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Date posted: January 28, 2015

A recent article on TechTarget confirms what we all expected: cloud computing advantages accelerated during the past year:

Cloud computing advantages have been a focus for at least five years, but in 2014 more and more companies stopped using software on-premises and shifted to software-as-a-service (SaaS). … Companies discovered cloud computing advantages in managing and improving business processes, customer relations, and employees.

According to Paul Hamerman, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, this adoption is broader-based than previously, with growth in adoption of software categories that had been laggards in the past. “The adoption levels are still relatively low in that the majority of the software still in place is the traditional licensed applications,” he says. “It’s going to take some time before the majority of it migrates to the cloud.” Implicit in this statement: the majority of it will migrate to the cloud, but currently there’s lots of room for growth.

One segment poised for this migration: enterprise resource planning (ERP). In a recent Forbes article, Louis Columbus points to Gartner’s “ERP Market Share Update” as showing “the future of cloud ERP is now.”

Date posted: January 20, 2015

It’s been more than 20 years since Cola-Cola introduced its iconic animated polar bears (and nearly 100 years since polar bears were initially used to market the company’s flagship product: the first Coca-Cola polar bear print ad appeared in France in 1922); perhaps because of the winter setting, I’ve always associated the bears with the holiday season. Or it might be because I’ve always associated Coke with the season. In our neighborhood, while the adults were enjoying conspicuously rummy eggnog at holiday gatherings, the kids were given frosty floats made from Coke and vanilla ice cream, something I enjoy to this day.

I’m off on this tangent because I’ve been thinking and writing so much about global business, and it seems to me that Coca-Cola was on the literal forefront of what most commercial enterprises experience today: global competition. In the case of Coke, its global presence has had an indelible effect. As Muhtar Kent, chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, has noted: “Coca-Cola is the only business in the world where no matter which country or town or village you are in, if someone asks what do you do, and you say you work for Coca-Cola, you never have to answer the question, ‘What is that?’”

Another question to ask comes to my mind: how do they manage that feat? A recent video post on the E2open Facebook page gives at least part of that answer, as Chris Lauchner, global director, Supply Chain, at The Coca-Cola Company, discusses how the implementation of a Center of Excellence (COE) helped drive innovation in their supply chain planning and execution.

According to Lauchner, COEs help Coke’s supply chain in three principal ways:

  • Enabling integrated planning by putting all the elements of planning and the right processes together into one organization, something particularly key to global organizations.
  • Standardizing execution, so manufacturing, logistics, and procurement can capture and disseminate effective processes across the organization.
  • Being an education platform to train disparate parts of the organization on standards.

COEs underscore the importance of not just focusing on one functional area; to work most effectively, COEs need to address all functions at the same time. Why? To align the organization and to eliminate silos and disparate metrics. In Coke’s case, Lauchner says COEs are used to “build a tree of metrics that drives everyone in the same direction.”

That Coke is leveraging COEs should not be surprising. According to a Gartner study of global chief supply chain officers (CSCOs), 71 percent of organizations are now employing COEs.

If I may borrow a metaphor from the beverage world, COEs keep ideas bubbling in the supply chain—an effervescent supply chain. In today’s global competition, the last thing leaders need is a supply chain that goes flat.

And with that, I’ll return to my delicious float and the polar bears that rise from its taste to my winter imagination.

Date posted: January 19, 2015

Recently, I was asked what my publishing goals were for 2015.

In a general sense, I plan to continue pursuing the same goals I set for myself when I started my freelance writing career 25 years ago. It’s my intention to write as many articles and features for the publishers I work for, including Thomas Publishing (New York) and Summit Publishing (Chicago). In addition, I will continue to create custom content for a host of clients in the enterprise software industry on a variety of cutting-edge subject matter.

Since I began this blog, I have published several books including my collection of poems, which was released last year to critical acclaim. Books that I published in previous years remain in print (or are available via electronic download). Those books include A Year in Asheville and Selling Professional Services: A Practical, Step-By-Step Guide.

Of course, I will to continue to publish the blogs I own. I plan to write compelling content for this blog, which is devoted to proving marketing managers with insights into developing online content for B2B enterprises, especially those in the enterprise software industry.

Thanks for taking this journey with me.

Date posted: January 14, 2015

As B2B content marketing has moved to the fore, driven by changes to search engine algorithms that have been tweaked to make content quality the primary metric for search engine success, many of the old SEO tactics have taken a battering. It’s not uncommon to see the idea that content marketing and SEO are incompatible.

Much of this is rooted in the excesses of early SEO, particularly as it related to the use of keywords, often stuffed into content in an attempt to drive up search engine ranks. While that practice is rapidly disappearing, it would a mistake to think that keywords have outlived their usefulness, a point made nicely by Amanda Clark in a recent post on the Business2Community website. Her point: not only do keywords continue to have SEO value; they can make content richer when used properly. She makes four points about how keywords can help content development:

  • A keyword will help to focus each blog post or article on a single idea; it will provide you with your topic and your central thrust, and ensure that you’re not veering too far into tangents. Keywords help you stay organized.
  • A keyword can also make the blog or article more helpful and readable for the user, providing a clear sense of what it’s about.
  • Using keywords means researching keywords, which will help in developing a better understanding of your topic and your audience’s needs.
  • Keyword research can also be invaluable for prompting new thoughts and fresh ideas.

Not all keyword use is helpful, of course; jamming them into text can make it clumsy and less readable. But keyword research, especially, can be useful in identifying the topics your audience is are searching. A useful tool in this is Google’s Keyword Planner.

Another ongoing consideration is the use of best practices, the set of rules that define how Google reads and indexes content. How you structure content on and off page should be done following these best practices. Google provides a useful document that should be required reading for anyone embarking down the path of SEO and digital content management.

For the time being, keywords continue to be a tool that can be an effective part of online strategy— something to remember as the drumbeat for B2B content marketing continues loudly.

Date posted: January 12, 2015

I don’t know about you, but I often find the holiday-themed content from organizations a bit less than festive. Mixing Santa with commercially driven content often falls into the realm of cliché, yet it almost seems mandatory for many companies as the New Year approaches.

Yet each year there’s always a surprise. For me, this year’s happy holiday content was E2open’s S&OP Made Easy infographic that takes an important and complex subject and makes it understandable for those who don’t live in that world everyday.

Let me admit I’m biased toward well-done infographics. In an increasingly visual business world, they are an excellent tool to simply and powerfully address issues or subjects that can get complex quickly in text. This infographic accomplishes this feat by providing an excellent tutorial:

  • It establishes why the S&OP process is something important to know about.
  • It clearly defines the process and its purpose.
  • It explains how to ensure the effectiveness of the process.
  • Then it shows how to use the process for a single or blended product line.
  • Finally, it shows how to expand the sales of the product line.

The infographic uses the seasonal example of selling hot chocolate with some nifty graphics that are reminiscent of Charles Schultz’s Peanuts. And just like that strip’s famous holiday show, this is holiday content that promises to keep on giving after you open it up—the definition of a good present.

Check it out!