Dinosaurs and Technology: The Future Part 2

Can dinosaurs thrive in today’s changing technology environment, or are they doomed to extinction (to be replaced by Millennials)?

Make no mistake about it – dinosaurs (the real ones) were perhaps the most successful species in the history of the planet. Today’s “dinosaurs” – all of us born between roughly 1950 and 1970 – are also pretty successful. But we are not as natural or adaptable to new technologies as Millennials are. That is a fact.

Many dinosaurs can recall a time before copiers (B.C.) – we used mimeograph machines (I loved the smell of those things). Millennials cannot conceive that this “technology” existed until relatively recently –  or that there was a time when a person was able to exist without a smart phone.

Smart Phones as a Case Study

We dinosaurs actually know a life before smart phones, and it worked – up to a point. So, are dinosaurs reluctant to adapt new technologies? Yes – my observations suggest this is true. Are they stuck and unchangeable? No. They can adapt and change, but only when they want to.

Until four years ago, I used a flip phone. I actually took pride in resisting the purchase of a smart phone because, “It’s just a phone, and I only need it to make calls.” We don’t need no steenkin’ iPhone!

Hullo?! Yes … yes we did. And today, I cannot comprehend functioning as efficiently and effectively without it.

What happened? I realized that I had completely missed the point of adapting to technology. The adaptation wasn’t to serve me. It was necessary to serve everyone else around me who needed to work with me. Using the technology made everyone else around me more effective and efficient. There were fewer miscommunications, fewer dropped balls, and more tasks completed in a day – by everyone.

Masters of the Universe

So consider this, fellow dinosaurs: if you are like me, you like nothing better than getting more things done in day (and/or having people running around doing those things with complete transparency as to what they are doing, so you can make sure they get done). Get it? That’s the purpose of this new technology, and it can help you be a master of the universe! Well… that may be over doing it a bit, but you get the point.

The technology can’t impart wisdom – that is earned through experience. But it can leverage that wisdom by giving you the tools and the reach to direct, monitor, coach and decide in real time. That way, everyone wastes less of everything, gets more done, and most importantly, gets more of what they need from you – leadership.

Yes… It’s a brave new world… but there’s no school like the old school, either.

Millennials and Technology: The Future

Allow me to change gears with this first in a series of posts discussing where technology might take us in the future in the Landscape/Snow-Ice industries.

The Future is in…Provo?

Last week, the Aspire Software team was in Provo, Utah, as a sponsor of the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) National Collegiate Student Competition. If you have not been to this annual event, you need to go. These kids are our future. We witnessed talent and passion. They are future salespeople, account managers and operation supervisors. And you need to know what they want in an employer.

We also observed just how unique they are. They are, in a word, Millennials. For more information on this, watch Simon Sinek on “Hiring Millennials.”

Technology Makes the Job

Why does this matter to you? Simple: their advanced relationship with technology is totally alien to many of us, but central to their career choices. In short, the technology and software you use can make all the difference in recruiting the best.

Don’t believe me? The Aspire Software Company has made an investment in the Brigham Young University (BYU) landscape management program. We donated our software and expertise to the faculty to use as a teaching tool in the business management curriculum. The results, judged by student and faculty feedback, are exceptional.

The faculty loves the teaching tool and the students love the technology. It looks and feels modern to them. They are naturals with mobile devices and learn it easily (unlike many older employees in landscape companies, but more on that in my next post).

Ditch the Desk

Think about it: one big reason they choose our industry is the opportunity to work “outside.” And like most of us on the business end, they despise administration and paperwork. So if your systems chain them to indoor work spaces and paperwork, they are out. They said as much to their faculty and to us this week.

It was eye-opening. Maybe we should all get out more often. So, if you are serious about having more student job candidates from whom to choose*, and having the best and brightest choose you, you must consider your technology investment and strategy as at least as important as your equipment investment and strategy.

Bottom line: Millennials want to work for companies with technologies that make business management quick, fun, real to them and functional. They don’t want to waste time searching for information they believe should be right in front of them.

It’s a brave new world.

 

* We learned that many landscape management programs at the community college and university levels are in danger of shutting down for lack of student enrollment. Why? Many of the other programs appear “sexier” in terms of technology to the students. They want mobile-compatible technology to use everyday and everywhere.  It’s pretty simple, folks. Which means, it should be a simple fix.

