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Improving the Business of Art: Making Beautiful Business Decisions

There is a lot more to managing and maintaining an art collection than simply collecting.  In the art business, knowing where something came from, how it got to where it is now (and what it cost to get there), and keeping track of it thereafter requires software and systems to store and manage the information.  A professional art collection management solution will do much more than simply keep an inventory list of items.  This solution must store all the relevant information about the work as well as gather information while facilitating the various business processes relating to activities around the work. The first step to improvement is ensuring all the processes are being facilitated.

Acquiring the item, transporting the item, preparing the item, showing the item, maintaining the item, selling the item… all of these business activities performed must not just be accounted for, they must relate back to the work of art and become part of its historical record. Art tends to move around. Traveling from collector to collector or to different galleries, works of art may change location and ownership or custodial care frequently.  The origin of a work and the tracked purchase history, as well as the history of placements is among the critical information to be stored with each item. This most valuable data is part of the legacy of the work that any professional system should address. If information is power, then better retention and management of information regarding a work makes the entire collection stronger.

The location or exhibition of a work, its purchase history, the related museum and contact records – all this and more must be maintained and managed with each and every item in a collection.  Essential data such as provenance, condition and value is certainly kept for each work, but the key to making a truly useful system for collectors and artists both is the ability to get all the needed data in a single view or report.

Having the inventory information available for invoicing and reporting is one thing, but also being able to connect or identify individual works and collections with relevant contacts is surprisingly valuable. Tracking other information items like costs associated with shipping or framing, or storing both an appraised value as well as an insured value, provides for a comprehensive record of the work and its properties and makes forms and documents preparation not only more accurate but more efficient and useful, too.

Art businesses are like many other “product”-based businesses in that they have e-commerce needs, they build websites to show off their catalogue, they use mobile applications to display items, and they find much higher efficiency and agility when the websites and mobile applications work with the same real-time inventory data that the rest of the system works with.  The goal is to achieve measurable results through improved efficiencies, and that comes from improved information management and integrated systems.  Centralized computing models and connected cloud services establish the foundation.

Cloud hosting, remote access and mobile technologies, and location-based solutions are all part of the package for businesses involved in the business of art these days.  Implementing a hosting solution which enable anytime/anywhere access to business applications and information is often the first key to unlocking the better and more efficient art business.

Whether it is collecting, selling or showing, users involved in the business of art need secure access to all their information whether they’re in the office or not so they have the data needed to support making beautifully intelligent business decisions when it matters most. The rest is just pretty pictures.

Make Sense?

J

QuickBooks Point of Sale and Hosting

QuickBooks Point of Sale in a Hosted Environment

Retail operators and multi-location store owners often face difficulties in attempting to bring cohesion to their accounting, financial, and operational data.  In so many situations, the retail location –  where inventory is sold and money is exchanged – is far-removed from the administrative location where the financial systems and business reporting exist.  It seems that the best case scenario is to create a means for the remote (retail) locations to operate with real-time access to centralized customer, inventory, and financial data from a primary source. Application hosting services can provide this centralization,  and a platform for standardization, of systems.  Further, the application hosting model can deliver security and managed service which ensures that the systems are available and performing as required.

Even though hosted applications and centralization of the systems and processes in a POS environment may appear to be the right answer, there are caveats and considerations that speak to the realities of today’s technologies.  These caveats should be strongly considered prior to undertaking any reformation of systems and processes relating to the retail locations.

The first fundamental reality which must be addressed is connectivity.

While a retail or store location may enjoy Internet or network connectivity, there should be great consideration given to the wisdom of connecting these locations only and exclusively via remote access systems.

Retail is a dynamic business, and the sale is made when the customer is ready and willing to buy.  Any retail location must be able to process this sale in order to meet the immediacy of customer demand.

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If the systems in use are exclusively accessed remotely, then the connectivity to those systems become of paramount importance in the ability to do business.  At the very minimum, any remotely-served retail location should have redundant connectivity options, with local personnel being familiar with the connection failover process.

A second strong consideration for a hosted or remotely-deployed POS or retail system is local device support.

Devices, such as card readers, scanners, cash drawers, receipt printers, etc. typically require local PC/computer drivers in order to function.  When served by a remote system, this connection between the host and the local devices may not function.  Limited device support for POS hardware can significantly impact the location’s accuracy and efficiency.

