like Sales (which has the most to choose from), Customer Service, IT & Administration, Marketing, Finance, and Collaboration. The most popular downloads include Data Loader, MailChimp, DocuSign, Gmail, and Microsoft Outlook.
Pricing: There are four plans to choose from, with Starter beginning at $25/user/month and the highest-priced Unlimited setting you back $250/user/month. There’s also the $300/user/month Performance Edition Bundle, which has a $600 value.
Sugar was founded in 2004, and its system is known for its open-source availability. Users can still download the community edition for free, although it is no longer being updated alongside the paid version. Sugar operates on principles of automation and customization intended to simplify the customer’s life. Features include activity streams (complete with social media integration), advanced charts, alerts and other productivity aids, case management, sales activity and opportunity tracking, campaign and email marketing, and more. Zapier highlights the helpfulness of the system’s customization offerings in both paid and Community Edition forms.
Integrations: Sugar offers 179 different third-party app integration options, such as MailChimp, Freshdesk, and Relationship Analytics.
Pricing: Sugar provides users with a selection of three plans: Professional ($40/user/month), Enterprise ($65/user/month), and Ultimate ($150/user/month). As for alternate options, the open-source community edition is still available in its earlier form (Sugar markets it as “a good way for developers to get to know Sugar”), and there’s a free trial as well.
Zoho’s CRM system came on the scene in 2005, though the company has been offering SAAS since 1996 (previously as AdventNet Inc.). System features include “turning looks into leads” by importing site visitor data, smart prioritization through the View for Activities option, sales activity tracking, social media integration, customer data compilation through Business Card View, and more. Small Business Trends warns that Zoho can be “tricky” for first-time CRM users, but concludes that the system is “a great value for the price“.
Integrations: With Zoho, users have the option of integrating roughly 70 different apps and add-ons. Options include Twitter, Facebook, Google Apps, Evernote, MailChimp, WordPress, and more.
Pricing: Zoho offers a free plan with limited features, as well as a 15-day free trial for paid versions. The three paid tiers—Standard, Professional, and Enterprise—clock in at $12/user/month, $20/user/month, and $25/user/month respectively.
By Leo Welder
Thanks in part to many of the ingenious cloud tools and services available today, remote jobs are on the rise, offering a great deal of flexibility and, for the lucky few, the options to travel and explore. CloudTweaks for example, is a huge supporter and believer in providing telecommuting opportunities especially in this day age with the large number of Cloud based tools available. The cost cutting is another major benefit which helps keep overhead costs to a minimum.
Now for some resources for those startups interested in offering telecommuting opportunities.
Nomad List’s selection of welcoming locations with cost of living ranging from $456 to $5,897 per month is enough to inspire even the most fainthearted among us to take advantage of today’s cloud tools and opt for a remote working experience, but aside from the thrill of adventure, remote jobs are also offering benefits such as reduced overheads, decreased travel time and costs, and improved work-life balance.
According to Flexjobs, an online job site for remote employers and employees, the list of top 100 companies offering remote jobs in 2016 includes a number of the tech giants such as Amazon (3), IBM (7), VMware (21), and Apple (47), and according to their research, telecommuting job listings increased by 36% between 2014 and 2015. IT jobs seem to offer the most opportunities, but remote appointments in healthcare, education and marketing are also making their mark.
(Infographic Source: Highfive)
Though we all know one or two nomads, most of us are happy to settle in one spot and just take the odd vacation. Several startups are catering to these more common needs of flexibility and short-term adventure. Sabbatical provides one- to three-week remote work experiences, complete with accommodation, co-working space, and business and social programming while Nomad Pass offers professionals access to co-working spaces in cities globally. Teleport helps keep the cost of living low by analyzing data from various cities and has also created a new tool, Flock, that helps those who manage remote teams find affordable and appropriate meeting spots for their dispersed team members.
