Posts Tagged ‘ content management ’

5 Awesome Email Features from Google

Email is both my best friend, and often, my worst enemy. It’s my primary means of communicating with my team, customers, prospects, and partners. It’s also my nemesis when I’ve got a ton of things I’m furiously working my way through on any given day.

I have to praise Google for their efforts in making email better; Little things like prompting me when I’ve said I’ve attached a file, but have actually forgotten to attach it (I swear, they added this feature just for me), or, praising me for reading all the important messages in my inbox (yes, I do say “Woohoo!” when that happens).

Gmail also has a cool area in Mail Settings called Labs – Mail Labs is a testing ground for experimental features that aren’t quite ready yet for primetime (it’s important to know that if you do Enable a particular feature from Labs, they might change, break, or completely disappear at any time.) If you haven’t checked Mail Labs out yet, I highly suggest it – you can find simple features that help manage email easier, or make the Gmail experience better.

5 features I’ve enabled and tested, and why I think they’re awesome:

Now, none of these are exactly “New” features, but, unless you enable them you may not have known they even existed. Below I’ve highlighted 5 features from the Labs that I think are awesome, along with details and links to more info on how to enable and use them.

1. Background Send:

I have to thank Twitter (more specifically, @henningh)  for referring me to this feature when I complained about hating to wait while an email with attachments is sending. This feature allows you to move on to more important things (like sending or moving on to another email) while your email is being sent – like its name, it sends your email in the background.

2. Canned Responses

I had to try this feature out after reading its description: “Email for the truly lazy”. I think it’s also “Email for the truly busy” as well. With the Canned Responses feature, you can create and save messages using a button in the compose form. So, if there are certain responses / messaging that you use frequently in email, instead of typing it all out each time, you can use one of your saved responses. Unlike an Auto-reply, you decide when to use it, and which response to use as appropriate.

3. Google Docs Gadget

I love having things in a unified view – the less clicking around and opening things, the better. The Google Docs gadget adds a box in the left column of your Gmail that displays your Google Docs – Not only can you see recent docs, starred docs, and search for docs in this gadget, you can even create new docs… without leaving Gmail.

4. Google Calendar Gadget

Like the Google Docs Gadget, this feature adds a box to your left column that displays your Google Calendar. You can view any of your Google Calendars and  see their past and upcoming events as well as quickly create new events right from your Gmail. Being able to see my schedule without leaving the page, while I’m drafting an email proposing meeting times is extremely handy.

(You can go here for more info on the Docs and Calendar sidebar gadgets)

5. Inserting Images

One thing about Gmail that used to irk me was not being able to insert an image directly into the message body. Sometimes, I need a recipient to see an image right in the body of an email, and not just as an attachment. This feature lets you do just that. When enabled, you get an image insert icon in your compose options (between Insert Emoticon and Link) that let’s you insert an image right into the message body. Once the image is inserted, you can resize or remove it as needed.

Nothing for Email Attachments?

Surprisingly (or maybe not) Google has yet to do anything to help manage email attachments. I’ve spoken to Googlers who have suggested various ways of building filters, but really, all they do is group my emails that have attachments together. I can’t see what the attachments are, without opening each message individually, and quite frankly, who wants to search through email attachments to find anything?

Above I listed out some really great features that Google is working on. Here’s one that we’re working on.

SmartCloud

SmartCloud automatically tags and saves your important email attachments into your cloud services without you having to do anything. Attachments come into and go out from your email, and SmartCloud tags and saves them into your Box, DropBox, Google Docs, etc… Sounds great right? If you want to know more you can check out our site: getsmartcloud.com

So there you have it – 5 awesome email features from Google, and 1 really awesome one from Openera. I hope these are as helpful to you as they have been to me.

What are your favourite Gmail features, and what do you hope they come up with next?

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Email is not content management!

According to an infographic CCLoop published, sourcing information from Mashable, “The Social Break-Up” by ExactTarget, and Neilsen Research (to name a few) an estimated 2.8 Million emails are sent every second. That’s 90 Trillion emails each year, and email usage continues to grow in both Consumer and Business markets.


Infographic by: ccLoop

It also cites “Attachment Chaos” as first of the Top Four Email Annoyances, and I bet your inbox contains more content than it should. I bet there are files, reports, presentations and other critical documents that aren’t being formally managed (even if you are required to do so). I bet you don’t save attachments as they come in, and spend … no – WASTE your valuable time searching for attachments when you need them.

