Why reinvent the wheel . . .

When we can get an business IT solution that has  already been developed, optimized, tested and even used by thousand or even million users, why do we still want to develop our own?

A client asked me to do a peer review on a proposal submitted by his IT consultant.  He wanted to replace his old DOS systems (Believe me, DOS still exists) because it virtually crashed every week and he had to pay a few thousand dollars every year to maintain it.  His IT consultant said it would take at least 3 months and around $10,000 to develop.  My clients was very excited because his IT consultant promised to deliver a Windows application that would support multi users concurrently.

I did a very quick review on his old DOS system; it is very simple and basic, i.e. customers information, invoice, inventory…etc.  I did a quick presentation of what cloud computing was and then I jumped to demonstration.

My client couldn’t believe what he saw.  It covers everything he wants plus a lot more that he didn’t dream of, e.g. accounting, CRM, inventory, purchase, and sales.  He can access it anywhere, anytime, he doesn’t have to stay in his office until 2 am in the morning.  After I signed him up for the free trial. he can use it right away; he doesn’t have to wait for another 3 months.  But there is one thing that he was very uncomfortable, the price!  He couldn’t believe he only had to pay just over $100 per month for 3 concurrent users and it already includes hardware, software and future supports.  He asked me why there would be anyone willing to pay for $10,000 to develop a new software when you can get a software that has 10 times more features for a fraction of the cost.  He even did the number crunching himself and concluded that $10,000 can cover  up to 10 years of premium.  He said it was just too good to be true.

I spend the whole afternoon to show him the pricing structure of various cloud applications from Google Apps Marketplace, Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite, Oracle CRM On Demand, Salesforce and even some of the free applications on LinkedIn,  I also showed him some of the successful stories, e.g. Dell, Equifax, and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Unfortunately, he still prefers to have his IT consultant to develop his own on premise software because it was too good to be true.  So I left him my question, When we can get an business IT solution that has already been developed, optimized, tested and even used by thousand or even million users, why do we still want to develop our own?

Why reinvent the wheel?  I was a little bit lost when I left his office; what else I can do / say to convince him?

Andrew Chan is the owner and founder of ALG Inc.

We help you to make better and faster decisions!

Microsoft Releases Office Web Apps for SkyDrive

You can now create Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote documents on Windows Live SkyDrive.

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It is my shortest blog so far!

Docs.com – Microsoft Office 2010 Web Apps and Facebook

Microsoft Office 2010 Web Apps is going to be everywhere.  It is first available to Windows Live users in SkyDrive, and now Facebook added a new feature Docs which would allow its users to create Microsoft Office 2010 documents, share them, edit them collaboratively and discover documents that are uploaded by their friends to their profiles. Docs.com is in beta, so no everyone can create and upload documents initially. If you see the following message on the docs.com home page, you should add your name to the waiting list. Once you gain access to docs.com, you can create Word, Excel, PowerPoint documents, share them with your Facebook friends and even edit them collaboratively. I am going to show you how to create a new PowerPoint presentation. Create a new PowerPoint Presentation

  • Once you are in Facebook Docs apps, you can select to Add a Docs and choose PowerPoint Presentation.

  • You would be directed to docs.com, then you can:
    • Edit your document
    • Changed the file name from Untitled to Hello World
    • Choose who can view and edit this document
    • Copy the Docs Link and send it to your friends
    • Once you click Finish editing, the document would be saved.

Where else do you think you can find Microsoft Office 2010 Web Apps?

Andrew Chan is the owner and founder of ALG Inc.

You Can Sell Insurance Online Via Web Conference – part 1

Time is money and it is especially true for insurance brokers. Have you measured how much time you actually spend on selling insurance products? How much time do you spend on travel? If you reduce 20% of your travel time and use them to sell insurance policies, how much more revenue you can gain every year? Can you reduce your travelling time? Let’s start from looking at how you sell insurance today.

