In today’s information economy managing your enterprise’s software and technology has become increasingly more important to the success of your organization, at the same time it has become increasingly more difficult to manage. In this episode hear from “Digital Dave” on two distinct methods of trying to manage your enterprise’s software and the pro’s and con’s of each so you can put a digital plan for your organization into action that makes sense.
Hello, everyone. This is Digital Dave, and we’re back for another episode of Where Marketing Meets Technology. Today, to start off with, I get to talk about something that I really like, and that is myself. Now I don’t do this often, but I just thought it was important for this episode that I give you a little bit about my background/backstory and why I am talking about this topic today.
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I get a lot of people who ask me, you know, “Digital Dave, where did you get the name Digital Dave?” You know, I just have fun with it. It’s actually Stacey, my wife, who came up with that name as a nickname because I’m constantly fixing all things that are technological, and that’s really where my name, Digital Dave, came from. However, I’m going to talk a little bit about my technology background for a moment and I think this will help in this episode in really helping you learn from me on why I’m saying these things to you. When we started our first business … our first business was called DataMax Solutions and we were an outsourcing company at the time, way back in the late ’80s. Sorry. I guess it probably started in around 1990-ish. I take that back. It was a little bit later than that. It was 1994 maybe. 1994 is when we started our first company, DataMax Solutions, and this company we did outsourcing for non-profits and associations.
What made us unique at the time was that we actually ran their back offices for them in many cases. We didn’t things like their membership fulfillment. We did their event registrations and event management. We helped fulfill their product orders and stuff for them. We sent out mailings for them. What we worked in is we worked in systems, and these were large enterprise software systems called association management systems, which to me were the predecessors to today’s CRM systems, and believe it or not, they would actually do and run pretty much the entire organizations in this one piece of software.
This was an enterprise piece of software, and this piece of software would track their contacts information, would track their membership, their dues. It would track their product orders. It would track their event registrations and setup and exhibits management. It would do their marketing for them. They could pull lists from there. They could send emails from these systems. In many cases, these systems even did their accounting for them, so when they logged in orders and people paid dues, these would provide accounting information that was used to do their books with, so you can see these were very large enterprise systems, and these were clients that were multi, seven, eight, nine-figure organizations that would use these systems.
We would actually tap into their system remotely, so call it like the cloud. They would be the cloud. They’d be hosting this generally in their offices, but we would remote into their system and do the work as if we were in their offices, and so we were well before our time in this particular niche in delivering our outsourcing services, which today this is all taken for granted. Most of these software products are now in the cloud where people can work from just about anywhere all over the world and do what we were doing from right in their home, right in their office in their home.
Now I want to take a minute and talk a little bit about what all this has to do with today’s episode. Today we’re going to be talking about how to manage your enterprise software technologies . What’s critical here is that you understand that there are kind of two philosophies around how to manage your software, your enterprise software in your organization. This is whether or not you’re a large organization or even a small organization, and of those two philosophies, the first one is the enterprise level software, enterprise meaning that you’re looking for one overarching application, software application, that you can run the majority of your business on, without going outside to many, many, many smaller pieces of software to do the independent things that you want to do in your business, so that’s the enterprise level.
Then there’s the integrated systems approach, and the integrated systems approach is really looking out there and seeing all of the different systems that are out there and picking some of the best of breeds in the different areas or the different processes that you have within your organization. So from of those, of course, you’re going to have your email systems. You can see from this particular illustration that there are just dozens and dozens of them out there today, and we see clients come to us in disarray where they have five or six different email systems. They don’t talk to each other necessarily. They’re feeding in contacts from different websites, from different forms, and they’re going into different email systems, and they’re trying to do autoresponders out of one and different autoresponders out of another, and so this is very difficult.
If we look even further, some of our clients use e-commerce systems, and e-commerce systems, there’s many of those, you know? There’s Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento, OsCommerce, BigCommerce, etc., etc. There are dozens of these as well, and we’ve even had many clients where they’re doing their e-commerce in many multiple different e-commerce systems with multiple email systems connected. Again, this gets increasingly more difficult to manage the more of these subsystems you try to tie together, and we’re going to talk about some of the pros of cons of each of these approaches in a minute.