Aside from the above startups inspiring employees to work remotely, a wide assortment of tools which support and enable remote working are being developed. Included are collaboration tools for better communication and project management, productivity tools that help create routines and prevent distractions, and virtual office tools for suitable administration and management.
iDoneThis – a simple but effective tool for maintaining clarity, each day team members receive an email reminder asking “What’d you get done today?” This allows users to record achievements and consolidate team accomplishments in one place.
HelpScout – “customer support software with a personal touch”, HelpScout keeps teams organized and customers happy and offers a host of features for managing email at scale.
Xero – bringing enterprise level accounting to the multitudes, Xero offers endless levels of reporting and customization and saves the rainforests by eliminating the need for paper invoices and receipts. Simply snap a photo from your smartphone or forward receipts to your Xero inbox. The enormous array of 3rd party integrations serves only to make Xero all the more ingenious.
TOPDOX – this document collaboration platform supports any document format across any cloud storage. Now you don’t have to choose between OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.
Remote working policies are not only boosting happiness and reducing expenses but improving staff retention, and with the support of the cloud we’re seeing tools that promise greater productivity, distraction-free environments, and global reach for both employers and employees.
By Jennifer Klostermann
It’s been a difficult week for a number of technology industry giants who were placed under the spotlight and forced to concede that not everything has been going as smoothly as they would have hoped. Perhaps no-one in tech has had a tougher week than Elizabeth Holmes, the CEO of blood lab startup Theranos, who was forced to respond to a Wall Street Journal story which claimed that US Health Regulators suggested they may have to ban them “after concluding that the company failed to fix what regulators have called major problems at its laboratory in California.”
Holmes claimed to be ‘devastated’ by the accusations and promised to dig in and fix the issues at the lab, but many were skeptical that Theranos would be able to bounce back, and viewed her interview on MSNBC as a PR disaster.
Another high-profile CEO who was forced to admit that they were not successful was Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer, who has been trying for a number of years to revitalize the one-time search titan with very little success.
A sale of the company now appears to be a certainty, and the deadline for interested bidders was passed this week. Nevertheless, shareholders were encouraged by the better-than-expected results, as well as the news that Meyer was focused on the sale, and not trying to fight it.
Britain’s Daily Mail, the mobile provider Verizon and various other heavyweight stakeholders have all been named as interested buyers, but the Yahoo leadership has decided not to name names. They have publicly stated that they are moving as fast as they can and won’t be providing any further updates, but that there is a ‘a defined, aggressive calendar’ to move the sale forward.
Another industry stalwart undergoing a shakeup is the chip-maker Intel, who made waves with the announcement that it was cutting 11% of its workforce and choosing instead to “accelerate its evolution from a PC company to one that powers the cloud and billions of smart, connected computing devices.” Wired magazine put forward a very thoughtful piece which came out in support of this strategy, arguing that is exactly what Intel should be doing. “Considering that the PC market is dying and that Intel had never really been successful as a chipmaker for mobile phones, Intel is right to restructure (and remarket) itself as a cloud company. According to research IDC, Intel controls 99 percent of the market for chips that drive computer servers. So for now, that’s Intel’s future.”
The company is determined to secure its future with the Internet of Things, yet at this stage no one organization is really dominant in an industry that is still more theoretical than factual, so for now data centers are a smart bet for Intel.
Two other global players who saw things get a bit tougher this week are Netflix and Tesla. While Netflix has recently extended its brand across the globe by opening up over 130 markets for its streaming services, the news that Amazon is about to offer a cheaper global streaming service has put the dominance of the Netflix brand in doubt. And in the world of electric cars, China’s Le Holding Co announced its all-new electric car called LeSEE which will be unveiled at the Beijing Auto Show next week. China is a huge prize for the auto industry and any one company that can dominate there in electric cars looks certain of a very bright future.
Clearly, the stakes are higher than ever and a lot can change in a week, but it seems certain that no companies can rest on their laurels in the hyper-competitive tech world of today.
