Using 40% of Your Software?

No one ever buys anything with the intent of using a small percentage of the product. Generally, when one makes a major purchase there is a good amount of research involved and desired features are scrutinized for efficiency and effectiveness. There may be yes/no checklists involved, various conversations with the vendor and many product demonstrations. People do this because they are planning on using the features that they will be paying for. Why is it then that most companies only use 40% of the features their software contains?

Software is the core of any competitive staffing company. How well the company utilizes the software is imperative to success in business today. Too often when assessing software decision makers are blown away by colorful presentations that mean nothing to core business processes. Functionality should be the basis for any software decision and not colorful diagrams or how the screen looks. Software should also contain a basic workflow that stabilizes the way in which the firm will utilize the product to accomplish tasks.

How can software productivity be measured? First, you must be able to report on the amount of time employees spend accomplishing specific tasks. Next, there should be reporting for the individual employees so that they can self-assess their productivity and plan tasks. Third, assess the time employees take to respond to customer orders and inquiries. Last, the ratio of revenue, profitability and output to employee expenses and time spent on tasks must be measured. In order to accomplish all of this you must be utilizing a fully operational CRM Model.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is the most misunderstood term in the industry. The true meaning of CRM is the ability to measure success across the board from Marketing to Sales, Operations and Back Office. This model can only be implemented with a fully integrated front and back office model. The various departments within a firm must share information in order to be effective. This means that invoices should be viewable from front office. Collection calls must be viewable from front office. Software is a company communication project.

Once the software model is in place and contains everything needed to run the company, it is imperative that a Software Policy Manual be created and reviewed with all employees in the company. A Software Policy Manual describes all of the major tasks that need to be completed utilizing the software and how the tasks are to be completed. It should contain “best practices” for the specific organization as every company’s process is different.

Typically, when new software is put into place the users go through a basic training. This is generally a cookie-cutter course that the vendor uses to train all of its new customers. At times the course is tailored toward the type of staffing being done. A course like this is necessary and is enough to begin the journey to software success.

If an extensive software suite is selected, and it should be, the software will contain many more features than can be covered during a basic training course. It would not make sense to include everything as users will normally absorb about 50% of basic training, often walking away a bit dazed after a couple of days of training. If more than the basics were covered it would most certainly cause user brain freeze.

The initial basic training experience can be improved in 3 ways: 1) The basic course should feature “hand-on” training; 2) No interruptions should be allowed during the training; 3) Users must begin practicing what was learned immediately after training. For new software, users should be trained as close to the live date as possible, ideally while the final data migration is being completed. The Software Policy Manual should be complete and available for reference on the “live date”.

Once users have begun utilizing software a common mistake is to stop training. Staffing is a high turnover business so chances are that 50% of the initial staff that was trained may be gone after the first year or two – maybe sooner. That speaks to the necessity of a formal training process for new hires. The class can be an internal training program if you have someone on staff that can dedicate time to formal training. If you don’t want to be in the software training business, solicit this service from your staffing software vendor. Too often formal new hire training is skipped, resulting in users that have no clue how to use the software effectively.

Another area often overlooked is ongoing user training. Remember that basic class that: 1) doesn’t cover everything and 2) users will forget 50% of? Once users begin to use the software and complete tasks, you will want users to become “power users”. “Power use” should not be relegated to a certain few who take the initiative to advance their knowledge on the software. Every user should be a power user but they can only attain this status if they are offered advanced training. This is what makes the difference between a successful software implementation that offers monetary benefits/competitive advantage and a mediocre implementation that everyone complains about.

There are several ways a user can get advanced training. The best route is to get regular training from your software vendor. Your vendor will have experienced trainers that know the software. Unless you have the resources to have a dedicated trainer on staff that does nothing but focus on the software you will not be able to duplicate a vendor training.

On-line help is always available if you are using a leading software product. Familiarize all users with how to use this very important tool. Generally vendors keep this type of information on-line as hardcopy user manuals are for the most part a thing of the past.