Then we have our, what I would consider being more enterprise systems that revolve mostly around a CRM system, some type of contact management system where there are many components added on to that system to build it out to run your entire enterprise. These are organizations or SAAS software such as Salesforce. Microsoft CRM Dynamics is a big one out there today. There are many out there that you can build on top. The big one that many marketing organizations use is Infusionsoft, and Infusionsoft is a great product that does a lot of great things within organizations to help them do their marketing.
Now we’re going to talk a little bit about the different approaches, and what some of the pros and what some of the cons are of each of these approaches. I’m actually going to start back with the integrated systems, and the integrated systems usually evolve (over time) because people that are in that organization that are running the processes that they need to do their jobs are looking for a piece of software that is the best of breed for that one particular thing they do.
Maybe it’s they do email marketing and so they’re going to gravitate towards some of the best of breed email platforms out there today, and you’re certainly going to have an email system regardless of whether or not you use some of these larger enterprise systems because delivering email is something that these email providers, they do a great job of that’s very difficult to do without them, so you’re probably going to have those.
You may have an e-commerce system. You may have one or two shopping carts where you’re trying to collect money from people in different ways for different things, and so you’re going to go out there and you’re going to say, “Hey, I got a program I am launching, I need to collect money for this. I’m going to use PayPal. I’m going to pick PayPal as my shopping cart of choice for this particular task that I need to do to collect money,” and you build out your application. Maybe it’s a WordPress application. You build out a course and you want to sell it online, and now you need some way to collect the money. Again, there are many, many different shopping carts out there and there are online stores carts, which are the more broad systems like your Shopify’s to sell products and stuff as well. They can do some of this stuff. Again, you’re looking at best of breed when you’re looking at a different set of integrated systems to kind of do all the individual pieces of what your organization does.
Pros of Integrated System Approach
Now some of the pitfalls to this are, number one is that when you have many multiple subsystems running within your organization and they all need to in some way talk to each other, there’s data that needs to flow between them, there is always the high probability that one or two or some of these are going to break over time, and these systems and processes behind them are going to break. For instance, we have a lot of organizations that come to us where they have multiple lead captures funnels in different systems, and they’re literally hand moving them (contact info) from one email system to another depending on the messages they want to send to them, depending on the automations that they want to send to them, depending on the autoresponders. If you have this approach, you’re not really managing your data very well. It’s not that it’s broken necessarily, but you’re probably not be getting the most for your money because you’re probably missing people from some system that it’s the most crucial for, so that’s pitfall number one.
Pitfall number two is that with an integrated approach, even when you do get it all up and operating, and maybe you have a great process to have all the information flowing between them, it’s very highly likely that one of these subsystems is going to change their application. They’re going to make changes to their API. They’re going to make changes to their cloud interface. When they do this, it’s going to have potentially an impact on some of your other subsystems, and we see this constantly. For instance, I’ll give you an example just of a shopping cart, Shopify. We have a client that uses Shopify, and they had a third party application with Shopify that did their discounting for their products. One day, they realized, “Oh my gosh. All of our products are on sale.”
This happened because Shopify changed their API, and the company that had written the little piece of plug-in to do their product discounting didn’t even have a chance to get it up to date fast enough when they made the API change. They weren’t even given enough time to update their software, so this organization found out, but they had sold some products at a discount that they didn’t mean to, and so this is just one simple example of how when you get multiple integrated systems some of these things start to interrelate, and when one breaks, it can cause problems in another.
Then the third thing that I consider to be one of the biggest pitfalls of an integrated approach is passwords. I mean, how many passwords can you have? I laugh because I’ve just got dozens and dozens. You certainly need something to help manage your passwords, maybe something like a piece of software that helps you do it. I use something called LastPass, which is a online cloud-based system that stores my passwords for me so that I do not have to try to remember the 400 passwords that we have. Now, the more you have, the more, again, they change their password requirements. You got to go into the system one day and guess what? You forgot your password. You got to reset it. You reset your password. Resetting your password breaks something else that’s integrated with that system because it was using the old password. You can see what I’m going at, so the more of these integrated systems or subsystems that you try to bring together, the more passwords you’re going to have, and the more moving parts, really, you’re going to have, so the more opportunity for things to break.