You may show your clients some background materials about the insurance products; use software that can evaluate insurance need and illustrate the insurance policy. Of course, you have to go over the insurance contract. There may be other gadgets as well, e.g. pen, paper, calculator or even Excel / PowerPoint. Today’s insurance products are quite complex and it would take you a lot of efforts / tools to show your clients what their insurance needs are and how the proposed package can fit their unique needs. You may have to call and visit your clients many times before they agree to sign the contact. It is a very time consuming processes and to be make it lengthier is the travelling time.

I am going to use Microsoft Office Life Meeting to demonstrate how you can use web conference to market your products / services. But there are many different video conferences software / services available on market, e.g. Skype, GoToMeeting and WebEx. Please discuss with your IT consultant on what would be the best for your business and customers.

Microsoft Office Life Meeting allows you to share with your customers whatever content you show to them during a face-to-face meeting, e.g. marketing materials, insurance contract, newspaper, PowerPoint presentation, video, needs analysis, policy illustration…. etc. Below are a few examples:

  • Upload and share multiple contents with your customers.


  • You can upload a wide variety of content, e.g. PowerPoint presentation, PDF document or even video.


  • Leverage the full capabilities of PowerPoint presentations such as animations and slide transitions.
  • Review and edit any printable document, and you can even zoom in and out the document.


  • Share a program – you can show your customers about their financial needs and policy illustration by sharing the programs with them.


  • Share desktop – if you want to share multiple programs, then you can choose to share the whole desktop or just part of it

 

  • Draw, annotate, and type simultaneously to simulate the natural interactivity of an in-person meeting environment.


  • Share ideas while collaborating on a whiteboard or brainstorming on a text slide.


  • Retain all meeting documents and ongoing annotations, edits, and whiteboard and text brainstorming sessions, so you don’t have to start from scratch during your next meeting

This blog is only the first of the series, which I discuss about the features that would be useful for one to one meeting. Microsoft Office Live Meeting provides many more useful features that you can use to host event and training. I would go into more details in near future.

In the meantime, if you have any question about video conference, please do not hesitate to email me at chan_a@algconsultings.com. I can provide a free 30 minutes Microsoft Office Live Meeting demonstration to the first 4 people who request it; of course, via Microsoft Office Live Meeting.

Andrew Chan is the owner and founder of ALG Inc.

Video Conference can expand your geographic market and increase sales efficiency

It is no secret that video conference can expand your market to new location and increase sales efficiency. But you may not know how cost effective and user friendly it has become in the last few years. Skype is free to use; Microsoft offers Live Meeting would cost you US$4.50 per month and even GoToMeeting and Cisco WebEx are a little bit more expensive, it is still only US$49 per month. And your attendee does not need to pay anything!

It is simple to use. All you have to do is to install a very small piece of software and available broadband internet connection; you don’t need an IT consultant to operate it. Your services provider provides a secure, reliable, enterprise grade infrastructure and you can deliver a presentation, kick off a project, brainstorm ideas, edit file, collaborate on whiteboards and negotiate deals at a fraction of the cost and without the hassle of travel.

You can use video conference to deliver online meetings, events and training. Video conference does not just include video and audio; you can add other rich media such as PowerPoint presentation, Word / PDF document, electronic whiteboard, and even online application demonstration plus more. Video conference is suitable from one-to-on collaborate meetings to large training events.

You can integrate video conference with onsite workshop; e.g. you can deliver a workshop at the headquarter of your client office and at the same time, staffs from branch offices all over the world can attend the same workshop through video conference. You can also record the workshop, so that whoever misses it can watch the workshop from the internet or download it to their iPod later on. You can save your travel time and your clients’ training budget at the same time.

During the video conference, you can use interactive whiteboard and other annotation tools to improve online collaboration and deliver more informative and dynamic presentations.

You can also engage your audience with question / survey or even deliver handouts during the meeting. You can trial the services and choose the one that is most suitable for your business. Video conference is a very cost effective and user friendly tool that can help you to develop new market and increase sales efficiency. Try it today and you would love it!

Andrew Chan is the owner and founder of ALG Inc.