3 Ways That CIOs Can Reduce Their Software Costs

As CIO one of your most important jobs is to manage the budget of the IT department. This means that despite the importance of information technology, you need to always be looking for ways to make your limited IT dollars go farther. One of your biggest expenses is always going to the cost of all of that software that the company is currently using to accomplish its work. That’s why taking the time to find ways to reduce the company’s software costs will always pay off for the person with the CIO job.

It’s Time For Some Asset Management

If your company is like most companies, you use a lot of different types of software. This means that you have a significant organizational and tracking challenge just to keep track of what you should be paying for. This has to be your first step in getting software costs under control.

Studies of how companies make use of their software have revealed that up to 30% or even more of the software that they have purchased is either still sitting in a box or is underdeployed. What this means for you is that there is a very good chance that you are paying maintenance costs for software that the company is not even using.

Taking the time to create an effective asset management program may not seem to be as exciting as implementing a new cloud computing strategy. However, the benefits from taking this step will be immediate. Creating a system that allows you to track what you are using today and helps you to stay on top of what additional software you’ll be using tomorrow is the key to keeping your software maintenance costs in check.

Manage Your Software Vendors

The relationship that you have with your software vendors is not a one-way relationship. Yes, they do make a valuable product that you purchase in order to allow your company to run its business; however, the software vendor needs you just as much as you need them. This provides you with the opportunity to look for ways to manage this relationship.

What you are going to want to do is to hold your software vendors responsible for the promises that they have made about what their software will be able to do (and when it will be able to do it). There needs to be a system of assessments and penalties in place to cover the times where promises are made and are not kept.

With that being said, when you choose to use a piece of software from a given vendor, you are actually entering into a partnership with that vendor. You need them to succeed and to continue to support their software just as much as they need to retain you as a paying customer. Creating and maintaining this relationship is a key part of being CIO.

Always Be Looking For Alternatives

In order to keep your company’s software costs under control, you always need to be keeping your eyes open for alternatives. Almost every software product out there has competition – another company is making another software product that does the same or least a similar task. As the CIO, it’s your job to always be aware of what your options are.

One of the most important aspects of looking for alternatives is to make sure that your current software vendors know that you are looking. The goal here is to always be reminding them that their position as one of your software vendors is not a sure thing – things could change. If they are aware that you are looking for ways that they could be replaced, then they’ll be much more attentiative to trying to keep you as a happy and satisfied customer.

Your much larger question will be what to do if you do find an alternative to the software that the company is using. I would suggest that you start to do a trial and have a single team use the software and report back to you. Sometimes things are not all that they appear to be – and sometimes they are even better! This type of trial will also help to keep your current software vendors highly aware that they need to be taking care of your needs in order to remain vendors.

What All Of This Means For You

The bad news is that your IT budget is not going to be growing as fast as your software expenses are. That means that you need to sit down and start looking for ways to reign in what the company is spending on software. The good news is that there are a number of ways to successfully do this.

You can’t control your software costs until you know how much software and what types of software the company is currently using. Taking the time to set up an effective asset management system is the first step for the person in the CIO position. The cost of your software is controlled by your software vendors and so you’ll need to manage that relationship. Make sure that they understand that you’ll hold them accountable for the software that they provide you with. Finally, just because you are using one software package today does not mean that you’ll need to keep using it. Make sure that you are always exploring your alternatives.

Software is a key component in making your company successful. It’s also a major expense that the IT department needs to manage. As CIO the responsibility for doing this falls on your shoulders. Take the time to set up the systems and processes to make this happen and you will have solved one of a CIO’s biggest challenges.

Importance of Software Testing in the IT Industry

Software development companies dedicate a substantial amount of resources and manpower for the development of applications according to requirements specified by enterprises or individuals. However, subsequent to development of such applications/software, companies are required to ensure that such software/applications perform in accordance with the client’s requirements. To ensure that any and all bugs in the software are identified prior to the deployment, various testing procedures are implemented by the IT industry. The importance of this is directly related to the ability of software to measure up to its potential. If the new software is unable to perform the task it was designed for, the client might face severe losses due to stoppage of work and also adversely affect the business of the software development company. The scope of these procedures is to facilitate identification of a problem in the software, fixing of such problems is not within in the scope of software testing. Some of the leading methodologies implemented by companies in the IT industry include General, Load, Functional and Regression Testing.

