Our partner Grant Sayer at Centric Logic talks about how the latest technology tools are of use for cross-border business.
Q: Tell us about Centric Logic – what do you do; who are your clients?
A: Centric Logic is a technology and marketing consultancy and we focus on three customer groups: accountancy practices, entrepreneurial companies and software as a servce (SaaS) software publishers. We focus on three things for these customer groups – we act as an outsourced corporate sales channel, we develop specialist niche products (which can be bought in or white labelled) and we provide specialist consulting on back office sourcing.
We have a good understanding of business-to-business back office systems, how to blend these systems together (technically and commercially) and how to extract maximum efficiency and effectiveness from them for a business. We like to work in collaboration with our clients and we make technology understandable and not impenetrable.
Q: For companies operating cross-border, what technology tools would you recommend that they use (and why)?
A: As your business goes cross-border, running your business becomes many times more difficult; partly due to geographic remoteness and partly because you have to comply with many more regulations. New technology – especially new SaaS accountancy platforms and other back office systems – are best suited to help companies in this situation.
Quite simply, the new systems allow you to be located anywhere. For example, new systems allow you to scan in invoices and the accountancy platform will recognise this and import the information automatically. It is simple, fast, available anywhere and, best of all, is very reasonably priced (because typically you rent it on a monthly basis rather than pay for a large fee up front). There are also new systems to raise invoices and get paid faster. This is all very important stuff for an expanding business that needs to add another layer of control when they are expanding abroad.
We have written extensively on our blog about what technology platforms we like and what we think works. But what is clear about these SaaS systems is that some are better at some things compared to others , and it is best to take some professional advice when choosing a platform. Don’t just accept what your accountant says as true – many will only recommend what they use rather than what is best for your particular circumstances. Some accountants are a bit behind what is currently available and things are changing very quickly.
In general, we would recommend businesses use a SaaS platform and then add in other programmes as necessary. Typically, these systems work together almost out of the box, so you can have a near-bespoke solution quickly and easily.
Q: For government investment promotion agencies, what technology tools should they be using to promote their location and engage effectively with potential investors?
A: “We are open for business” and “We are up to date and easy to do business with” must be a good approach re: creating a first impression. Irrespective of where your platform is based (or written), they are available all around the world. Some of our favourites just now come from Denmark, New Zealand, Holland and the USA – all very different.
A growing part of our business is social media. We are active users of LinkedIn, Twitter and WordPress. We are starting to think about how we might start to use YouTube too. It gives you a presence everywhere, allows you to start a conversation with businesses across the globe and to build a network.
Facebook and Google+ too are becoming increasingly relevant for B2B businesses. So much so that you really can’t ignore them. And to back this up, you have to have a really good website that is dynamic. It needs to contain added value items – ebooks on how to do business in your particular location, for example. This allows you to really establish yourself as an expert, and all this helps with your search results on social media. We are passionate about this and practice what we preach – connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Q: What exciting technology and trends do you see happening in 2013?
A: There is going to be some interesting developments this year. We think the adoption of SaaS technology is only going to increase in the small and medium enterprise (SME) segment because it is cheap to adopt and young companies are more open minded about SaaS platforms (actually, they use them all across their business and personal lives all the time).
Here’s some things to keep an eye on over the year:
- Mobile phones being able to be used to pay for things. This will start to replace credit and debit cards
- Some consolidation in the SaaS accountancy market (some of the big players in the on-premise accountancy market are starting to get nervous)
- SaaS publishers will become more cognisant of smart phones, tablet computers and 4G mobiles. There will be business applications starting to emerge that are very, very mobile and available everywhere
- More back office applications will come along and they will all work together out of the box via their application programming interaces (APIs). This will mean some vertical markets will be able to blend all this stuff together and move information around seamlessly
- This will make things a bit more complicated – who owns what data, and how to achieve business security will rise up the agenda (even higher)
- Adoption will continue to grow. Xero (the New Zealand SaaS accountancy platform) took five years to get to its first 100,000 customers; it took five months to get to its next 100,000
- It will become quicker and easier to do business across borders. You will be able to buy services from professional service firms from other countries more easily
- We will continue to see a move away from traditional economies and towards growing economies. Hopefully the recession in Europe and the US will start to recede but it will take some time for it to feel like things have improved
Overall, we live in exciting times, and the latest technologies are definitely making it easier to do business across borders.