Microsoft Office 2010 Web Apps and SkyDrive – Microsoft’s answer to Google Docs

 Microsoft Office 2010 Web Apps Technical Preview is available on Windows Live SkyDrive, a free, 25-gigabyte virtual hard drive on the Internet, accessible from any computer, e.g. Windows, Mac, or Linux at your office, at your home, at your friend’s house, so you don’t need to carry around a physical disk to transport files.  You can easily create, edit, and share your Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote documents.  All you need is a computer with a web browser (IE, Firefox or Safari) and an internet connection.

Create a new Office document

Edit an existing Office document


Share Office Documents

Office 2010 Web Apps is easy to use because it is the same Office tools that you are familiar with, in a Web environment.

Microsoft Office 2010 Web Apps will be officially launched in June, 2010, so why don’t you get ready and start using Windows Live SkyDrive now.  You can seamlessly integrate SkyDrive into your Windows environment as a network drive.  Does everyone in your office need a full Microsoft Office license?  Microsoft Office 2010 Web Apps may give you an opportunity to cut some IT budget.

If you have any further question, you can reach me at chan_a@algconsultings.com.

Andrew Chan is the owner and founder of ALG Inc.

 

 
 

Knowledge is power!

Google Docs – online documents with real-time collaboration

Google Docs provides anytime, anywhere secured online access to your documents.  You can work on your document from your office, at home and on the road; and you can also use Google Docs on PC, Mac, Linux and even mobile phone.

 
 

Google Docs allows you to:

  • Create documents, spreadsheets and presentations online – you can create your document from scratch or start from a template.  Google Docs supports a wide range of formats, including DOC, XLS, ODT, ODS, RTF, CSV, PPT, etc. so you can upload your existing documents to Google Docs as well.

  • Share and collaborate in real time – You can instantly share your documents with other peole.  Multiple people can view and make changes at the same time. There’s an on-screen chat window for spreadsheets, and document revisions show you exactly who changed what, and when. Viewing a presentation together is a breeze, as anyone joined in a presentation can automatically follow along with the presenter.

  • Safely store and organize your work – Your documents are stored online so you needn’t need to worry about local hard drive failures; however, it does not mean you don’t need to have a disaster recovery plan.  You can organize your documents by creating appropriate folders / subfolders hierarchy.

  • Publish your documents – You can publish your documents to website with one click.  With Google Apps, you can easily share important documents, spreadsheets and presentations within your company or group.

 
 

Did I mention it was FREE?

If you have any further question, you can reach me at chan_a@algconsultings.com.

Andrew Chan is the owner and founder of ALG Inc.

Favorite Places on Google and QR Code (Mobile Tag)

Google has identified over 100,000 businesses in the U.S. as “Favorite Places on Google“. Each business is receiving a window decal with a unique QR code which would let customers or potential customers instantly learn more about a business, by visiting a mobile version of the business’ Place Page on smartphone including iPhone, Android-powered phones, BlackBerry and more.

 
 

 
 

With just a simple scan of the code, your customers can quickly:

 
 

  • Read reviews to see what other users think about the business
  • Find a coupon that the business has posted to their Place Page
  • Star the business to remember to check it out later, or to remember to visit again
  • Leave a review right after you leave the business. What’s a better time to write what you think, than when you’ve just visited?

Google is making use of QR code to promote its clients’ business.  What are you going to do with QR code?  Here are some tips, you can put it on your business card, flyer, newspaper, or even menu (if your business is a restaurant).

If you have any further question, you can reach me at chan_a@algconsultings.com.

 Andrew Chan is the owner and founder of ALG Inc.

Google Places – where your customers can find you

Have you ever used google.com or Google Maps to find a coffee shop, restaurant, theatre…?  Your customers can also find you on Google; all you have to do is to add a FREE listing of your business to Google Places.

Add your business to Google Places is very easy; just sign up now.

 
 

Once you sign up, then you can add a new business. 

You need to enter your contact information; and you have the option to specify the nature of your business, services area, operation hours, and payment options or even include photos of your products or your storefront.

If you are going to hold a special sale event for 5-7 pm tonight or issue a coupon for this coming Saturday, you can post the news to your Place Page directly from your Local Business Center dashboard. Once it is posted, it will go live on your Place Page in just a few minutes. 