I say this with confidence, because last month Openera issued a poll asking “How do you Manage your Attachments?”. While it came as no surprise to us, almost 65% of those polled indicated they search for attachments later when they need them.

There is a lot of noise in your inbox, which can result in lost attachments, missed opportunities and other headaches. To be on top of your game, you need to properly manage all of your documents and be able to access them on the spot. So why is it we keep using our inbox as a content management system?

Are we too lazy to save attachments as they come in? Maybe. It’s more probable that we’re too busy to be spending too much time worrying about saving stuff where it’s supposed to go, when we think we can just look for it later when we need it.

Sure, there are a number of ways you can “manage” your content in your inbox(es): Creating and managing multiple folders, setting up custom search filters, or  being incredibly diligent in saving each and every attachment as you see it. No matter how you slice it though, each is very manual and time consuming.

Isn’t technology supposed to make your life easier? When it comes to your inbox, or inboxes, don’t you wish your stuff could just go where you want it to?

Exactly.

We know how frustrating it can be to keep track of all of your attachments across multiple inboxes. We also know how annoying (and unnecessary) it is when someone says “we have a solution for that – but you have to completely change the way you work in order to use it”. This is why SmartCloud automatically tags and saves your important attachments precisely where you want them to go … without changing the way you work.

How are YOU managing your email attachments today? Leave us a comment, let us know what tactics or services you’re using to keep your inbox clean, and attachments organized.

And of course, you can Go Here to learn more about SmartCloud

Cross Cloud Confusion

Too many choices. Stuff being stored everywhere but no where, rogue silos, mobile added another layer of choice, complexity and confusion. Too many channels and too much is on. Always on. Every vendor I work with has their own cloud project management, billing, e-sign, file storage, sharing and team collaboration space. Some have mobile access, some don’t. Some have highly secure logins (for no reason) that require me to remember yet another username and password. (side note: I used to use one of those password keeper services, but I forgot my password for that service.) I was constantly bowing to the will of technology. I had to change the way I worked. No more.

No Change Necessary

SmartCloud Openera adds value to the most popular cloud services on the planet. The best part about SmartCloud? You don’t have to change the way you work. We make Dropbox better by saving all your email attachments to Dropbox, which means you don’t have to change, at all. We make Box an even better solution for businesses by magically pulling important contracts and files out of users inboxes and into their Box accounts where collaboration can happen. We inject critical business intelligence into Salesforce.com by siphoning all proposals, contracts and agreements out of reps email and into Salesforce, where it can kick-off workflows or be acted on by the team. Or maybe you just want to use SmartCloud to automatically save any photos people send you to your Flickr or Google Photo account.

If it’s in your inbox, it can be in the cloud – without any confusion.

My own cloud history (Part 1)

This is a partial re-post of a rather verbose post from last year. I’ve been thinking a lot about my own personal cloud history lately and this story is worth sharing again.

The Birth of Document Management | Interleaf was known for their technical publishing software (Interleaf 5 and 6 at the time) that ran on Unix and later PC. Because the documents our clients were creating were quite complex, we needed to provide them with ways to manage the documents and the Document Management industry was born. (It was a relational document management system sitting on an Oracle database, they called it RDM…very creative!) This was a fundamental that Interleaf got right. They listened to their customers and filled a need they were willing to pay for.
There was a real excitement over the future of document management and one of the most exciting times came when a developer web enabled RDM and our viewer technology called WorldView. (Way better than Adobe Acrobat at the time but Adobe decided to give away their viewer for free… well played Adobe. Well played.) This was in the heyday of Netscape and we called this web enabled viewer of business documents “Business Web”.
We went after our base and began selling. It was early, bleeding edge, but still garnered purchase orders. I began packaging services with the license and branded it the Business Web Starter Kit to get early adopters. It worked and at $50K a deal, we started doing quite well. Not mainstream success, but validated a need. I got more creative because I had to hit my quota. Working with GE Capital, I started offering customers a way to lease the licenses and roll in the services over 3 years. This approach brought PO’s from a few key accounts that had stalled. Then as objections arose around implementation, we began hosting business webs for clients who paid an annual license fee plus ‘maintenance’. We were able to secure a few clients before the wheels began to fall off at Interleaf and RDM was re-branded Quicksilver and the company sold to Broadvision.
Looking back on that time in the late nineties, I realize that it we had created a business model that made sense, but the technology was too bleeding edge at the time, and not mature enough to succeed. Most companies in the document/content management space eventually went to a hosted or ASP model by the mid 2000’s and Salesforce.com and Amazon matured the business model while addressing the security, performance and support aspects that made software-as-a-service (SaaS) mainstream and branded as “the cloud.” The technology was great, but it was the business model that made the biggest difference. We focused on the fundamentals and listened to our clients. They wanted to try bleeding edge technology to prove concepts and move the business further faster (one of our tag lines) but had limited capital budgets. By changing the business model, we tapped into operating expense budgets and reduced the friction of the sale.