General Testing

This refers to the general tests carried out on software/applications to ensure the functionality of newly developed software. Some of the common tests included as part of standard Quality Assurance procedures are web performance and usability testing. The web performance testing procedure is mostly engaged in evaluating the online performance of a web-based software application or a website. Usability testing is a mainly subjective approach, which ensures that the software is capable of being utilized effectively in a given set of circumstances. The purpose is to identify the general operating capability of the software/application being tested and to help developers determine some of the areas of improvement for the software. A software development company usually performs general testing of software/applications along with other more advanced methods to ensure that the software conforms to the pre-defined operational capabilities specified by the client/user group.

Load Testing

The load testing procedure simulates operating conditions of the software/application during periods of higher/normal load to gauge the effect of such changes on the functioning of the software/application. This is not the same as stress testing, because load testing checks the operational capabilities in case of both normal load and high load conditions, while stress testing attempts to induce errors in normal operations by using increased system load. This is considered to be a type of non-functional testing, which is undertaken by software development companies to gauge the multi-user support capabilities of the application.

As a commonly employed practice in the software industry, its specific goals are widely disputed and the term is often utilized in conjunctions with volume, reliability, software performance and concurrency testing. By using load testing, developers can attempt to determine the reason for slow performance of software. The common reasons for such slow response commonly include load balancing between multiple servers, client-side processing, network congestion/latency, available database service and/or bugs in the application server(s) or software. The use of load testing is recommended for software/applications, which are subjected to SLA (service level agreement) for ensuring that the software is capable of supporting multiple users. As the procedure simulates an increase in system load by using multiple virtual users, various software are currently available to carry out load testing. Some of the leading load-testing tools used by developers globally are IBM Rational Performance Tester, Apache JMeter, LoadRunner etc. Additionally, a load testing tool commonly favored by software testing companies in India is available as part of the Visual Studio Ultimate Edition of Microsoft.

Functional Testing

This type of testing is a type of black-box testing based on the specifications of the software components being tested. The functions of specific components of the software are feeding inputs and checking the output thus obtained. In functional testing, the internal structure of the program is seldom considered hence, it is classified as a type of black-box testing. The key steps involved in functional testing include identification of functions, which the software is expected to perform, creation of input data according to specifications of the identified functions, determining output based on the specifications of those functions, executing the test scenario followed by comparison of the obtained output vs. the expected output. Functional testing is not the same as system testing as system testing involves validation of a program in comparison to the published system or user requirements, whereas, functional testing is carried out by checking a program with respect to established specifications and available design documents for the software/applications.

Regression Testing

The regression testing refers to any type of software testing, which attempts to identify bugs, which are present in either the functional or the non-functional areas of a system subsequent to making modifications such as configuration and patch changes. The key function of regression testing is to ensure that the use of a patch or upgrade does not lead to the introduction of a new bug into the existing system. Additionally, regression testing helps ensure that the changes in one section of the software do not induce changes in another part of the software’s code. Some of the commonly applied regression testing methods include the use of earlier tests to check for alterations in program operation and the search of any previously fixed bugs, which had re-emerged subsequent to introduction of the new code. Fixed bugs in software often re-emerge and regression testing is one of the leading methods to ensure that such re-emergence is identified and easily controlled before any lasting damage occurs. Software development companies repeatedly perform regression testing of software/applications after any change in coding such as use of patches etc. to ensure that the functionality of the application is unimpaired. Such repetitive testing is usually automated by using an external tool such as Bamboo, TeamCity, Jenkins, Hudson, Tinderbox or BuildBot. This type of testing is generally performed by the QA team in case of leading software development companies, however, smaller companies are often engaged in outsourcing such services to companies specializing in the field of software QA and testing.

What’s Next?