QuickBooks POS was designed for use on a single-user PC environment.  The application is not well-suited to a hosted deployment for multiple users, as the software only allows one instance of itself to run on each computer.  This alone eliminates the benefits of a server-based computing model for POS, whether onsite or hosted. The multi-lane option requires all stores to be connected via the same LAN, so remotely connecting multiple locations isn’t really do-able, either.  This is why there is a multi-store option, allowing the various stores to operate independently and send the daily data back to a master location via a store transfer or email process.

In many cases, the suitable answer is to keep the POS systems running on the local computers and network, and run the accounting applications on the host. The host system, whether it be an on-premises server or a location in the cloud, could also run the software which integrates the POS data with accounting.

integratedFor example, with an installation of QuickBooks accounting the point-of-sale “master location” on the host, the core financial data is able to be secured and protected in the virtual environment without risking lost productivity (and lost sales!) due to connectivity failures at the retail locations.  The end-of-day process at each location is to then copy the POS data to the host system where it is integrated with the accounting system. If the POS system is something other than QuickBooks POS, it simply means that there is another piece of software – the specific POS integration tool – required to transfer the POS data into the accounting software.  QuickBooks desktop accounting integrations are available for most popular POS systems including Micros, POSiTouch, Aloha and others. The integration software (often just a QuickBooks plug-in) would be installed on the computer running QuickBooks, enabling the entry of the POS data into the QuickBooks accounting system.

It makes a ton of sense to centrally manage the accounting and financial data for the business, in a secure location away from the retail storefront and frontline workers.  It’s just that the accounting is easier to host and makes more sense to run as a centrally-managed, hosted solution.  POS, on the other hand?  Not so much.

For a small market vendor or the largest of retail stores, point of sale needs to be up and running at all times, driving receipt printers and cash registers/drawers and barcode scanners. Run the POS system on-premises where the action happens, but keep accounting and finance safe and secure somewhere else.

jmbunnyfeetMake Sense?

J

Mobility Solutions to Support the Booming Home Health Services Market

Mobility Solutions to Support the Booming Home Health Services Market

The market for home health care services is growing rapidly and is not likely to slow any time soon. The expanding need is due in large part to the aging of the baby boomers, those born between 1946 and ‘64.  The boomers were once the nation’s largest living generation, defined by a notable increase in births in the United States following World War II. As this generation ages, it is creating a boom of sorts in the home health services industry.

Roughly 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day, and increasingly these seniors wish to continue living in their own homes rather than being moved to nursing homes or assisted living facilities.   According to AARP, nearly 90 percent of seniors want to stay in their own homes as they age, referred to as “aging in place.” Most seniors (up to 82 percent) would prefer to stay in their homes even as they need daily assistance or ongoing health care.  Few seniors say they would prefer to move to a care facility, and even fewer identify living with extended family as a desirable option.

The rate of home ownership among boomers is higher than with the rest of the population today, which is one of the primary reasons for increased demands for home care services.  Reports reflect that 81% of seniors today own their own homes, compared to 68% for the rest of the population. The majority of these seniors live alone or with a spouse – we’ve already established that living with extended family isn’t a frequent choice, possibly due at least in part to reduced home ownership rates. There are also suggestions that the reduced economic status of later generations has similarly reduced the capacity for extended families providing the long-term care for their seniors.

Projected to double by the year 2050, the number of Americans requiring daily help with living at home is expected to grow from the current 12 million to 27 million.  Older adults will make up almost 20 percent of the population, if not more.

These and other factors are driving rapid growth and expansion in the home health care field. Projected job growth for home health providers and personal care aids is expected to reach a whopping 70 percent by 2020. Larger than any other occupation grouping in the country, direct care workforce is projected to exceed teachers from kindergarten through high school (3.9 million), all law enforce and public safety workers (3.7 million), and registered nurses (3.4 million). Between 2010 and 2020, the fastest growing occupations in the country are projected to be Personal Care Aides and Home Health Aides.

Home health care businesses providing in-home senior care, hospital after-care, veteran care and numerous other specialized and general services are supported by a number of specialized software solutions designed to meet the specific needs of this segment of the healthcare industry.  The software used to support the business generally includes specific functionality for managing client and patient records, caregiver and provider information, scheduling and dispatch, payroll and HR, billing, and other back office and accounting processes.

