By Peter Prestipino, Editor-In-Chief
If your digital enterprise is overwhelmed by the sheer number of opportunities, or if you are simply looking for something to drive further growth and performance, let Website Magazine's June 2014 issue serve as the starting point for improved efficiency, greater revenues and more engaged consumers for your 'Net enterprise through the use of Web-based software.
Whether you are operating a pure-play Web business or developing a digital presence for an offline brand, software will play a major role and demand a significant portion of your IT budget. Spending in the enterprise software market this year, in fact, is on pace to total $320 billion (a 6.9 percent increase from 2013) according to a recent forecast from Gartner. And there's a good reason for it.
Businesses are spending heavily on software not just to keep up with their digital competition, but also because software is becoming more useful. The "convergence" that is occurring today between essential systems such as social, mobile, analytics and the cloud promises better software products, greater profits, and smarter, more connected brands.
The convergence that is being experienced today is best explained with the industry's latest digital buzzword: SMAC, an acronym for social, mobility, analytics and cloud. Whether we want it to or not, SMAC is changing how many of today's enterprises are operating. Business models are changing, decision-making is accelerating, and those companies that are adapting to the new realities are those positioned for future success. So what does SMAC have to do with you as an Internet professional? In a word...everything.
For years, information and technology systems resided "on-premise" and were often (frustratingly) silo-ed. When employees and clients needed to interact with platforms in the past they could only do so from their desktops; and forget about exchanging information (much less in real-time) with colleagues in an efficient manner. Today, enterprises demand instant access to information (and the most relevant information to fulfill their needs); anything short of this dismisses the value that business data provides and doesn't reveal the entire picture. Plus, since we're producing and taking advantage of so much more data now, the effect of SMAC is multiplied many times over.
What the trend toward SMAC provides is a shift from traditional value chains to highly distributed, virtualized business models. Retailers are heavy adopters as they can deploy business processes to combine the best of virtual and physical retail shopping experiences. Customers can use their mobile devices to find a store, and then read reviews and compare prices from within product aisles. Couple that in-store presence with analytics, and a retailer can deliver a far more personalized experience - an experience that is more valuable to the shopper and the merchant. And since it's all based in the cloud, costs are lower, and potential profits are higher. When talking SMAC within your enterprise, realize that you're discussing significant market forces on a macro-level and recognize that the impact is far-reaching and influential in a company's pursuit of success.
Enterprise software spending will be driven now and in the near future by four types of technology: mobile applications, cloud computing, data management and social enterprise tools. These technologies will combine to create a truly disruptive business environment that will benefit consumers, Web workers and 'Net business owners alike.
So what software is in greatest demand in 2014? Website Magazine's software issue provides a broad overview of the solutions that are consistently (or increasingly) top of mind with technologists, developers, marketers and Web business owners. The software referenced below (grouped into categories including business, design/IT, marketing, etc.) addresses the many challenges of the modern Web, shares the features your enterprise should demand and the vendors that are leading the way.
Google purchased three SaaS companies in as many weeks starting in April, including Stackdriver (cloud application monitoring), Appetas (software for building websites) and Adometry (marketing and advertising optimization). Stay up to date on Google and all the important news related to funding and acquisition in Website Magazine's Movers & Shakers channel at wsm.co/BigMovers. Software for the Enterprise
What technology affords is the ability to do things/tasks more efficiently - and that is seen no more clearly than with software designed for the day-to-day business of doing business.
The human component of today's digital enterprises should not be overlooked. For this reason, leveraging applicant tracking systems or ATS (also known as candidate management systems) proves invaluable.
These systems help enterprises recruit employees, screen r‚Äö√†√∂¬¨¬©sum‚Äö√†√∂¬¨¬©s and generate interview requests. Some of the basic features to watch for include self-service options for job candidates, r‚Äö√†√∂¬¨¬©sum‚Äö√†√∂¬¨¬© search functionality as well as background screening - but there's a lot more. Some of the leading providers today, including Workable, Greenhouse.io and Openhire take their application tracking solutions a few steps further.
Greenhouse.io, for example, includes functionality for drawing up a hiring plan, assembling interview kits llisting the vendors conducting structured interviews, collecting feedback, and quantifying the results of job ads, social media and referral campaigns. The Greenhouse solution is used in the hiring process for firms such as Klout, Airbnb, Disqus and others.