As new technologies emerge, more testing procedures are being developed and implemented by organizations all over the world to ensure that new software perform according to their requirements and specifications even when stress or when additional functionality is introduced into the software. The emerging testing solutions, which are powered by new technology, are designed to reduce the time and resources required for testing in order to streamline the quality control / quality assurance services associated with software development. Some additional types of testing, which are currently used in the software industry are white box testing, system testing, non-functional testing, acceptance testing and integration testing. Each of these testing was developed to identify and resolve application/software limitations in a specific set of conditions; hence they are useful for software testing carried out in case of specific quality assurance and testing procedures.

Finding Time-Saving Yoga Studio Management Software

Running and building up a yoga studio requires coordinating scheduling, marketing, accounting, class registration, class attendance, sales and credit card processing, inventory, payroll, staff management, documents, and so much more.

When you started teaching yoga, you wanted to teach yoga. Sure, you knew running a yoga studio or teaching classes involved administration, but perhaps running your yoga business is taking over your life.

Ask yourself:

How many software applications are you running to keep it all together? Are you using a fleet of spreadsheets?

The fact is there is some pretty cool software options available specifically designed for yoga studios that take care of all your yoga studio administration needs in a central, online location.

3 Fundamental Elements of A Great Yoga Studio Software Service:

  1. Cloud computing capability (web-based software); and
  2. Comprehensive, all-in-one yoga software that centralizes all your yoga studio administration operations.
  3. Automation – the more the better. Typically this is easier with comprehensive, all-in-one software.

1. Cloud Computing Yoga Studio Management Software is Where It’s At

Cloud computing is web-based software. You simply log-in to your account and manage your entire yoga studio on the Web. Stop with the downloads, installations, networking, and upgrades that plague desk-top software applications. Seriously consider putting your entire yoga studio software management needs on the cloud.

2. Centralizing Your Yoga Studio Software

Integrating separate pieces of software is a never-ending headache. When one application is upgraded, it then doesn’t sync with other applications. What you get is a mish-mash of software that more often than not malfunctions. Instead of saving you time, you burn up time trying to get it all working together.

If you can, get yoga studio software that is comprehensive and meets all, or as much of your computing needs as possible.

3. Automation

The more you automate, the more time you save which lets you teach more or take more time off. The fact is, running a yoga studio is managing a large number of variables – students, staff, teachers, schedules, inventory, sales, etc. The goal is full classes and regular students. Automation helps you take care of the menial tasks so you can put your mind and time to activities you enjoy and that let you build your yoga business (and take a vacation).

Yoga Business Software Features to Look For

Not all yoga studios have the same needs. The remainder of this article sets out yoga studio software management features available. Go through them and see what it is you need.

1. Yoga Class Scheduling

Online class scheduling – this is an extremely customer-service friendly feature for your students. Consider the following functions you might want:

  • Wait-lists: let your students add their name to a waitlist. With software, save yourself the time of managing these lists. Let the software do the heaving lifting.
  • Student self check-in: spare your students standing in line waiting for you. Let your students scan their ID card and get to class. You also get time to set up and prepare for class.
  • Printable sign-in sheets: maybe you prefer physical sign-in sheets. Get software that offers a print option with sign-in templates. You can load the data later… or not.
  • Equipment and room rental scheduling: do you rent out rooms and/or equipment? Why not automate the process and make it easy for your yoga clientele to book your rooms and equipment themselves.
  • Recurring bookings: nothing builds a business like recurring customers. Make it easy for yoga students to book multiple classes and commit to your classes.
  • Class attendance statistics: You only know how your business is going if you can measure results. Software that produces easy-to-read reports on class attendance statistics gives you tools at your finger-tips to assess your money-making classes and classes that may not be worth having.

2. Scheduling Ease

  • Drag and drop functionality for booking is a real luxury. In fact, drag and drop anything is great. Make it easy for your clientele to book classes and appointments with you.
  • On the Cloud (web-based): Not only does cloud computing save you networking costs, upgrade hassles, and installation nightmares, but you can access your entire yoga business anywhere.
  • Multiple schedule views: daily, weekly, by name, service, gender and more. Birds-eye views of your schedule can be very handy when looking at the big picture.
  • Color coding scheduling: sure, you must memorize the colors, but in time the colors will speed up your viewing of your schedules.

