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Google May Be Up to Something Bigger Than We Can Imagine

Google May Be Up to Something Bigger Than We Can Imagine
This is an odd blog for me as it is just the sharing of a nagging idea that I have. Google is one of the all time smartest companies in history, so why are they taking on Microsoft in the Operating System (OS) market? I think the answer is somewhere around the idea that Google is trying (successfully I might add) to get Microsoft’s attention while Google quietly works on something that is so big, yet so simple, that they want to keep the eyes of Microsoft focused on their OS R&D and away from their other project(s).

One of my personal theories is that Google is working on a simple business intelligence platform that will be distributed freely and interface directly with their Google search algorithm. This platform is exactly what marketing gurus have been looking for, sort of like the Holy Grail.

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Canada’s Capital Pool Company

Canada’s Capital Pool Company
We are all looking for ways to raise money and to build or rebuild our businesses. Canada has a unique means of sourcing capital and management. It is available to emerging businesses that want to become public at a time when a traditional IPO would not be suitable. The objective of the CPC Program is to facilitate a company becoming public and using the Venture Exchange as a springboard to a more senior listing.

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CRM Suggestions for Automakers, Part One

CRM Suggestions for Automakers, Part One
For most of us, the second largest purchase after our homes is our automobiles. As a person who provides CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and Business Intelligence consulting, products, and services I often wonder why the automakers haven’t latched on to this powerful tool. I know for sure the automakers have all their customers in a nice tidy database and they use that database to send us brochures, offers, letters, and other communications. What I have in mind is a bit more elaborate and will be a series of blog entries as I am sure there will be comments and discussions that will evoke more ideas on this subject.

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31 Things of Due Diligence

31 Things of Due Diligence
Need money? This is a rhetorical question and one that seems to be on the mind of many business owners today. We keep it pretty simple in our consulting practice by studying common requirements of Chartered Banks, the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), Venture Capitalists, Angel Investors, business acquisitions and mergers, the process of going public and there are 31 things that every one of these processes require and the more attention to detail you take on these things the higher your chances of getting funded.

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Bailouts and Bashings

Bailouts and Bashings
Sometimes I wonder if it is in our human nature to kick a guy while he is down. Or does it make us look fashionable, smart, or clued in to give a good bashing. I’ve been following the bailouts lately and found a bit of bashing going on with the automakers and a resounding silence regarding the leadership in the banking industry.

Campbell Brown beat me to the punch with her insightful blog entry the other day, have a look at this, http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/12/12/campbell.brown.automakers/index.html

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The Next Step to More Success - AMSI

The Next Step to More Success - AMSI
You are a person who has worked hard, made good business decisions, you are making good money, you don’t have much debt, you have good customer demand, but you want more from your business. Living in the Calgary area where there are many oil and gas service companies, high tech companies, and other successful businesses, I see many companies that are making “good” money, but want to move up to the “great” money. I also hear, particularly lately with all our financial meltdowns, “I’ll never qualify for a loan”. That is a myth and if you have the roadmap in place you get the capital to take your company to new heights.

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The Responsibility Matrix (Circle Dot Chart)

The Responsibility Matrix (Circle Dot Chart)
Years ago I sat in a presentation by the best Project Manager I have ever met. I had worked with several people that ran multi-million dollar projects in the US Air Force and had delivered on-time, on-budget projects, but they all seemed to do so with great difficulty and I was resigned to this being “just the way it goes”, then I met Mr. Ron LeFleur. Ron made Project Management look easy, even though he had several horrendously difficult projects in his life. We had the distinct pleasure of sitting with Ron for three days and learning his secrets. At the end of his presentation he told us we had all his secrets and every one of us can now do the job just as well as he ever did. I still think he was special and gifted, but his little session helped me more than all the training and experience I had up to that point. I had even sat through extensive PM training in the Air Force which was the equivalent to PMP training that is available today.

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The Business Intelligence Advantage

The Business Intelligence Advantage

As a young US Air Force Intelligence Officer I quickly grew an appreciation for intelligence and how it can help with planning and can help save lives, money, and secrets. I now develop business automation software that creates data warehouses for companies to store their business intelligence. I don't think we are in the life saving business, but we certainly help companies to guard their secrets, find new sources of revenue, and maximize their profits.