Cons of Integrated System Approach
So some of my recommendations for the… sorry … so the pros of the integrated systems are the best of breed, obviously. You really can get the best of breed in a lot of different things, and certainly that’s not a bad approach for many organizations to use this approach if they have a limited number of processes. Now if you have a lot of processes and you’re trying to tie them all together, the more you try to snap together, the more problems and issues you’re probably going to have to keep that entire system up and running all the time.
Now some of my recommendations for an integrated system is one, that you should always be testing these integrations. They break like, all the time. It’s constant. Even in some of our own integrated systems, we’ll find out that some page isn’t working properly because it’s i-framing in something from another site and our log in doesn’t work in the other site, so it’s not pulling in what’s supposed to be on that page. It’s a perfect example of when you have a bunch of integrated systems, of how easily that type of thing can happen. Number two is that you definitely want to make sure that you’re documenting these systems and your processes. You want to make sure that you have a clear catalog of all of the different things that you’re using and how to access them, the passwords, and just the general overall flow diagram of what all these independent pieces are doing for your organization to try to make this one big overall system for you.
Recommendations for Integrated Systems Approach
Now we’re going to talk about the enterprise systems, and enterprise systems, it’s changed so much over the years, it’s hard for me to even call them enterprise systems because I’ve worked in one that truly really was the primary system where these organizations did 90% of their work in here. I mean, we’re talking a lot of work in this one system. Today they’re a little different because of the cloud, but we’re still talking about a system that allows you to easily bring together a lot of moving parts to do many different things under one umbrella, so these fall under the flavor of, like I said in the marketing world, things like Salesforce or Infusionsoft, which is a great one for marketing people, people who do marketing, Microsoft CRM Dynamics. You can see on the screen here there are multiple, multiple other ones that you can use.
Pros of Enterprise Type Sofware Systems
When you’re choosing these, it’s critical that you pick one that I think is going to … when you assess these, is going to do the majority of the work of your organization and fit into the current processes that you already use. Because one of the biggest pitfalls of these enterprise-level systems is that a lot of times, for a particular thing or a particular process, they may not be the best of breed. They may not be the Cadillac of that particular one little thing that’s being done. It doesn’t mean it won’t work, but what generally happens is that over the years, from working in this industry for so long, is that the people want to try to shoehorn what they want into a system that wasn’t designed to it necessarily the way that they want it done. You know, the my way or the highway mentality.
What generally happens in that situation is that they end up doing these customizations (to their system). They end up having special code written for their system to do this thing a fancy way that ties in with the way they want to do it. I highly don’t suggest that you (significantly) customize these systems if you can possibly do that. The reason being is once you start doing that, you break one of the biggest benefits of an enterprise system, and that is the fact that it does do or it can do so much of what your organization does out of the box. When you customize it, you’re pretty much setting yourself for the same thing. You’re creating a subsystem within a system that when things change, the API changes, the code will break, you’ll have to have it fixed, and you’ll get disappointed and blame it on this system when really you probably should have said, “Well, how about we just do this process the way the system wants to do it if we can do that?”
Cons of Enterprise Type Sofware Systems
It’s the other way around. It’s like a different mental approach to it. It’s like looking at it and saying, “I’m going to use this system the way it wants to do this. I’m not going to do this the way that I want to do this or the way it’s always been done in the past.” So I highly recommend that you go in to these systems with that attitude, and with the attitude that you may not be getting the best of breed in every single little thing that they do, but if they can do 90% or 80%, 90% of what your organization does within one system, you have far fewer moving parts, far fewer things that can break within these systems.
Now again, it’s a little different today and it’s a little different for me to tell you about these because of the environment that I came from. Today, a lot of these systems, they have their core application and then they have plug-ins, which you can get through their stores and things like Salesforce has their whole Force Store, I think it’s called, where they have hundreds of applications that just plug in to their application, so these really are kind of like subsystems. Again, some of these are really good. Some of these are not. Are they best of breed? It’s hard to say, but I still think that that approach where you’re all under one umbrella for as much as you can do is going to lead to a lower amount of headaches when it comes to things breaking, not working, not integrating, manual work involved in trying to get things done, so that’s some of the pros and the cons of the enterprise systems.