Once you've hired right, there are even software solutions designed to help your enterprise conduct performance appraisals. Vendors including SilkRoad, Halogen Software and Trakstar simplify the complexities of managing employees with features such as history tracking, compensation management, custom rating scales and review forms, goal setting/tracking, employee self-service and peer/self-appraisals.
Easily one of the most important types of software today is that of CRM and the market for Web-based solutions is growing.
Demand is being driven by organizations of all sizes (and across all industries) looking for easier-to-deploy alternatives to their legacy systems as well as those seeking to implement new applications entirely or provide alternative, complementary functionality.
"High levels of end-user investment in digital marketing and customer experience initiatives were the primary growth drivers of the market in 2013," said Joanne Correia, research vice president at Gartner. "CRM will be at the heart of digital initiatives in coming years. This is one technology area that will get funding because digital business is critical for companies to remain competitive."
CRM is clearly a lucrative space for technology companies and some well-known names including Salesforce, SAP, Oracle and Microsoft are fighting it out for big brand use. There are, of course, quite a few powerful (and stable) alternatives that are heating up the market, including Highrise, Insightly and Nimble.
When selecting a CRM, Web workers should focus on the robustness of the customer database and contact management tools, the experiences related to user tracking and the opportunities related to knowledge base integration, as well as available analytics integrations.
Check out Website Magazine's more detailed buyers' guide for customer relationship management solutions at wsm.co/crmbguide.
If your enterprise wants to get paid for the service or products it sells, then a reliable billing and invoicing solution - providing features such as accounting integration, contract management, invoice creation, custom pricing options, quote management, refund invoices and customizable billing - should top the list of software in demand at your enterprise.
Intuit's QuickBooks solution is a popular and powerful solution used by millions of businesses, but there are many others deserving attention. For example, small businesses and freelancers might want to consider a solution such as CurdBee, which enables its users to send estimates and invoices, track time and expenses, as well as accept online payments. Internet professionals should also consider those of the open source variety such as SimpleInvoices.org.
While the billing and invoicing software will ensure the profits keep coming in, larger enterprises often need greater budgeting capabilities; and there are incredibly powerful options at the ready including Adaptive Insights. The business intelligence and corporate performance management suite offers a comprehensive budgeting solution, providing features including audit trails, capital asset planning, forecasting, income and profit and loss statements, and more.
For a broader list of solutions that your enterprise should consider in the future to improve its operational performance, go to wsm.co/biglistops.
Solutions such as Zoho Creator, Caspio and TrackVia provide everyone an opportunity to create and maintain a database that can be used for a customer-facing application - sending data to and from a database server. TrackVia's solution is so simple in fact, that users can upload a spreadsheet and have a database-driven application up and running within minutes. Take a step-by-step walkthrough of the TrackVia solution at wsm.co/trackvia1. Software for Information Publishers
If you remember a time when content management systems (CMS) were not an integral part of an information publisher's core software solutions, then you're officially a digital old timer. Today's website are rarely coded by hand as content management systems provide a far more efficient and practical way to publish information. The problem is that there are thousands of options for today's enterprise to select from, complicating the decision-making process significantly.
CMS solutions are quite straightforward really, providing systems that support authoring, collaborating and administrating. The templates and design customization opportunities of these systems, as well as the extensibility of the platform, are the features Web workers tend to be drawn to which might be one reason that open source solutions including WordPress, Joomla and Drupal are so widely used.
Of course, many content management systems are designed and developed with the larger enterprise in mind. Sitecore, Kentico, Percussion Software and others, as well as DotNetNuke and Umbraco are well suited to the demands of the larger, content-focused digital enterprise.
A content management system that is easy to learn/use is important but the Web's most savvy publishers are getting more sophisticated in the way they develop content to be distributed through these essential platforms.
Toronto-based Atomic Reach, for example, is a solution poised to help information publishers take their content marketing initiatives to an entirely different level. The software product measures upward of 20 variables (including how content matches to the audience, content structure and linguistic elements) to determine the sophistication and emotional levels of content. Atomic Reach is of the opinion that content that is optimized for a real-life audience is the content that carries the greatest potential for engagement. In an age where page views are dead and reader loyalty metrics are taking priority, Atomic Reach is a content analysis tools for a new age.