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New AlwaysOn Network, ERP CRM SFA BPM

New AlwaysOn Network, ERP CRM SFA BPM
I just wanted to announce that we started a new network for AlwaysOn Network Members to Blog about Business Process Management (BPM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Sales Force Automation (SFA) and all things pertaining to automating our business processes. A few topics that come to mind are:

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Brands and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

Brands and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
I’ve been thinking lately a lot about how an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system can effect your brand. I really enjoyed a recent Blog on the 1to1 Blogsite, published by Mila D’Antonio. Mila cited a passage in Dick Martin’s book, Rebuilding Brand America, where Dick said,

“………(brand) has to be easy to understand and flexible enough to modulate in a wide variety of interactions with a large number of different audiences. Most important, it can’t simply be something you stick at the end of an ad or on the side of a building. It has to be the ‘golden thread’ that runs through every internal process and through every interactions with customers. And your promise can’t be primarily rational It has to operate on the deeper level of emotions and feelings.”

What a great thought provoking paragraph.

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The Importance of Professional Customer Support

The Importance of Professional Customer Support
Several of our consulting clients are software companies and companies that provide service and support for their products, we always help our clients and colleagues to maximize support profits by automating the process. But to get to a profitable venture there are many things that have to happen, systems put in place, and hiring the right people to do the job.

The right people are NOT entry level people, they are the most focused, knowledgeable, and disciplined people you can find. Once you decide to go down this path of using the cream of the crop to ensure your clients are supported, you will see the profits start to come in. Now when your clients call they are ensured that their call will be answered by someone who can help them, someone who takes their business seriously and feels they are being taken most seriously.

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ERP Should Make You Free

ERP Should Make You Free
The very essence of a well designed ERP system is to free you from the dependencies of making all the mundane decisions over and over again and have the confidence that your system is helping you to run your business in the most efficient and profit producing manner known to man. I just finished reading an excellent article by Briony Smith of www.itbusiness.ca and it was a revelation, particularly for me as a person in the ERP business and providing ERP systems, consulting, and implementation services. The article is compelling right from the start with the following quote;

“A recently released survey of Technology Evaluation Centre  newsletter subscribers sponsored by Sliedrecht, Netherlands-based ERP company Agresso found that, out of the 900 respondents, 70 per cent feel their ERP systems put them at a disadvantage.”

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We Work Better Together

We Work Better Together
An old colleague once said, “we work together apart”. Joe Murgio was the founder of a very nice project management system called onProject. I was just reading about the major airlines planning to build airborne conference rooms for hundreds of passengers/delegates, how cool is that! The fact is, we work better when we are together and that means getting people together in groups large and small as much as you can. I like the flying conference center idea, but we need to make this level of collaboration happen now for all businesses rich and poor, large and small. The great common denominator and catalyst for countless success stories is the internet.

Web-based enterprise systems work. We just added our endorsement to an outstanding free download called CrossLoop. This is one of the companies headed up by the patent holder for the Universal Shopping Cart, Lee Jay Lorenzen. Lee is the CEO of company, Altura Ventures. This is one of the products that we can use in order to get as close as we can to being face to face.

Tomorrow night a number of us gather together for the Calgary DemoCamp. Meet like-minded people, make contacts, get the word out…….together. See this Blog for a summary of the DemoCamp.

Tom West, Technical Toolboxes Canada, Ltd., twest@ttoolboxes.ca, +1 403 235-3495 x201, www.ttoolboxes.ca, Skype: twest1960

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Can You Possibly Have Too Much Information in Your CRM?

I have been working in the public information business for a while now and am very clear about privacy laws and just how sacred personal information is and how important it is to handle personal information very carefully indeed. The amount of information we are gathering about our customers and contacts is growing exponentially, probably because we can. If you only knew how much information is captured and actively used by Data Warehouses, Wal-Mart warehouse is at least 500 terabytes, according to an eWeek.com article I read, At Wal-Mart, World's Largest Retail Data Warehouse Gets Even Larger. Short answer to the question is no, but if you do collect information you better take very good care of it.

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Blogs I Read Every Day and Why

Blogs I Read Every Day and Why
Blogs are becoming one of my major news sources. With my interest in ERP, SFA, CRM, Business Process automation , enterprise computing, marketing, business intelligence, business analysis, finance, engine technology, Calgary, Silicon Valley, startups, Web 2.0, data warehousing, business intelligence, military, and etc. I have a few Blogs that I go for the straight goods. Here are the ones that have my attention these days (in no particular order):

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CBC Dragons' Den Auditions in Calgary


CBC Dragons' Den Auditions in Calgary

I wanted to alert everyone in Calgary about a special opportunity to get your company’s message heard. If you are entrepreneurial and could benefit from investment and national TV exposure, please read on. The CBC has a show called the Dragons' Den and it is properly defined and talked about at length in Kempton Lam’s Blog. Kempton and some of our other local Bloggers are getting the word out that auditions for the show will be held on April 20th and 21st right here in Calgary, it is a wonderful opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.