The Monumental Importance of Winning Together

"The Greed Vote"

Greed at the cost of partners is short sighted.

I talk to a lot of people about business development and partnering strategies. I die a bit every time. Well, not every time, just most of the time. It’s depressing the number of conversations I have where it becomes immediately clear that the only goal is to satisfy one goal. Revenue.

Don’t get me wrong, I love revenue. I love it a lot. But, why have such a singular goal that only satisfies one immediate need and carries such a low chance for success? The real goal is to satisfy at least 3 goals: your goal, the partners goal, the joint customers goal. (I could get altruistic and add the communities goal, but that will have to wait for another post.)

I see real people who work for real companies push to partner with another company, and fail to care what is in it for the potential partner. It sounds insane, doesn’t it? It is. So how can real people, working for real companies do that? Pressure.

Pressure is available in different styles and an unlimited quantity. Pick any one: the need for revenue, The boss said to partner with XYZ company. The CEO wants a press release….any reason really. Even the pressure of selfishness. I’m not blind to selfish motivation. We all start there. It’s the ability to quickly move beyond your own selfish motivation and be able to see and articulate the benefits the potential partner will realize that separate the good business developers from the bad.

It’s pressure, selfishness and maybe ignorance that stops most people from doing the right thing for lasting value. It’s simple, yet so complex.

Red Sox World Series Champions

Winning together is better!

Fortunately, it’s those factors that motivate forward thinking companies to work with the Openera team. We understand the pressure, eliminate ignorance and, in doing the right thing, justify the selfishness.

The irony in thinking this way is that it’s easier. Once you identify how your partner wins by working with you…. you’ve won. You can now have meaningful conversations about winning together.

I don’t want to mislead you, working with partners can make reaching your goals much easier, but it’s not easy. Balancing your goals with the goals of your partners is a tricky proposition. There will always be competing priorities and pressures. Successful partnerships take effort and time. The best way I know how to speed up a solid partnership is to win together. In order to win together, you have to bring a partner in on your deal. Establish trust, help the partner win. In doing so, you both win.

Content Management & The Cloud – A Personal History

Content Management & The Cloud. A Personal History.

Interleaf

I have a personal perspective on cloud content management that may be a little different than most. This brief, personal story illustrates why I think the business model of cloud is as important as the architecture. In the 90’s I worked for a company called Interleaf out of Boston. (Now Broadvision.) I held many positions with the company. I started as a trainer and technical consultant before jumping over to the dark side. I ran national marketing for Canada, then moved to Boston to run North American advertising.