By Jeremy Daniel
Due to a range of market forces, a recurring revenue model that’s been used for decades in industries such as airplane manufacturing is undergoing a resurgence. Widely referred to as outcome-based pricing, output-based pricing, and performance pay, it offers companies a compelling way to stand out in a crowded field. Here’s a quick look at what it involves and what it takes to make it work.
With outcome-based pricing, people don’t buy products and services. Instead, they purchase the results those products and services make possible.
It’s not a new idea. For example, the concept of “Power by the Hour” for jet engines first arose in the 1960s. Customers no longer had to buy engines. Instead, they bought the outcome of owning an engine: guaranteed hours of operational performance. As part of the agreement, the engine makers took care of all maintenance and repairs.
Rolls Royce uses the same pricing method today with its TotalCare program, as do other engine manufacturers such as GE and Pratt & Whitney.
In today’s age of soaring customer expectations and increasing product commoditization, the idea of paying only for results is taking off. For companies, it provides more than ongoing, predictable revenues. Because they’re directly responsible for positive outcomes, it also deepens their relationships with customers in ways other pricing models don’t. It makes them collaborators in their customers’ success.
Here are a few examples of how various industries are using this strategy in new ways:
For all of its benefits, outcome-based pricing works well in only certain circumstances. For example, outcomes should be quantifiable and not subjective (e.g., cost savings, specific tasks performed, or benchmarks reached). Here are a few more criteria to consider if you want to know if this strategy is worth pursuing:
If your business can take advantage of outcome-based pricing, it’s well worth exploring. It gives you unique leverage in creating long-term repeat revenues. After all, when you offer customers positive outcomes, chances are they’ll want to buy them over and over again.
By Tom Dibble
The Internet of Things (IoT) has reached the peak of its hype cycle for emerging technologies, and like the tech trends it follows — particularly the app boom — it seems nearly every business wants a piece of the action.
By 2016’s end, Gartner expects companies will have sold 6.4 billion connected “things,” up 30 percent from 2015. By 2020, the research firm projects we’ll be collectively using 20.8 billion connected devices.
But as companies scramble to capitalize upon consumers’ demand for next-generation technology products, too many are grasping at straws like smart diapers, connected deodorant applicators, and high-tech scotch bottles.
Frankly, these are novelty products. Users might use them once or twice, then decide they can determine for themselves — and for a lot less money — whether the baby needs care or their deodorant is properly applied.
Lots of companies want to jump aboard the IoT train, and that’s understandable: It’s an exciting group of technologies that have piqued consumers’ interest perhaps more than any product since the iPhone.
But to build a “smart” product that’s relevant to consumers — in a way that self-driving cars will be (or in a way that Nest’s thermostat already is) — technology professionals must ask themselves these four questions:
1. Is your IoT product designed to be as ‘human’ as possible?
Like a favorite pet, a beloved IoT technology needn’t be literally human, but it should delight and engage us in similar ways. Humans are hardwired to enjoy gadgets, particularly those that tap into our cultural experiences and respond to our own expressions.
Ironically, perhaps one of the most “human” smart devices I’ve seen is modeled after a fictional robot. Debuted just before the latest reboot of the “Star Wars” franchise, toy company Sphero showed a licensed BB-8 droid controlled by an Android or iOS app at CES in January. Dubbed the “best holiday toy of the season” by Mashable, the BB-8 toy learns the personality of its owner, can respond to voice commands, and can be set to explore autonomously. The public instantly fell in love with BB-8 because of its “human” tendencies and pop culture’s fascination with smart machines in sci-fi franchises like “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” and “Doctor Who.”
2. Does your IoT product solve consumers’ problems?
In a flooded market, technologies that don’t solve users’ problems won’t be long for this world. And just as all but the most useful apps lose 77 percent of their daily users within three days of installation, so will pointless IoT technologies.