Please have a look at Kempton’s Blog for more information on this rare event, http://kempton.wordpress.com/tag/dragons-den/.

Following is an excerpt from a CBC announcement:

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ERP and CRM Provides Better Communications with Colleagues and Clients

ERP and CRM Provides Better Communications with Colleagues and Clients
I think it is time to talk about Sealweld. Not so much Sealweld as such, as they are extremely successful multi-national small business. Sealweld is just a great example of a company that has figured out how to do business anywhere in the world whether it be the Far East or Dubai, they have seen it all. I would like to think that we have at least helped in the success of this company. We installed our Toolbox at Sealweld and this enabled them to tie their CRM together with the ERP and Project Management features of the system. They now share documents and project details with each other as if they were in the same building working side by side when in fact they are usually in Calgary while the rest of their operations are taking place elsewhere. CRM helps us to sell more and it also makes it easier to communicate with everybody in your work sphere.

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I Want My Data When I Want It, Chapter One

I Want My Data When I Want It, Chapter One
It was great to see some of my old colleagues from the Energy Pipeline Industry last night. Ever since my work with DATAP Systems, Valmet Automation, PRCI, PIG, TechCorr, El Paso,  Scientific Surveys Ltd, and many other pipeline operators, service companies, organizations, and consultants, I have heard the same thing over and over again, “I just want my data, when I want it, and I want to be able to find it quickly……”, there are more “ands” to add here, but this is chapter one of this line of thought.

The pipeline business is data intensive with data flowing from SCADA, shipping and transport, custody transfer, integrity management and pigging, security (videos, satellite photos, etc.), and knowledge based information.

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Portable ERP is a Beautiful Thing!

Portable ERP is a Beautiful Thing!
 “I just want to cut down on the morning smoking, coffee drinking, and generally wasting precious time every day”, that quote was one of the main factors in the ERP decision of a successful construction service businessman. He just wanted to be the best in our city and beyond and he knew without a shadow of a doubt that he needed to change the way they were doing business. So he built a custom ERP system that worked for his industry, and then built a portable version of the ERP system and never looked back.

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Engineering Your Company’s Social Network

Engineering Your Company’s Social Network
You don’t want it “too social” so it will take away from the purpose, you don’t want it too restricting, intimidating, or unfriendly to take away from the usefulness. I was inspired to write these thoughts because of the business I currently pursue and my recent readings of Mack Hanan and Paul Greenberg. My thinking as a provider of ERP, SFA, CRM, and Business Process automation is shifting towards the social aspects of these systems. The fact is, if you have a system that people will use, you will be a successful system provider, pretty much as long as people have faith in the system.

The ultimate goal is to provide a network that is lively, rewarding, interesting, inviting, captivating, and a hundred other positive words to describe the experience. Here are some thoughts on creating an ideal social network for your company. First of all, unless there is a better way we need to bring all the acronyms (ERP, SFA, CRM, and BPM) together in a way that doesn’t turn everybody off. You want to create a network that people embrace, and use, and constantly tell you what new features they want. According to a recent Blog by Kevin Roberts, “we are moving from what you need to what you want”. Here are a few thoughts on making that system:

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15 Traits of a Good Client Relationship

15 Traits of a Good Client Relationship
First of all, I want to say that customers are excellent in my books and I am grateful for every single one of them through the years. When we are selling price to people we are vending. The win-win relationship for both parties is to have a client relationship as opposed to a customer relationship. Customers are price driven and look at your services and products as commodities that can be bought for the lowest bid. Having a client is far more beneficial, but it takes time and trust to be able to call a person one of your clients. The ultimate goal is to become a Partner.

I was reading some notes the other day based on Mack Hanan’s book, Consultative Selling, 7th edition: The Hanan Formula for High-Margin Sales at High Levels. Consultative selling is a way of thinking that Mack Hanan started writing about and articulated in several books and within many companies in the Silicon Valley.