3. Yoga Studio Enrollment Options

Perhaps you offer more than just yoga classes. If so, look for yoga studio management software that has the flexibility to schedule all types of events such as:

  • Courses: still a popular yoga class structure – a series of classes building on concepts.
  • Seminars / special events: do you ever have a speaker or teaching events? Make it easy for people to sign up and a breeze for you to manage the scheduling.

Plus software that enables:

  • Payment plan processing: yoga studios usually offer a variety of pricing packages. Make it easy to sell packages (without the hand-held calculator) by considering software that tabulates and accepts payment for yoga packages.
  • Payment status information: every business has some customers who owe money. Yoga studios are no exception (generally). See at-a-glance who owes you money (and how much).

4. Payment Processing

  • Credit card integration. Some yoga software includes credit card processing “on the cloud” sparing you the hardware to pay for and set up.
  • Link payments with services. This way you can produce financial statements any time to see the financial status of your business.
  • Membership cards (i.e. swipe cards for signing in) and ID tag capability: Lose the paper and look professional with swipe cards enabling self-check in and much faster client tracking.

5. Online Store for More Revenues

If you sell retail, why not create an online store? It’s simple to do with the right yoga studio software. There is software that includes e-commerce capabilities so that not only can you track your in-studio retail sales, but you can actually start selling off your website.

In fact, you could consider partnering with yoga and health products suppliers to provide you products to sell on your online store. You can carry inventory or enter drop-shipping arrangements. The sky is the limit.

Moreover, with e-commerce, you can sell gift cards, yoga class packages, event tickets, etc.

6. Yoga Gift Card Selling Option

Gift cards are BIG business. Why not sell your own gift cards? You’ll earn revenues and get more students in your yoga studio. Some yoga studio software has the capability to provide gift cards and program them with the software so that you can create them, sell them, and track usage. Other considerations when implementing gift cards for sale include:

  • Prepaid gift card options.
  • Able to track student account balances.
  • Loading gift cards with flexible amounts of money.
  • Selling your gift cards in your studio and online.

7. Email Marketing for Your Yoga Studio

E-mail marketing can give your yoga business a huge boost. If you get yoga studio software, see if you can find a product that integrates with e-mail marketing software. This way you can leverage your yoga studio software contact database with your e-mail marketing rather than having separate databases. Trust me – when you can centralize, it’s worth it.

Not only can you use e-mail marketing to get more students or encourage regular attendance, but you promote sales, encourage referrals, sell products and yoga packages, promote events, send out class reminders, and more.

When you centralize your yoga studio student database with e-mail marketing software, you can segment your students so that you send the most appropriate messages to each person.

For example, if a student signs up online for a class, you can automate reminder class messages. This way you improve your class attendance, and in a worst case scenario, if the student can’t attend, they’ll be reminded to remove their name off the schedule opening up a spot for the wait list.

Then your e-mail system will produce an e-mail to the wait list alerting them to the open spot. Imagine doing all this manually. Automation is key.

8. Yoga Studio Inventory Tracking

If you sell retail, tracking inventory digitally can save you a lot of time. However, you need software that tracks the stocking and sale of items. Moreover, if you get software that includes inventory tracking, look for the capability to track in-store and online sales.

Again, this goes toward centralizing your operation. By tracking inventory with your yoga studio management software, you’ll integrate inventory with sales which lets you produce up-to-date financial reports… not to mention save you time syncing inventory with sales and re-ordering.

9. Yoga Student Account Management

When you use cloud software, you can create accounts for all of your students – so both you and they can log-in to their accounts. This way you and your students can track purchases, their profile, class attendance, referrals, etc. This is very convenient for you and your students.

Liability: What about the dreaded waivers. Necessary, but not a lot of fun. If you let students sign up online, be sure you offer an e-waiver for them to agree to. This too is available with some yoga studio software.

10. Yoga Studio Staff Management

Whether you love managing staff or not, consider saving yourself time and the ability to manage your staff “on the cloud”. Some yoga studio software enables you to do some or all of the following features:

  • A staff dashboard portal where you can send instructions to staff and to-do items.
  • Individual staff log-in accounts for each staff member.
  • Permission levels to various portals of your software. Again, this is where centralization works for you big time.
  • Staff scheduling – lose the monthly printouts and create staff schedules online where your entire staff can access it anytime from anywhere. Scheduling staff with software is much more convenient than on paper. Beside, how often does the schedule change in a month? Save yourself a few erasers.