The $4.8 billion drone market, however, is thriving because of these products’ usability. From backyard-fun technology like the Air Hogs Helix video drone to conservation tools like the DJI Phantom to seeding-and-spraying agricultural drones like the Yamaha RMAX, commercial drones offer incredible functionality across industries. Expect these products to stick around.
3. Can your IoT product adapt to its environment?
A winning IoT device must be smart enough to adapt to the world in which it’s being used.
One of the earliest — and most popular — IoT products has been Nest Labs’ Nest Thermostat. Nest’s early-on feature is truly smart, taking into account incoming weather fronts as well as what it’s learned about how quickly the home heats and cools. This enables it to reach the target temperature accurately and on schedule, saving users up to 12 percent of heating and 15 percent of cooling costs.
(Image Source: Shutterstock)
Likewise, Nest Cam adapts to its users’ schedules by tapping into the location of users’ phones. It can know when everyone has left the house, turning on automatically to monitor for any disturbances. This environmental adaptation means users can set it and forget it, then check back when they’re wondering if a packaged arrived, if the baby woke up, or if the dog is busy tearing up the couch.
4. Does your IoT product pair with other technologies?
Nobody wants to have to replace all of his or her gadgets each time he or she acquires a new one. That’s why it’s important that your IoT product can pair with users’ existing technologies.
Jawbone, manufacturer of headsets and fitness trackers, made a really savvy move when it debuted its free Up app. Although Jawbone could have made users purchase the Jawbone Up fitness band to use the app, it instead chose to piggyback on the functionality of iPhone and Android devices. Connected to a smartphone, the Jawbone Up app performs basically the same functions as its pricey cousins, Fitbit Surge and Garmin Vivoactive — logging caloric intake, sleep hours, and daily activity — and it works with plenty of other products like MyFitnessPal and Runkeeper.
By not forcing users to run out and purchase a separate device, Jawbone has brought new, satisfied customers into its ecosystem of products. And by focusing on the service level of its connected products, Jawbone has demonstrated its understanding of what its customers want in an IoT product. Consumers will pick winners and losers of this growing economy not by the hardware a product is packaged in, but by what the product’s software can do for them.
There will be a lot of silly devices that come and go as IoT matures, but there will undoubtedly be some enduring, life-changing hits, just as there were during the app explosion of the early 2010s. To be sure your next IoT product is one that sticks around, remember to design with the end user in mind. It’s what the IoT movement is all about.
By Tony Scherba
Tony is the president and a founding partner of Yeti LLC, a product-focused development and design studio in San Francisco. Tony has been building software since his teen years, and he has led development on high-profile projects for global brands such as Google, Britney Spears, JBL, MIT and Linkin Park. Tony and the Yeti team work to develop game-changing products through innovation, workshopping, and rapid prototyping.
According to JP Morgan analysts Doug Anmuth, Sterling Auty, Philip Cusick, Rod Hall, and Mark Murphy, the cloud computing movement is “entering a new phase.” Implications are apparently positive for Amazon, though weak for Oracle, SAP, and other traditional IT vendors. Based on a survey of 207 CIOs at organizations with budgets in excess of $600 million per year, a significant insight is that the adoption of the public cloud is likely to increase markedly in the next few years. Say the JP Morgan analysts, “In our view, a near- tripling of the public-Cloud-based workload mix represents a monumental architectural shift, which shows no signs of abating and is likely to create a major ripple effect across the entire technology landscape.”
In response to the question, “Which IT mega-vendor will be most critical and indispensable to your organization’s IT environment in the future, and why?” Microsoft easily took first place with 47% of the vote. Trailing far behind is Amazon (AWS) with 13%, Cisco with 12%, and Oracle with 11%. But AWS’s arrival in second place has the analysts lauding a “potentially momentous changing of the guard,” and they remark, “CIOs describe AWS as ‘…a transformative power whose impacts will be felt in technology, process, development, etc.’; they state that ‘a lot of IT assets will be migrating to AWS over the next 12 months or so’; they comment on a ‘Paradigm shift – AWS enabled everything to be hosted in the cloud’; and finally, one CIO stated that ‘We are going all in with AWS and will add IoT and machine learning….’”