Many of the industry-specific solutions available on the market address different or unique aspects of operating the home health care business, integrating data from their system with separate accounting and finance applications (such as QuickBooks desktop editions) for the rest of the functionality needed.  This allows the developer of the line of business application to focus on the valuable features and capabilities that will make the practice more efficient, compliant and profitable, leaving general accounting processes (payroll, accounts payable, general ledger and reporting) to the accounting software.

With greater frequency, the applications servicing the home health care industry are SaaS solutions, crafted with online access and mobility in mind.  This industry in particular has a specific need for remote and mobile access to information, as it is a “field service” operation at its core with healthcare rolled in.  The requirements to manage not just scheduling and services, but to deal with compliance, privacy and other factors involved with healthcare information complicates matters, placing an additional focus on the security and mode of access to the software and information.

Businesses using solutions such as Kinnser ADL, Shoshana Rosemark, Kaleida eRSP and Generations Homecare System rely on the software to streamline their operations.  Not only designed to support a remote and mobile workforce, these application services also provide business owners and managers with the ability to access essential business data at any time.  At issue is the rest of the software and systems which support the business operation and its processes.  Word and Excel or other productivity tools are almost certainly used at some level, and QuickBooks is in use, too.  These applications and their data typically reside on the desktop computer or local network.  As desktop applications, these solutions deliver the best power and performance for the business in terms of features and usability.  While some users may consider moving to web-based versions of these products, those who favor performance and functionality over framework often return to the feature-rich desktop applications that do the full job required.

In order to give business owners and remote workers the access they need to desktop applications and data, secure remote access solutions are required.  When the software and systems reside in the locked office of the business, the people operating outside aren’t usually able to access them in a way that is useful – or useful for more than one person at a time.  Remote control solutions that broker access to a PC cannot provide the multi-user support, application security or overall performance that most businesses require.  Attempts to implement simple RDS solutions or use similar products to create access often expose the business to unnecessary risk and limited capability while introducing heavy technical and licensing expenses.

MyQuickCloud addresses the secure remote access requirement, delivering the capability for multi-user application access, server-based computing and easy cloud administration in a simple streamlined solution. Without a need for special firewall configurations or static IP addresses, and supporting local or domain security models, MyQuickCloud enables businesses to establish comprehensive remote and mobile access to virtual desktops and remote applications on any Windows host, whether on-premises or offsite. The workspaces model allows multiple simultaneous users to work from the host computer, with the only limitations being machine resources and application capability. The client is available on Mac, Windows, iOS and Android devices, and has file transfer and printing capability on all.

With an offsite option, where the applications and data reside with the commercial hosting provider, business owners and line managers benefit from being allowed to focus on operations and not on managing the underlying software and systems. The business outsources the provisioning, management and protection of primary IT resources to support users, software and data, but the business should retain the capability to administer their own cloud as personnel changes impacting information access can occur at any time.

Whether their software and data are hosted on-site with existing equipment or offsite with managed hosting, home health care businesses need to have an easy-to-use solution for administration of user accounts, application access and secure filespaces.  For the home health care business, this is critical functionality that can mean the difference between spending too much time in the office handling general business and software matters versus meeting with clients and managing caregivers and revenue-generating activities.  In a fast moving, fast growing and highly mobile business, getting to information at anytime from anywhere using any device means being able to meet booming business demand.

Make Sense?

J

https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2014/cb14-84.html https://www.ioaging.org/aging-in-america http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/04/25/millennials-overtake-baby-boomers/ http://www.iyhusa.com/AginginPlaceFacts-Data.htm http://economistsoutlook.blogs.realtor.org/2012/01/13/homeowners-by-age/

Channel Partners: Selling Telephony With a Side of Remote Access and Cloud Hosted Applications

Channel agents and telephony resellers are facing stiff competition these days. Line access or voice service isn’t as easy to sell as it once was, and the convergence of digital voice and data has made things even less simple. Business customers demand comprehensive solutions that can address a variety of business problems, and they tend to seek out those solutions from the advisors they trust. The “advisor” could be a software reseller, an accounting professional, the local IT guy, or the professional that delivered great telco, voice or network access.

Convergence isn’t only for voice and data solutions; convergence is the combining and compressing of channels delivering those solutions. MSPs and “pure” IT resellers are also feeling the squeeze, finding telecom agents and channels among those challenging the VARs and MSPs operating today. Marketing budgets are increasing, but differentiation is not.  Reselling is a crowded space and everyone has become a service provider. Having the right messages to win new customers and retain existing ones is essential not just for success, but for survival.