11. Look for Payroll Management

Do you know how much you’re paying out in wages, commissions, fees, etc.? It’s not so easy to track with a yoga studio business given the variety of remuneration options yoga teachers opt for. There’s hourly, commissions, flat rates, and combinations of these payment options.

Again, a quality yoga software product will track all your pay-rates for all your staff – no matter how complicated. It makes tallying the amount you owe easy.

Take for example, a yoga teacher that earns a flat rate plus a per student rate after a class attendance threshold is met. Okay, one class with one teacher isn’t too hard to track, but imagine 30 classes and 5 teachers.

It gets complicated. Look for software that will track and tally all of this for you – all calculated with the swipe cards issued to your yoga students (if you opt for swipe cards – now you’re starting to see how beneficial swipe cards can be).

Another payroll feature to look for is a punch clock for hourly employees. I’m not talking about a wall-mounted contraption. I’m talking about staff being able to quickly log into the cloud software and entering start and stop times at the touch of a button.

Finally, you want to be able to export all this payroll data into your accounting software saving you reconciliation hassles come tax time (and saving you lots of money in accounting fees).

12. Track and Measure – Look for Reporting Capability

You won’t know where your business is going if you don’t know where it’s been and where it’s at. This boils down to the financials – but not just the usual income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement.

I’m talking about in-depth class attendance, payroll costs, number of students per yoga teacher, yoga student and employee retention rates, no shows, product returns, and sales figures (past, present and forecasts) – to name a few reporting capabilities to look for.

Software Telemarketing: Effective and Cost Minimizing

The effectiveness of the marketing strategies that a software firm makes use of is always something that is very important. When it comes to marketing software products and services, one would want to achieve success as the mere mention of software alone does not immediately attract more clients to the table. This makes marketing for most software firms difficult as some approaches do not work well in terms of helping them make sales. But if that’s the case, why not give something like software telemarketing a try? Software telemarketing is a strategy that other software firms make use of and to their expectations has succeeded in helping them out.

Software telemarketing is widely used for the services that it offers to software firms. Telemarketing firms that offer these services can become contact centers for client calls in terms of troubleshooting software problems or they can do lead generation services for software leads. On their list is also software appointment setting services, something which we will go into later. Now, how these services help software firms will be explained below.

Becoming a Contact Center – you may not have enough staff on hand to handle client calls when it comes to addressing their problems with your software. In this case, you may need to hire more staff. But why do that when you can employ the services of a good software telemarketing call center. Telemarketing agents are trained more that in just making sales over the phone, no, they are also trained to respond and deal with clients who need some troubleshooting done in regards to software queries. The great thing about this is you do not need to spend so much on resources.

Software Lead Generation – software leads are important for any software firm if they want to increase their clientele. There may be lots of lead generation companies out there that offer their services but relying on a software telemarketing firm to do so may just be all that you need. Telemarketers employ the use of cold calling in order to market certain products and services, and now, also make use of it to generate leads for their clients. They can even help software firms that sell ERP and CRM software by providing them with ERP leads and CRM leads. Software leads greatly increase the rate at which you can gain clients and locate prospect companies that you can do business with.

Software Appointment Setting – software appointment setting is one service which makes software telemarketing so effective at what it does for software firms. But before an appointment setting campaign for software sales can be done, you must have a good amount of software leads at your disposal. Another piece of good news is that it only takes at least a single telemarketing firm to do this service for you. So you need only hire one provider to become a contact center for software queries, lead generation for software leads, and even software appointment setting. By doing this, you save on a lot of valuable resources and minimize your spending. So, let’s go more into what software appointment setting is. After your telemarketers generate a good amount of leads, they then proceed to make use of these and make their calls. They call prospect companies and try their best to get in touch with specific decision makers within the company and try to schedule you an appointment with the client. If a meeting is agreed to, then the job of is left to you to get a sale out of it.