Access a more detailed review of the Atomic Reach tool to see how it can impact the performance of your content marketing efforts at wsm.co/edatomicreview.
Discover software solutions that offer features and functionality to help your audience communicate with your team and fellow users at wsm.coscommunity. E-Commerce Software
Just as a content management system is essential to the success of an information publisher, e-commerce software is essential to Internet retailers. Those selling online, however, must demand platforms that go far beyond the traditional shopping cart. Today, the leading solutions need to provide granular controls for merchants looking to present an optimized online shopping experience.
There are as many CMS offerings for information publishers as there are software vendors catering to online sellers. Some of the leading names in the market today include Miva Merchant, Volusion, Magento, Shopify and Hybris.
Magento is quickly proving to be the most attractive to merchants across sectors and based on business size. One of the reasons the system has increased in popularity is due to the integrations that are available, extending the core functionality to deliver some incredible experiences.
Online shoppers, for example, are no strangers to using video in their product research and selection process, but adoption has been slow for retailers. Business video solution Invodo, however, recently announced the availability of a new program for merchants who aim to deliver a better integrated video solution for Magento merchants. The integration should result in conversion rate increases by producing a more engaging shopping experience; one that facilitates consumer learning, entertainment and information sharing.
"While Invodo has traditionally catered to the enterprise market, online video is becoming so pervasive that expanding into the SMB market is necessary to keep up with growing demand," said Keith Blankenship, Invodo's director of strategic alliances. "Magento's status as one of the leading e-commerce solution providers makes them an ideal partner to help us expand use of our platform in new and high-growth market segments."
There's a lot more to being a successful Internet retailer than the quality of the shopping cart or the bells and whistles that are added. There's also a great deal of importance placed on the advertising and marketing component and increasingly, pricing optimization software takes center stage. These solutions make it possible to conduct analysis of different channels, test pricing scenarios, forecast, and of course engage in competitive analysis. Some of the leading vendors in the market today include Zilliant, Vistaar and WisePricer.
Explore Website Magazine's extensive e-commerce coverage on the Web to discover new solutions every day that will improve the digital shopping experience for users, expose your brand and its product to a broader audience and help your website generate more sales.
Once solutions are in place to help you manage the digital business, and platforms are live and ready to service customers, Web workers attention should be directed to marketing.
Search engine optimization remains one of the most appealing marketing initiatives and in this month's Mastering Search column in Website Magazine, readers will find several software solutions to aid them in their pursuit of better and broader exposure in the natural/organic results of popular search engines. One channel alone, however, doesn't make for a comprehensive digital marketing strategy. Fortunately, software vendors are ready to serve.
Easily one of the most active software verticals on the 'Net today has to do with social media. There are social media marketing tools such as HootSuite and Sprout Social (which help automate publishing, manage social contacts and provide some basic analytics) and social media monitoring solutions which provide an opportunity to understand more about the conversations that are taking place. Social media monitoring, in particular, has proven to be a very hot software segment but even more innovative products are emerging such as Blab which offers a software platform that delivers real-time predictive social intelligence in a rich visual interface. Learn more about Blab and discover several popular vendors of social media software at wsm.co/newsocial14.
More efficient than SEO, more effective than social - email is the channel that's driving engagement and revenue more than any other today. The software that powers email marketing initiatives are sophisticated solutions that are empowering brands to do more.
The best email software solutions on the market today are rich with features. Autoresponders, tracking deliverability compliance event triggers and the many customization options top the list and vendors including Campaigner, MailChimp, AWeber and GetResponse (to name a few) are leading the proverbial way. But again, what often makes these solutions so powerful is often not their core product but the extensibility of their core product with functionality from others.
Digital marketers today are far savvier and are seeking software solutions to manage the more omni-channel landscape. That is one reason that marketing automation solutions such as Act-On, Eloqua, Marketo, Campaigner, Hubspot and Pardot are playing a central role in the operations of the digital marketing departments of enterprises large and small. Find out what to look for in these solutions in Website Magazine's "Marketing Automation Roundup" at wsm.co/maroundup14.
Software is arguably one of the most important variables to your website success. Choosing the right solution makes a big difference in the quality of the user experience and with any luck, to your enterprise's bottom line as well. There are, of course, many different software segments not included here, but they are equally important.