Do you want a software vendor or partner for your company? Part 2

Partners provide value to each other. When it comes to business management software, that is essential. You get service and the software partner gets feedback that can enhance your business.

So, what’s a partner?

The definition of partner is an association sharing a common goal.

Let’s use QuickBooks (QB) as an example. QB is not landscape business management software. It is an accounting system. I like it – it’s a fine product. But QB sells you a product, not a service. You pay a fixed price and you have to make it work the way you want it to work. That’s OK, but it’s not a partnership.  

The reason business management software costs what it does is the cost of service. In fact, the cost of the software, itself, is less than half the cost to your software partner. The majority of the cost is in the services, support and management they deliver to you. That is why price is only one consideration.  

What should you expect from your partner?

At a minimum:  

  • Industry knowledge and experience starting at the top of the company
  • Staffing levels to support you
  • Re-investment in the product to stay ahead of the technology and user curve
  • A dedicated professional to direct your deployment
  • On-going training
  • A support center
  • A help desk
  • User and peer groups

What services should your partner deliver for all-in pricing? You will want at least the following:

  • Help with data conversion and set-up of your work-flow*
  • Training and train-the-trainer for your team
  • Full integration of the software and ability to link it to other products
  • Easy to use mobile interface from anywhere
  • An actual person to talk to at a help desk
  • Documentation and videos
  • Data management**
  • All new versions and upgrades

Consider buying these lists of overlapping services a la carte. It’s not easy.

Here’s the value from just two of these services:

*Set-up of the workflow: Think about the way you estimate work now – your takeoffs, pricing markups and margins, assemblies and production rates, service and item catalog (labor, materials and equipment), contract language, etc. Now think about translating that yourself into a new system.

**Data management: Business management software is, in essence, a massively large database of transactions you create every day. A $3m company may create more than a million of these in a year… one million or more. Try managing that yourself on your servers. Since today’s systems drive so much data and the risk of crash and loss is too awful to contemplate, you want your partner to do this for you. This alone saves you money in hardware, people and consultants.

There is significant value delivered by the right partner. So do your homework. Make certain you understand what you get for the investment you make. This is more than a purchase – it’s more like a marriage.

RALLY CAP UPDATE:  I posted Spring is Sprung last time. True to form, it snowed this past week. Please subscribe and post comments in the space below.

Do you want a software vendor or partner for your company?

What’s the difference between a landscape software vendor and partner?

First, pricing … In the “old days,” software was typically sold for a fixed price. For that, you would get a disk, CD or a big fat download file and YOU had to manage deployment, training, etc. Today, however, cloud-based SaaS (software as a service) is replacing that model, and a vendor now provides you with a license that you simply plug in through the web. With this model, there is rarely fixed pricing. Instead, you pay for the license as long as you use the software. This licensing fee can be priced per user, or in some cases, as a percentage of your revenue. Be careful though – these licensing fees are not the same: some are priced a la carte and some are one-price.

Which Approach Provides the Best Solution For Your Company?

If you are investing in business management software, you should recognize that you are “buying” into a long-term relationship. The software is just part of that relationship. You must assess the value that the partner/vendor provides. What’s value? Value is always a function of the money you spend and the stuff you get for that money. This is the same whether you are selling landscape services or landscape management software.

So, for the money you spend, you will want a partner and not a vendor … and if it goes as it should, the two of you will become great friends over the years. The alternative? Get disappointed and have to start all over again.

What’s better … all-in or a la carte?

“Do the math” is always the easy response. But if you haven’t used SaaS before, you may be ill-equipped to do this since it is difficult to forecast usage for a la carte charges for like: additional user licenses, support calls, field mobile, new versions, upgrades, added data storage and on-going training.

For this simple reason, the all-in approach seems to me like the better value. Why?

  • First, I have “done the math” – a la carte on a per-unit basis looks inexpensive, but it can add up quickly.
  • Second, it takes time to learn software … your learning curve could become costly if you keep going back to your vendor for a la carte support.
  • Third, you don’t really want to feel as if you are being nickeled and dimed for every call and new feature, upgrade or version.
  • Fourth, all-in gives you control of your technology costs and eliminates surprises … more on this in my next post when I discuss what to expect for what you spend.

Thanks … Please subscribe to this post or post a comment letting me know what other questions you have about software investment – and I will write about them.

Rally Cap Update:  Spring is sprung … of course, now that I have said this … it will snow!