The shift, however, does not bode well for the likes of IBM, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Oracle, Dell, and EMC, the organizations which topped the list of losers. Though worries such as security and data protection still impede public cloud adoption, cloud computing expert David Linthicum states, “I don’t think anything happens overnight — it becomes a systemic evolution… I think more people use cloud than tend to report it… And I think someday, we may perhaps not even call it cloud — it’s just basically computing, the ability to leverage outsourced resources on demand and ultimately finding ways to be more cost-effective.”
Because some organizations haven’t fully embraced the cloud, they are experiencing severe disruptions as consumers shift to public cloud providers like Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services.
By Jennifer Klostermann
How to Collect Feedback from Users that is Valuable for the Product Team
Gathering customer feedback is one of the key responsibilities of a SaaS Product Manager. In agile development, customer feedback allows SaaS product teams to stay responsive to changes in customer opinion. So when retrieving customer feedback, it pays to have a strategy. That will provide you with the most valuable feedback. Customer input is extremely valuable, and how you interpret it can make or break your product.
To help you avoid the pitfalls, we’ve compiled key tips on how to get product feedback, how to get the most insight from each source, and what to do with the feedback you receive.
Most of the time, customer feedback will not just come to you. You have to go out and get it. So don’t be afraid to directly ask users for their input. However, most people ask in the wrong place. It should be quick and easy for a user to give you feedback. For example, you should not ask users to make yet another username and password to submit comments. Most users would rather not submit feedback than fill out forms to create a profile. Why not pick up the phone?
(Image Source: Shutterstock)
Encouraging users to focus on the positive can also help generate meaningful customer feedback. Typically, people vote for things they have a positive experience with. So on feedback pages, allow users to upvote posts from other users they agree with, while paying close attention to their comments. This is an elegant way to sift through vocal minorities and identify the more valuable shy majority. As last resort you can use technologies that proactively drive the users step by step to providing answers to yes/no questions.
It does not make sense to make serious decisions based upon the first instance of customer feedback. If one user is particularly vocal about his opinions, be wary; his feedback may not be representative of the majority of customers. It doesn’t make sense for most customer feedback to be acted upon the first time it comes up. There will always be outliers.
Do you have a user who complains frequently about the user interface? Their opinions may not be as valuable as you think. This should however be taken as your first impression on your subject. An impression is when someone sees/hears something; in marketing this is commonly an advertisement.
Very few people act on the first impression, so you need to try to get more impressions. It’s the same with feedback. The next time a customer complains about the user interface bring it up again. After a pattern of these impressions can be established, only then should you bring it up with the product team.
If you take all your user’s input and lock it up, then collecting it is worthless. Make sure that the product team is “in the know“. Have the product team sit on a call with a customer so that they can sit and listen to user feedback.
When valid patterns in customer feedback have been identified, make sure there is an escalation process in place for these comments. Pre-scheduled feedback meetings between the product team and customer service managers are particularly helpful in identifying areas for improvement. Take a set number of the most popular stories and pain points for your users — do not bring requests to these meetings.
In the words of Henry Ford “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” So focus on the pain points themselves instead of solutions the customer asks for. When going into these meetings, it helps to have the right attitude. Not everything will be implemented, so saying “no” to some pain points in the short-term is a compromise that must be made.
Listening to users is one thing, but acting on them is another thing entirely. Most customers actually do not really expect companies to make concrete changes to their SaaS applications, so doing so will help you stand out.
Customer feedback is an incredibly valuable resource for your product team, and it’s out there waiting. Even though it takes some finessing, your users want to express their feelings and ideas with your company. If the voice of your customers is ignored or unheard, their discontent festers and gets worse. Eventually, getting out of touch with your users will cause you to lose them.
By Boaz Amidor
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