Enterprise Software

During the US Great Recession (2007-2009), American companies explored low-cost, high-value technologies such as cloud computing to automate manual or routine tasks to save money and keep their doors open. Since technology enabled people to achieve more with less, it’s no surprise these companies did well in areas that drive growth and efficiency during these difficult times.

Now, almost five years later, technology has become front and center in strategy and resource planning because of its tangible returns. Four technologies now give today’s leading enterprises a unique competitive edge in an era that’s fast-moving and tech-driven.

#1- Marketing Automation Software

A Little History

According to a new report, companies that invested in marketing automation in the last two years showed more signs of growth compared to their competitors. Growth is one of the many reasons why marketing automation is so hot right now.

Though marketing automation software companies have been around since early 2000s, recent IPOs and big acquisitions are giving the industry a lot of attention. HubSpot filed a $100 million IPO a few weeks ago. Earlier this year, IBM acquired Silverpop. Last year, Marketo made its debut on the NASDAQ stock exchange while Salesforce acquired ExactTarget, which bought marketing automation software Pardot. The year before that, Oracle bought Eloqua, another marketing automation software company.

Why all of the hype about marketing automation?

Marketing automation software has done wonders for marketing teams, giving them the data points they’ve struggled to obtain in order to justify their investments. Now marketers can analyze what’s working, adjust their tactics based on metrics, and tie everything back to a sale or opportunity.

This was a big game changer for marketers because most of them juggle too many initiatives and make decisions without deep insight or analytics. Consequently, marketing automation not only increases efficiency, but also reduces human errors through analytics.

Here are a few other benefits marketing automation tools offer:

  • Promote new content through landing pages
  • Promote events and online seminars
  • Maintain blog subscribers
  • Provide email metrics
  • Track content distribution and online reach of eBooks, case studies, and videos
  • Reveal which website articles or pages perform well
  • Track how prospects are engaging with your brand

All of these enhancements give companies a tremendous competitive advantage. Unfortunately, though, most companies don’t take the time to dig up competitive intelligence to determine if that’s truly the case for their competitors. That’s where the next software solution comes into the mix.

#2 – Competitive Intelligence Software

A Little History

Competitive intelligence practices have been in the business world for many years, but the systematic function is considered fairly new. Over the past four decades, however, competitive intelligence went from being misunderstood as corporate espionage to the respective function it is today. Unlike espionage, competitive intelligence is the practice of ethically gathering, analyzing, and distributing of information about competitors, customers, products, concepts, and other topics needed to support strategic decision-making.

The field began developing in the late 1970s when companies like Fuld & Co. and Washington Research began offering competitive research to organizations. In 1985, Jan Herring, a former CIA chief technology analyst, created the first intelligence function at Motorola. Four years later, Ben Gilad, a strategy professor at Rutgers University, created a CI function at Kellogg. To legitimize the function, Leonard Fuld and Leila Kight, among several other vendors, created the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP) in 1986 – a widely known professional association. SCIP’s members conduct competitor research and analysis for large and small companies, while helping management plan out competitive strategies.

So why are most Fortune 500 companies using competitive intelligence software?

Today, competitive intelligence functions must incorporate technology into their CI process. Automation enhances their competitiveness in the market by centralizing online data collection and giving them greater awareness of competitors and other external forces.

Different departments across organizations use CI software to collect necessary information, so that they can spend more time analyzing or working on other initiatives. By having all information automatically collected and structured in one place, CI professionals have more time to make recommendations and spread the information out to other colleagues.

No matter the job function, competitive intelligence software helps brings together all of the competitive and market information needed to understand an organization’s competitive landscape quickly. Competitive intelligence software helps put the puzzle pieces together in an automated and organized manner.

#3: Customer/Client Relationship Management

A Little History

Customer relationship management (CRM) software emerged in the late 1990s with the promise of forever changing the way businesses, small and large, interact with customers.

The demand for this revolutionary software came after companies realized that the best way to build customer loyalty was to collect and use customer information to create programs that cater to each customer’s preferences.Early innovators like Brock Control Systems helped push the evolution of contact management software toward sales force automation (SFA). In 1993,Tom Siebel, an executive Oracle, left to create Siebel Systems, after unsuccessfully trying to convince Oracle’s CEO Larry Ellison to package and sell their internal sales application as a standalone product. Siebel Systems quickly became the leading SFA provider on the market. In the 1999, SalesForce, although ignored by many vendors, grew to compete with industry giant Siebel Systems. The rest is history.

So why are most companies using CRM Software?

Today, CRM software is a business standard.

CRM allows businesses to have updated and complete information immediately available, which give professionals visibility through trackability. Organizations benefit from structuring and centralizing information about customers when they can tie interactions to sales opportunities, customer loyalty, and forecasting.

One of the most import reasons companies use CRM is to build stronger customer relationships. By implementing a CRM solution, professionals increase their productivity, therefore enabling them to spend more time with customers, prospects and other pressing initiatives. Ultimately, more time with customers means an increase in the number of deals closed, generating a larger, stronger customer base.

Besides closer and stronger customer relationships, organizations use CRM to record, track, and report on all prospect and customer activities and transactions. For all of these reasons, CRM software will continue to be one of the hottest selling business application of the early 21st century.

#4: Project Management Software

A little History

Project management has been practiced for thousands of years, but it wasn’t until the late 1950s that organizations began to formally use project management tools. Yet, the project management industry owes its origins to US company DuPont and four other key players: John Mauchly, J. Presper Eckert Jr., Jim Kelly, and Morgan Walker.

Given the intertwined relationship between project management and technology, it was natural for experts in the field to develop project management software to help manage and automate the project management process. By the 1990s, project management theories, tools, and techniques were widely received by different industries and organizations.

So why are companies using Project Management Software?

Project planning requires scheduling and project management (PM) software helps professionals in various functions manage project tasks. Management can create and assign tasks, deadlines, and receive status reports. When working on projects, document sharing and collaboration is extremely important. With PM software, productivity is increased by having a document stored in a place that is accessible by all project stakeholders. Organizations are also taking advantage of this software to track time for all task regarding a project. Companies today know the importance of working fast in order to stay ahead of the competition.

Although these types of software help companies compete better, they do not always work like magic. Some require significant time up front to properly configure and maintain. However, companies competing with these can increase their level of efficiency, customer personalization, competitive advantage and overall ROI.