Some of the recommendations I have for enterprise systems are that, number one is that I highly, highly, highly recommend that you don’t customize the system if you can get away with it. It’s easy to want to do it. I just suggest, try not to. You know, try to take this as far as it can go with as minimal customizations as you can possibly make. The second thing I recommend is to document. Document, document, document. The reason I am so adamant about this is that this is a huge system with many, many moving parts within it, and even though it is an enterprise system with its own user documentation and things they can go get help training all this stuff, once you get in it and you configure it for your environment, it becomes yours.
Yours is different than mine. Yours is different than your neighbor’s, so you really want to document the processes of how you are doing it within that system for multiple reasons. One of those reasons is that that’s usually crucial is when you bring someone new on board for them to have something to go to, to know how you do things in that system, and number two is for continuity. Obviously, people leave. They accumulate this large knowledge of your system, and then they leave and they take the knowledge with them.
Without documentation, these systems can be completely overwhelming for somebody who’s never been working in them that much, number one, and number two, without that documentation, trying to find replacements becomes extremely difficult, and when you get into the situation of paying highly paid and highly charging consultants to help you run your system, that if you just had documented, you could probably get away with hiring somebody with some basic skills and just giving them the knowledge (documentation) of how to implement (use) your system based and how you’ve already configured it. These systems take a very long time to learn. There’s a very large learning curve to come in and run one of these systems, like Infusionsoft or a Salesforce or Dynamics CRM, so again, the documentation, as well as any available training — you want to make sure that these systems have very good training — is available.
Recommendations For Enterprise Type Sofware Systems
I’m going to conclude here with a couple of overall thoughts about the two different types systems. Again, there’s integrated systems, called best of breed systems approach, and the enterprise level approach. The integrated system approach, I have problems with it (can you tell). I think that as a whole it can work for a very small organization that may only have a handful of these moving parts. The larger you get, the more difficult that becomes. When you start having half a dozen or a dozen of these moving parts, keeping them coordinated becomes sometimes an overwhelming task, and costly even, particularly if there’s manual movement of data within them, if they aren’t truly integrated.
Then there’s the enterprise system approach where, again, maybe you’re not getting the best of breed, but are getting a common interface, a common look and feel, typically a common launch pad to open things and use things, which allows for a more coordinated overall environment. That’s why they call them enterprise systems. The downside to these is that in some cases, number one, you may have to go outside and get something outside of that system if it really just doesn’t meet your needs in one particular area. Number two is that you’re not necessarily getting the best of breeds within those areas, but again, if you can just swallow your pride, if possible … I say pride in a lot of cases. It’s not just pride, sometimes it has to be done a certain way, that you bend your processes to match the system, not the other way around.
This is Digital Dave. I highly encourage you to comment on this episode. Share your experience in these areas with other people. Tell them which one you think is better and why. You know, I think a lot of people could benefit from learning from other people on this particular topic. When you’re a small business owner, you’re doing a lot of different things, and one of the toughest things to do, particularly in today’s world, is to bring together all of these software systems to really work in coordination with your business and make it a well-oiled machine. This is a very difficult thing to implement and keep implemented, and critical to the ongoing success of your organization, so again, please share. Share with others. They’d love to get your feedback. This is Digital Dave. We’ll catch you in the next episode of Where Marketing Meets Technology. Have a great day.
Stacey Riska, aka "Small Business Stacey" is a serial entrepreneur who is passionate about saving small business and rebuilding Main Street. She helps small and local business owners become a #SmallBizMarketingWiz by teaching them marketing strategies that get MORE: MORE leads, MORE customers/clients/patients, MORE sales, and MORE money. Stacey is the founder of Small Biz Marketing Specialist, THE go-to place for marketing tips, techniques and strategies that get results. She's also the author of "Small Business Marketing Made EZ" where she shares the 6-simple-step plan to get your marketing into ACTION - literally and figuratively. Stacey is also the creator of the Daily Deals for Massive Profits, an online video training program that teaches small and local business owners how to use daily deal sites like Groupon to skyrocket their business growth and get massive profits. In this program she teaches from experience, as it was the key strategy that transformed her coffee and smoothie business from being $500K in debt to a 7-figure profitable business. When not saving the small business world, she enjoys sipping red wine, eating chocolate (who doesn't!) and spending time with her amazing husband.
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