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Socializing CRM

Socializing CRM
One of the catchy words in computing is “Socializing”. I first heard the word from my colleague and collaboration marketing expert, Frank Teklitz. We were working on making some upgrades to our current version of the MyCompany Toolbox  CRM system. The light really turns on for CRM when you think about bringing the people in the CRM together to achieve goals and objectives. I was reminded of “Socializing” when I recently read a quote the following article, http://www.itbusinessedge.com/item/?ci=24043 here is the quote:

“Though SAP and Salesforce.com use Blogs, Podcasts, and communities to communicate with their customers and their employees, they have yet to integrate these social networking tools into their technology platforms. This is an oversight, opines this author, who makes the case for the value of social networks in CRM . Procter & Gamble has formed a social network called Vocalpoint, composed of 600,000 moms — each of whom has minimum of 25 other moms associated with her. The "lead" moms distribute products samples and gather feedback for P&G. Thus P&G gains invaluable data and marketing buzz simply by enlisting customers, who in turn enjoy the feeling of empowerment the network provides.”
-
Paul Greenberg - February 7, 2007

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Calgary BarCamp, March 16, 2007

Calgary BarCamp, March 16, 2007
I attended the first Calgary BarCamp meeting, I have to say that it was more than I expected. It is nice to meet investors, startups, and established businesses around the table over a nice meal. Thanks goes to Kempton Lam for getting us going and making this happen, it was also nice to meet other folks at the Barcamp; Austin Hill, Patrick Lor, Sarah Blue, David Gluzman, Tom West, Michael Sikorsky, Jasmine Antonick, Matthew Dorey, Nox Dineen, Matt Lonsdale, Mark Kornak, Ivan Sierralta, Fred Yee, Mark Rosenberger, and Kempton Lam.

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Remote Control Business Procedures

Remote Control Business Procedures
Back in the late 80’s we were hooking up remote control business process for the US Air Force and the JSTARS program. The Engineers and Scientists in our Command Center in Boston demanded the same data we were producing in the test facility in Melbourne, Florida, so we figured out how to get it up to Boston as quickly as possible. So since those heady days, we’ve discovered how to make the internet work for the civilian world, and better yet how to automate our businesses using the Web. All of this technology has made it possible for the CEO to run the business by remote control. With increasingly demanding global businesses, the CEO can no longer be in the same building with all staff, in fact can rarely be in the same time zone or even country. So in order to keep any semblance of order and balance in the life of a CEO something has to be setup to run the company by “remote control”. There are three primary tools to create this process and they are, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and Business Process Management (BPM).

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Southern Alberta Intellectual Property Network Conference, March 1, 2007

Southern Alberta Intellectual Property Network Conference, March 1, 2007
I attended the Southern Alberta Intellectual Property Network Conference, in the University of Calgary Dinning Centre. I attended the conference representing our company so I could learn more about the way people are collaborating with each other to achieve extraordinary research and development. I enjoyed most of the conference and learned a few things as well. After several years of building up our business and going through the harsh realities of business cycles both up and down, I found much more kindred spirits at Don Tapscott’s presentation in the Palliser Hotel, but that is fodder for another Blog. Following is a blow by blow of the conference from my point of view.

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How Much Does it Cost to Do Business with our Customers?

How Much Does it Cost to Do Business with our Customers?
The answer to that question varies and depends on how well we have our act together and how well we relate to our customers. I once worked with a fellow who was Director of Service and Support for the largest SCADA company in the World. He often said if we are not getting rid of 10% of our customers per year we are doing something wrong. I used to think that you keep all customers no matter what. To keep all your customers no matter what often ends in the sacrifice of your company. I finally came around somewhat on my colleague’s stance, I also believe that all customers are worthy of your best efforts at all times. They trust you, pay you, and confide in you so we better respect all our customers. I think there are ways to get even the toughest customer on your side if you have your business firmly managed and your products managed effectively.

I always maintained in all of my business and consulting there are at least five important points to effective and profitable customer service programs, and yes I did say “profitable customer service programs” It is important to capture all costs associated with each customer so you can learn how to make as much profit as possible from each customer.

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Simple Formula: ERP = Instant Growth

Simple Formula: ERP = Instant Growth
This simple formula is a given for me as I build ERP systems for a living….but as I said this to a potential client the other day it kicked off a very interesting conversation and intense scrutiny of that claim and I will outline some of those discussions in this Blog. The reason why ERP is a “secret advantage” for big business is because they can afford it. Now with new software development tools, the internet, and a growing rank and file of users, the secret is out of the bag and it is ERP. I will now step off my soap box (no software pun intended) and get to the area of my concern. How can I best explain the advantages of ERP to the SMB owner who wants to grow to the next step and has exhausted all other avenues?

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Building Bridges to Your Islands of Data

Building Bridges to Your Islands of Data
It wasn’t too long ago that data and information were completely isolated to office buildings and peer to peer connections. Some in the industry call it a “data silo”. Over the last few years many data mining and business intelligence systems have been completely liberated by becoming web enabled. I was recently speaking with some government officials about creating a “super database” or as my colleagues in the business intelligence world call it, a Data Warehouse. The super database will likely be a very large and complex database, but the very idea of making this data available to people who need it to keep track of high risk energy pipelines is compelling. What better way to make sure that we don’t have an accident that could harm our population, harm our environment, and interrupt our flow of energy.

