Business Platform Team

Anant Corporation Blog: Our research, knowledge, thoughts, and recommendations about building and managing online business platforms.

Monthly Archives: July 2016


Why Modern Enterprise? – Motivations for Entering and Adapting to the SaaS Industry

Enterprises throughout history have brought about innovative products that improved the lives of their clients. While enterprises in the past required extensive capital and labor to develop, manufacture, and deploy their products en masse, the advent of the Internet has seen the rise of a new class of enterprise: Software as a Service. As one might elucidate from the amazing successes of technology companies such as Google and Facebook, Software as a Service is the new trend for profitable enterprises.

Imagine that you could create a product for free (or that you could otherwise ignore production costs). Even in this ideal thought experiment, you would still have to expend resources in deploying the product, marketing to consumers, communicating with your partners and employees, and organizing your company. What this gedankenexperiment (thought experiment) emphasizes is that a company is more than just its product. A successful company considers and optimizes the background operations which support its existence and prosperity—operations which, like others in a company, cost money.

The Nobel-winning economist Ronald Coase would go on to call these expenditures transaction costs. When Rahul began to write The Modern Enterprise, he realized that the new paradigm of Software as a Service had the potential to lower these transaction costs and optimize the efficiency of modern enterprises. Businesses could develop enterprise software to market to other businesses, reducing the cost of processes necessary for operation and sales. The “Best Online Tools” series dedicated itself to showcasing some of the most useful online services in optimizing each Area of Responsibility of a company, including FreshBooks, PayPal, and Zendesk. The Anant Corporation uses many of these tools in managing and executing its own processes.

The Software as a Service industry is growing so rapidly due to innovations reducing transaction costs—in fact, the SaaS industry is worth 16 billion dollars as of 2014. Decreased transaction costs lower barriers to entry. In other words, the Software as a Service industry is open and approachable for startups and small enterprises. It is with small-scale start-ups in mind that Rahul wrote The Modern Enterprise and formulated its accompanying modern enterprise canvas. This does not exclude large companies from adapting to the principles outlined in The Modern Enterprise—to the contrary, the most successful ventures at any scale are those best able to exploit technology to optimize their processes and reduce transaction costs. On the other hand, enterprises no longer have to be massive in scale (like the Facebook and Google examples cited earlier) in order to make a sizable difference in the world. The Internet and other technological and communications developments have increased the potential of startups and the modern enterprise.

The Modern Enterprise yields a concrete canvas for modern companies to follow. Dividing organization into discrete areas of responsibility and dissecting a company into people, processes, information, and systems, The Modern Enterprise is a road-map to navigate the new world of Software as a Service.

Rahul Singh is the CEO and a Co-Founder of Anant Corporation.

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Modern Enterprise – Process – Converting Website Visitors to Leads

One of the primary purposes of your website is to convert visitors to leads – or, at the very least, to build your brand among customers and the general public. Therefore, your site’s design must tie closely into your sales and marketing goals. This integration isn’t always simple, but it can be broken down into discrete steps.

  • 1. Create distinct calls to action. These should be on your site’s front page in a major way and on every other page in a minor (but consistent and noticeable) way.
  • 2. Design wireframes and test them with people. Getting feedback from others – employees, friends, family members, current customers, et al – can help you refine both how your site looks and the language it features. Ask people to comment on whether the calls to action on each page are clear.
  • 3. Create specific landing pages. Landing pages can serve multiple purposes. They not only present your company’s value proposition in a concise and compelling way but can serve as splash pages for inbound links – AdWords ads, for example. A landing page is ideal for introducing email marketing recipients to your firm and its products, as well.
  • 4. Integrate your lead form with your CRM. Integrating your online and offline lead-management efforts helps streamline your sales process. That means your employees will pay attention to every lead immediately – and it increases your chances of closing sales.
  • 5. Follow through with the sales process for web leads. Staying in touch with past customers can be a smart strategy for ensuring repeat business. You don’t have to go overboard – just call customers to thank them for their purchase. Periodic emails can also be effective.

We’re aware that this five-step process is way oversimplified, but it’s meant to be a jumping-off point. To ensure maximum ROI from your website (and your lead-generation efforts), keep sales and marketing in mind when you’re building your internet presence. The payoff can be huge.

The 4 WordPress Plugins We Always Recommend to Clients

Here at Anant, we develop a fair number of websites. We have our Appleseed Portal, the platform and CMS we recommend for all of our clients for maximum flexibility. However, there are a still a number of projects which we develop on WordPress. Today, we wanted to give you some insight into the plugins we recommend go onto just about all of our client’s WordPress sites, and explain why.