This is where I learned one of the fundamentals of business. Not from what we did right, but from what we did wrong. I was hired right at the tail end of development of the campaign so I missed out on the fun part. When I looked at the plan from my inexperienced perspective, it was nuts. This was a multi-million dollar campaign and before it even launched, I was convinced it was going to fail. Unfortunately, the ball was rolling and gaining momentum and had sign-off from the CEO. No going back now.
The problem I saw, and didn’t fight hard enough to solve, was that the campaign was one dimensional. This campaign was a 3 month print ad campaign. It was a 2 page print ad to be placed across dozens of very expensive magazines. That’s it. Fortune, Forbes, Business Week…etc. and because we were spread so thin across a lot of expensive properties the ad only appeared once in each magazine and at most three times in a few of them. This was the “be-everywhere” model that got us nowhere. The bigger problem was that we didn’t have the fundamentals covered. We didn’t know who our customer was or where they hung out, but we went right to their bosses with an ad. We missed the mark and forgot the fundamentals.
After that experience I left the marketing department and headed over to the other, darker dark side. Sales. I felt like I was working for a completely separate company. The sales team was even in a different building from marketing. The sales team didn’t speak the same language and definitely didn’t echo the marketing messages. The campaigns that were running didn’t produce leads that the sales people could take action on. (again, the fundamentals were missing.) Few of the people in marketing knew the sales people and vice-versa, except by reputation. The marketing department missed the mark and forgot that the fundamental nature of marketing was to sell solutions to our customers problems.
I led the North American inside sales team before running the US Central & Canadian territory. Over the next couple of years, I earned several sales awards including the coveted ‘gold leaf’ presidents club award. (For a hungry guy trying to prove himself, this was a big deal.) How did I do it? Fundamentals. I knew the strategic direction the company wanted to take from my time in Marketing and had first hand experience with the customers pain from training them and onsite consulting. I was my own cross functional solution team. I saw first hand how important the solution was to their business and what happened if things failed. I figured a way to hack together my message with the corporate message and convey it to customers in their language. Not ours. The leads didn’t come in from marketing, so I had to hunt for them myself. Our customer base was the richest source of opportunities, however, what put me over the top was the new business I brought in. I followed a pretty straight forward, common sense approach to sales, cut and paste from the plethora of sales training programs I was subjected to. Here’s my sales methodology*;
  1. know who will and can buy and why (follow the pain)
  2. who needs to be involved in making the decision (follow the money)
  3. know what the criteria for them to make a decision
  4. know how to find them
  5. be a real person, reach out and talk to them (help them buy)
  6. know when you can win, walk away if you can’t
In other words, know your market and the pain that drives people to spend money for a solution. I also learned to lose fast.
The Birth of Document Management | Interleaf was known for their technical publishing software (Interleaf 5 and 6 at the time) that ran on Unix and later PC. Because the documents our clients were creating were quite complex, we needed to provide them with ways to manage the documents and the Document Management industry was born. (It was a relational document management system sitting on an Oracle database, they called it RDM…very creative!) This was a fundamental that Interleaf got right. They listened to their customers and filled a need they were willing to pay for.
There was a real excitement over the future of document management and one of the most exciting times came when a developer web enabled RDM and our viewer technology called WorldView. (Way better than Adobe Acrobat at the time but Adobe decided to give away their viewer for free… well played Adobe. Well played.) This was in the heyday of Netscape and we called this web enabled viewer of business documents “Business Web”.
We went after our base and began selling. It was early, bleeding edge, but still garnered purchase orders. I began packaging services with the license and branded it the Business Web Starter Kit to get early adopters. It worked and at $50K a deal, we started doing quite well. Not mainstream success, but validated a need. I got more creative because I had to hit my quota. Working with GE Capital, I started offering customers a way to lease the licenses and roll in the services over 3 years. This approach brought PO’s from a few key accounts that had stalled. Then as objections arose around implementation, we began hosting business webs for clients who paid an annual license fee plus ‘maintenance’. We were able to secure a few clients before the wheels began to fall off at Interleaf and RDM was re-branded Quicksilver and the company sold to Broadvision.
Looking back on that time in the late nineties, I realize that it we had created a business model that made sense, but the technology was too bleeding edge at the time, and not mature enough to succeed. Most companies in the document/content management space eventually went to a hosted or ASP model by the mid 2000’s and Salesforce.com and Amazon matured the business model while addressing the security, performance and support aspects that made software-as-a-service (SaaS) mainstream and branded as “the cloud.” The technology was great, but it was the business model that made the biggest difference. We focused on the fundamentals and listened to our clients. They wanted to try bleeding edge technology to prove concepts and move the business further faster (one of our tag lines) but had limited capital budgets. By changing the business model, we tapped into operating expense budgets and reduced the friction of the sale.
So, now Dropbox, Box.net, Mozy, iDrive, SkyDrive and the thousands of other cloud content management solutions should take a moment and tip their hats to Interleaf, the grand daddy of cloud content management.

5 ways the cloud can be better for SMB companies

Gartner, Forrester and just about every other reputable analyst, technologist or CIO tend to agree. The Cloud is good for SMB companies.

The openera philosophy is simple. Believe in the open exchange of ideas and work with good people who are willing to work hard. Focus on your strengths and shore up your weaknesses with good partners. Succeed together.

Here are 5 ways The Cloud can help SMB Companies immediately:

  1. Manage Content (Documents, records, forms, media…)
  2. customer, partners contact management (CRM)
  3. Office essentials (Email, Calendar, Tasks…)
  4. Project Management (development, marketing, human resources…)
  5. Communication (VoiP, web presentations, im, chat & social.) 

We run our company on a combination of Google Apps (email, calendar, tasks & collaborative documents) Salesforce.com (CRM & Marketing Automation) Dropbox & Box.net for content management & back-up and Skype + DimDim for VoiP, Screen Sharing, and web presentations. For a few thousand dollars a year, we can run our entire organization better than well funded multi-national companies could 10 years ago. As a small business owner, that makes me smile.