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The Art of International Business

The Art of International Business
I have heard many people talk about international business, but few who have successfully mastered the art form of conducting businesses in multiple States or Provinces, much less multiple countries and continents. We are talking about a whole new set of rules and customer expectations that are thoughtfully laid out in the book “The World Is Flat” by Thomas L. Friedman. Basically the internet has broken down the old ways of thinking and walls to commerce and we are starting to see the floodgates open up and we are going global. The big question is, how do I keep track of it all?

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If Cash is King, Then ERP is Queen

If Cash is King, Then ERP is Queen
As a small business guy myself I can tell you without the shadow of a doubt the only reason I can continue is because I’ve had enough cash to pay my bills. I was moved to write these thoughts down and to expand on the thoughts after reading Tony Perkin’s latest Blog. I was first introduced to Tony’s media group after Rafe Needleman  joined AlwaysOn for a short period of time. Rafe wrote up one of our ventures, VGT Technologies, a few years ago and I think he has moved on to other pursuits outside of journalism.

To run out of money is to go out of business. That boils things down to a very simple focus and businesses need to find a way to keep on top of the cash flow.

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Enterprise Training is a Big Deal

Enterprise Training is a Big Deal
I just got off the phone with a guy who has the daunting task of training every one of his new hires a minimum of 400 hours before they can be fully certified and ready to represent the company. That represents a full 20% of the first year’s burdened cost for that person and the person will not be fully ready to make money for the company until that is completed. This is a strategic part of the business that begs to be managed just like the business depends on this for its continued success and well being. This is the internal part of enterprise training, and it should deliver maximum value for money and time spent.

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Are You Working ON the Business or IN the Business?

Are You Working ON the Business or IN the Business?
Many of us have businesses and we all dream of being successful and selling our products and services to the masses. In order for this to happen we have to have a good idea, product, or service and we need to have our act together so our clients have an excellent business experience when dealing with us. The SMB has so many challenges when trying to grow and so many priorities pulling at us. It is a good indicator of how things will turn out in the future by the amount of time we are spending ON the business and the amount of time we spend IN the business.

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ERP is First for the Enterprise

ERP is First for the Enterprise
Enterprise Resource Planning or ERP is first for the Enterprise. Many are uncertain of what ERP is used for and what goals and objectives you can expect to achieve from ERP. ERP is first for the Enterprise and the effective use of resources in the Enterprise. There are many benefits and efficiencies that come from ERP, but the primary advantage that it gives an Enterprise is the ability to do more with the same resources.

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ERP, Business Process Automation, and the “Secret Sauce”

ERP, Business Process Automation, and the "Secret Sauce"
Did you ever wonder why some companies just seem to prosper with everything they set their mind to do? I had a customer who told me it was his "secret sauce", I certainly admire his gumption, his street smarts, and his secret sauce. We teamed up for a while to automate his business process and in doing so he bottled his secret sauce and is more successful than ever.

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Why Do We Need ERP and Business Process Automation?

Why Do We Need ERP and Business Process Automation?
Somewhere along the line we started talking about "Serious Businesses". I can remember clearly the day we decided to write this on our website and brochures, we were trying to reach out to those companies that were ready to take the next step. Let's face it, we are all "Serious" business people so this comment was not meant to slight anyone or the way business is conducted, it was meant to make people stop and assess their choices and decisions they are making in everyday business. There comes a time when the business starts to be larger than the people who started it and requires multiple people working together, sometimes in multiple locations, multiple time zones, and it just begins to press us to seriously consider how to make our lives easier and to be able to grow our business with more profits. So having said that I would like to make a case for a few of the reasons why we need ERP and Business Process Automation.

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How Does ERP/Business Automation Save Money?

How Does ERP/Business Automation Save Money?
There is much discussion on just how much is saved by using ERP or business automation. Here are a few of the areas that are big money savers and even revenue generators.

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Wiki and Blog for MyCompany Toolbox

Wiki and Blog for MyCompany Toolbox
I just spoke with Mr. Frank Teklitz a loyal user of MyCompany Toolbox (MCT) (www.mycompanytoolbox.com) and was the original requester of the Case Support System. Frank was most helpful in the design and acceptance of the final Case Support System.

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Welding Automation: A Forum for Small and Medium Companies

Welding Automation: A Forum for Small and Medium Companies
The Welding Automation Forum was held in Edmonton at the NAIT Shaw Theatre, Wednesday, January 24. I attended the forum to meet other small business owners and government industry people. Here are some of my thoughts and observations:

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