1. SEO by Yoast

What is the WordPress SEO Plugin?

WordPress SEO is the most complete WordPress SEO plugin that exists today for WordPress.org users. It incorporates everything from a snippet preview and page analysis functionality that helps you optimize your pages content, images titles, meta descriptions and more to XML sitemaps, and loads of optimization options in between.

WordPress SEO by Yoast gives us flexibility from within the posting framework on WordPress to tweak all metadata, and assign SEO specific page and category titles to every single post. This is a great plugin to help you, or your clients rise through the ranks for your domain name, and for the keywords you’re trying to target. It’s simple to install, and best of all, it’s free!

2. WP Touch

What is WP Touch?

WPtouch automatically transforms your WordPress website into an application-like theme, complete with ajax loading articles and effects when viewed from the most popular mobile web browsing devices like the iPhone, iPod touch, Android mobile devices, Palm Pre/Pixi and BlackBerry OS6 mobile devices.

The admin panel allows you to customize many aspects of its appearance, and deliver a fast, user-friendly and stylish version of your site to touch mobile visitors, without modifying a single bit of code (or affecting) your regular desktop theme.

 WP touch will turn any WordPress site into a “mobile app” on smartphones. Many people developing websites nowadays will pay thousands and thousands of dollars for a “mobile app,” for the website, not knowing that there are free tools available that have all of the basic functionality that they want. When your clients ask you for a “mobile version” of their site, this might just do everything for you that they want, and give you a chance to show off your knowledge, and willingness to recommend cost effective solutions to them.

What is W3 Total Cache?

W3 Total Cache improves the user experience of your site by improving your server performance, caching every aspect of your site, reducing the download times and providing transparent content delivery network (CDN) integration.

Benefits:

  • At least 10x improvement in overall site performance (Grade A in YSlow or significantGoogle Page Speed improvements) when fully configured
  • Improved conversion rates and “site performance” which affect your site’s rank on Google.com
  • “Instant” subsequent page views: browser caching
  • Optimized progressive render: pages start rendering quickly
  • Reduced page load time: increased visitor time on site; visitors view more pages
  • Improved web server performance; sustain high traffic periods
  • Up to 80% bandwidth savings via minify and HTTP compression of HTML, CSS, JavaScript and feeds

Page load times are important for SEO, as are a host of other aspects of website performance. This simple, free plugin will pimp your site performance, and give you a boost in the search engines thanks to reduced load times. There are a number of options to tweak the plugin to help your site perform exactly like you want it to, and with over 1.2 million downloads, this is one of the most popular performance-oriented plugins around.

4. Disqus WordPress Comments

What is Disqus?

Disqus, pronounced “discuss”, is a service and tool for web comments and discussions. Disqus makes commenting easier and more interactive, while connecting websites and commenters across a thriving discussion community.

The Disqus for WordPress plugin seamlessly integrates using the Disqus API and by syncing with WordPress comments.

Disqus Features

  • Threaded comments and replies
  • Notifications and reply by email
  • Subscribe and RSS options
  • Aggregated comments and social mentions
  • Powerful moderation and admin tools
  • Full spam filtering, blacklists and whitelists
  • Support for Disqus community widgets
  • Connected with a large discussion community
  • Increased exposure and readership
Disqus is everything that WordPress’ native comments system should be. It gives you options to login to leave comments through various social media channels like Twitter or Facebook, or link your blog up in the comments section of the blog you’re commenting on. It has a clean threaded comments display, and is great for visually displaying the flow of a conversation in comments on your blog, or your clients blog. Not completely revolutionary, but a total classic, and one plugin that your client’s site should not be without.

Conclusion

We’ve reviewed 4 of the best WordPress plugins out there for your site, or for your client’s site. We install most of these plugins on every WordPress site we develop to get effects like a “mobile app” and “loyalty program” totally for free. These plugins can save you time, and save your clients money.

If you’d like additional help walking through more custom WordPress plugins, or thinking through your client offerings, we’d be happy to help you do so! Drop us a line here any time, and we’ll get back to you faster than you can install one of these plugins!

Modern Enterprise – Systems – People First, Systems Last

Teams of people, whether they are independent or part of a larger whole, rely on “Systems” to help them achieve their goals. The Systems that run these teams need not be Information Systems but it’s more than likely that unless the start-up is started in Amish country, it probably uses the Internet as a base “System,” upon which they integrate their smart phones, laptops, and maybe desktops at the very least. As a team’s complex goals become more clear and crystallized, specialized Information Systems or Software can help them scale to great heights.

