Friday, April 08, 2005

Tools I use -- putting in systems at a startup

Part of setting up a company is to work on the hiring (people), processes and systems. One of the biggest challenges I have is staffing projects in a nacent industry like RFID. To address this challenge - I've taken the typical consultant approach and worked on the people, process and systems issues. I'll post on the people and processes later, but here are a few of the systems I've deployed as OAT as grown. I'm currently running the Services and Support functions at OATSystems. We use a couple of tools that are fantastic in my opinion. As an implementer, developer and manager of software tools for the past two decades, I enjoy seeing good products that deliver value. ( I own no stock in these companies.)

First is a tool for Professional Services Automation (PSA) that I can manage the schedules/expenses/timesheets of people in 4 countries (US, India, UK and China ).
This hosted tool allows me to keep a rolling 6 month forecast on a daily basis. I've been in many different companies over the years and very few companies are able to achieve this level of accuracy, consistently in their forecasts. We do have our issues now and again, but at least now we know when they are coming. Maintaining the data is about 3 hrs per week and except quarterly reporting there's little else to do but run the weekly reports for our CFO. This model allows us to run services pretty tight with a very good Sales & Operations planning process (S&OP)with the sales team. The company is OpenAir , they also have a great services and support team. I would strongly recommend this to anyone running a large (more then 20) team of professionals and are trying to make money while improving customer service.

We use RightNow for our customer support tool. Support is also great there -- and there CEO has been known to call in to check how things are going. (Disclosure: they are another Greylock funded company). We've started measuring ourselves based on these data and the customer surveys -- an excellent data set for improving customer service.

We also use salesforce which I just use as a feed to OpenAir but the sales folks are starting to embrace it pretty well. There seems to be quite a community growing around salesforce and expect them to become a "platform" vendor of choice for sales management. I know we can get more from this product but a lack of bandwidth and our current understanding limits us.

(All examples of a good Software As a Service SaaS model)

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