Once a channel partner or provider has established a solid customer relationship, it is important to capitalize on that goodwill (and develop even more) by delivering the other value-added services the customer needs. Access, connectivity and voice solutions are just a start when it comes to servicing small and growing business customers. Having come from an application hosting background, I am very aware of the demand for mobility and “always-on, always-available” computing services among businesses small and large. When the partner is working with the customer and is solving connectivity and telephony problems, the likelihood of successfully selling additional IT solutions to address mobility is quite high. The challenge has often been with the investment required for training and certification; development of new competencies which are viewed as diversions from the core business. Evolution of technology, markets and demand suggests that offering a broader base of solutions isn’t a diversion any longer, it has become a core requirement.

Secure remote access to on-premises systems, managed hosting on cloud servers delivering always-on service or disaster recovery, and collaboration tools that keep everyone on the same page – these are the solutions that savvy businesses are looking for, and which represent the additional value channel partners and service providers could be delivering to their valued customers. After all, if the customer can’t get what they need from their trusted reseller/advisor, they will find somewhere else to buy, removing their “advisor” from the mix. Most business owners would agree that it takes less to nurture and maintain existing customers than it takes to find new ones, so the investment in offering and delivering value-added solutions is well worth it.

The best way for channel partners to retain their customer relationships is to offer a full range of solutions and value-added services to meet the variety of needs of their business clientele.  MyQuickCloud, for example, is a highly successful partner solution and add-on for resellers of IP telephony services and line access. MyQuickCloud offers very flexible and affordable secure remote access and cloud hosting solutions that do not require investments in training or certification to resell, giving channel partners and telecomm agents the right stuff to beat out the competition and keep small business and growing enterprise customers happy and coming back for more. Partners leverage their expertise and creativity in developing solutions with MyQuickCloud, resulting in cost-effective and powerful network, application and continuity services not previously available.

MyQuickCloud secure remote access creates a secure business cloud from on-premises systems, with hosted or co-located cloud servers, or any combination of on-prem or offsite hosts. The on-premises capability leverages investments in existing infrastructure and adds value and capability to locally installed systems, a benefit which is not available with traditional hosting models. Able to be positioned as simple remote access, managed hosting or complete disaster recovery, MyQuickCloud gives channel partners a simple yet comprehensive approach to meeting customer computing needs regardless of the applications in use or mobile devices to support. MyQuickCloud is also used by installers and support technicians, enabling remote access to client on-prem systems, turning service and support into a more streamlined and efficient effort and improving customer service and retention.

I wrote an article a while back about how it all comes down to 3 applications for small businesses… applications to address fundamental business requirements. Among those requirements is the need to communicate.  Whether it be via voice or electronic mail or other means, every business communicates and every business needs communication tools.  Chief among the communication tools is the voice service (telephone), whether it be on-premises or hosted, digital voice or IP (not much analog out there anymore) or some combination of all of the above. Extending telephone systems to service a remote and mobile workforce or to connect multiple business locations is a high demand business and has proven to be very lucrative for many partners.  Adding value to these solutions by delivering remote access or hosting service simply increases the overall value of the system and allows business customers to take full advantage of mobile, connected and integrated working models.

Make Sense?

J

 

Hosting QuickBooks Desktop Editions – The Good and the Bad – Accountex Report

published on Sleeter.com blog, now Accountex Report, January 22, 2013. This is an oldie but a goodie… perhaps more relevant now than ever.

With the accounting industry moving towards cloud computing and fully online working models, users of Intuit QuickBooks desktop editions may believe that their best option is to migrate to a web-based edition of the software rather than continuing to use the version of QuickBooks they have come to rely on. While QuickBooks Online Edition may seem like the best option for anytime, anywhere access to financial applications and data, it might not provide the functionality or features that QuickBooks desktop edition users need. When the business needs the full capability of the desktop edition product, hosting that solution with an application hosting service provider may be the right answer.

“Hosting” QuickBooks desktop editions means that a hosting service provider installs and manages the QuickBooks software and the company data files on their own cloud-based servers. Users don’t have to install QuickBooks on their PC, because they use the Internet to connect to their QuickBooks software and company data hosted by the service provider. Whether the service is accessed by clicking on an icon on the local PC desktop or by logging in via a web page or portal, the underlying technology is still Windows and QuickBooks.

Continue reading Hosting QuickBooks Desktop Editions – The Good and the Bad – Accountex Report

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