A system is a set of interacting or interdependent components forming an integrated whole[1] or a set of elements (often called ‘components’ ) and relationships which are different from relationships of the set or its elements to other elements or sets. (Wikipedia)

In our research on “startups,” or companies with five or fewer people, to rampups,  or companies with five to fifty people, there are two major polar groups of companies: those that use too many systems and don’t know how to organize them; and those that use too few because they don’t know enough about them. And although my continued evaluation and interviews with companies may place them into four quadrants, we still believe that there will two major groups. Much of this really depends on who you hire. Do you hire someone who knows Computer Science, or Information Systems?

 

800px-IS-Relationships-Chart

 

The decisions that small teams make on technology for the development of their product ( CTO‘s responsibility ) and the technology that runs their company ( CIO’s responsibility ) are dependent on a variety of factors but there are some symptoms of choosing technology on an ad-hoc basis rather than from an entrepreneurial or strategic stand point.

  • Some of the decisions are “crowd sourced” as people join the team, they bring their baggage into the mix. Someone may like using Basecamp, while someone else may like using Asana. Keeping it “democratic” is generally a good practice until there are too many places where a company’s information resides.
  • Other decisions will be made by the first technologist in the startup team who is more inclined to chose, for better or for worse, one of the major categories of systems: open source, software as a service, commercial, or custom. Each of these types of software is good for what it’s good for, but not everything.
  • Decisions made on cost can be another way to limit potential candidates to a company’s system pool. This may end up saving money and time in the long run, but may stunt growth.

What does a new modern entrepreneur do? It may seem that they are damned if they don’t use the right technologies, and damned if they use too much. What’s an approach that can help them? Large organizations have evolved to understand the concepts of “Enterprise Architecture.” It is a real thing even if there are several civil and building architects that say otherwise. The complexities of large organizations require dedicated experts that marry the needs of the business’s processes to the current technology to help the organization thrive and grow. Entrepreneurial and Strategic thinking aren’t mutually exclusive, but it’s important to understand the difference.

  • Entrepreneurs tend to be “effectual” and create solutions to be effective from where they are to the possibilities of where they could be with what they have.
  • Strategists tend to be goal oriented and find the different ways to get to a solution that is predetermined. They focus on the outcome.

Contexts of Modern EnterpriseWhile wearing the entrepreneurial hat, it may be just right to get the company’s Products & Services started on a combination of Linode VMs, running Ruby on Rails with Couchbase with the source code on GitHub. What happens when employee number 20 joins? Are you going to be starting up VMs on a cloud service provider to run the latest copy of OrangeHRM to manage their employee records or are you going to bite the bullet and pay for the hosted version? Technology, and Information Systems are just tools. They are not the end-all-be-all of a company.

Companies are People. They share the workload or a set of Processes. These Processes can be coordinated better with Information or records. Information can efficiently gathered, moved, manipulated, and transformed with Systems. People First, Systems Last. Not the other way around. Being entrepreneurial and strategic about why you introduce a new Technology or System to your company will help save the clutter, the trouble, and the anxiety of dealing with information problems in the future. Most importantly, it’ll help you grow faster if you don’t have the baggage of 20 employees wanting to use 200 different systems.

Asynchronous Data Processing

The state of the world’s information systems are changing and so should your data processing habits. As the cloud takes precedence in IT environments, different systems that run the modern enterprise are not on the same network or system. These systems have data that business users need to leverage on a day to day and sometimes on an immediate basis.

As big data evolves, we have seen movements from batch processing to micro-batches, to stream processing. All of this is great but folks still need to connect the internet together somehow to access the data.

 

2016-07-13 19.21.22

This presentation was delivered by CEO, Rahul Singh, at The George Washington University to the Data Wranglers DC Meetup on data processing. It outlines the challenge of the current state of business and explains that asynchronous processing is the way to manage the growing sources and volume of business information.

The discussion outlined four main points:

• Thoughts of why “Asynchronous” is the Future

• Discussion about Batch, Micro-Batch, Streaming

• Difference between a Queue / Enterprise Service Bus

• Proposed Architecture for Asynchronous Data Processing

 

Take a look at the slide presented below.

 

Data Wranglers DC is a professional group that meets monthly to discuss topics including open data, data gathering, data munging, and the creation, storage and maintenance of datasets. We combine presentations with hands-on workshops, always seeking to make our data munging lives easier. No experience necessary – just bring your interest.