 
 

 
 

To keep track of how your business listing is performing, Google offers a personalized dashboard within Google Places that includes data about how many times people have found your business on Google, what keywords they used to find it and even what areas people traveled from to visit your business. With the dashboard, you can see how your use of any of these new features affects interest in your business and make more informed decisions about how to be found on Google and interact with your customers.

Add your business to Google Places and let more customers find you now.

If you have any further question, you can reach me at chan_a@algconsultings.com.

 
 

Andrew Chan is the owner and founder of ALG Inc.

Software as a Service – Your Gateway to Affordable Enterprise Grade Software

Let’s face it; global economic recovery is still very vulnerable and businesses are likely to remain cautious about their spending.  On one hand, you have to cut your expenses in order to survive; on the other hand, your clients expect more for lesser money.  So you have to work over 100 hours per week but you are barely floating with half of your nose in water.   

Technology can improve your productivity and increase your clients’ satisfaction.  The problem is where you can get the capital to buy the software and hardware for your business.  Software as a Service (SaaS) is the answer that you have been looking for.  SaaS gives you access to powerful, enterprise grade software and at an affordable cost.

What is SaaS? 

SaaS is a new way to deliver software.  It is the same piece of software that you had to pay $10K or even $100K to implement in your office just a few years ago.  You can now use it for a very reasonable, pay-as-you-go monthly premium.  How reasonable?  You pay US $5 per month per user for Microsoft Exchange Online or Contact Manager from Salesforce.com.   This monthly premium includes future upgrade cost and other maintenance costs.  The software is developed, hosted and maintained by the software vendor.   What do you need?  A machine with an internet browser plus internet connection!

Benefits of SaaS

Optimized Cashflow

Since you don’t need to buy any software, nor hardware, your implementation cost would be drastically reduced.  You don’t need to worry about unexpected IT cost, e.g. hardware failure or software upgrades, these are all included in your monthly premium.  Your IT cost would only grow with your business, i.e. when you hire more employees to handle extra business volume.  Since there is not software installed on your machine, you can extend the use of your older machine.  And even if you have to buy new machine to replace a broken one or for a new employee, you can buy a budget PC.

Faster Return

SaaS takes shorter implementation cycle because it is ready to use .  As soon as you upload your data to it, you would start benefit from it.

Improve Productivity

Most SaaS solutions are web applications, so you can have anywhere, anytime access; e.g. you can develop a marketing plan with your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software while you are waiting for your flight.  Smartphone enable SaaS solutions seem to be a rapidly growing trend that would even give your more flexibility on managing your time.

Better Support

SaaS vendors offer a series of 7 x 24 online supports; e.g. virtual training, knowledge base / FAQ, users community discussion forum and premium telephone supports. 

More Reliable Infrastructure

You would find SaaS solutions are running on redundant, high quality servers.  Vendors even build real time mirror data center;  so if the site goes down for whatever reason; it would automatically switch to the mirror site.  This is why SaaS vendors often provide 99.9 % monthly Service Level Agreement (SLA).

Better Security

How much money you spent on IT security?  Hundred?  Thousand?  SaaS vendors spent over million dollars on their security infrastructure and have a team of full time security architects to look after their data center.  They even have external security auditors to review their security model.  Nothing is 100% secured but SaaS applications provide much secured environment than most SMB offices.

Business Continuity

If your office is on fire, you can resume your regular work anywhere because all your SaaS applications and data are not stored in your office.

Better Scalability

If you double your work force tomorrow, all you have to do is to logon to your SaaS administration web page, register the new employees and pay the additional premium before you leave the office today.  Your SaaS vendors would handle everything for you.

ALG chooses the right SaaS solutions for your business to reduce cost improve productivity and increase customers’ satisfaction. Dowload pdf  

Let’s face it; global economic recovery is still very vulnerable and businesses are likely to remain cautious about their spending.  On one hand, you have to cut your expenses in order to survive; on the other hand, your clients expect more for lesser money.  So you have to work over 100 hours per week but you are barely floating with half of your nose in water.

Andrew Chan is the owner and founder of ALG Inc.