C24 strengthens partnership with Microsoft through Cloud OS Network

May 19, 2015

C24, a specialist applications hosting provider based in the Midlands, has been successful in joining Microsoft’s exclusive Cloud OS Network to deliver true hybrid cloud capabilities to UK customers.

 

Microsoft Cloud OS Network

The Microsoft Cloud OS Network is a select group of world class hosting providers, chosen by Microsoft to deliver Cloud OS – an enterprise cloud architecture that spans infrastructure, applications and data.  The Cloud OS Network delivers differentiated value-added services to end customers, based on the Microsoft Cloud OS vision.

In conjunction with Microsoft, C24 has developed a Cloud OS platform within their Midlands datacentre, which has been technically validated by Microsoft to deliver a range of hosting and application services based on HP infrastructure.

Customers can now consume private cloud services from C24, in addition to tapping into the flexibility and scalability that Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform offers.  Within the UK, there are currently less than 15 Cloud OS Network partners, of which C24 is now one.  This hybrid cloud model enables customers to consume public and private cloud services, delivered by a local, Midlands provider.

Head of Sales and Marketing at C24, David Ricketts, commented, “C24’s invitation to be part of the Microsoft Cloud OS Network is further evidence of our close partnership and commitment to working strategically with Microsoft over the long term”.

C24 is currently a Microsoft Gold Hosting Partner and joining Microsoft’s Cloud OS Network means that customers now have more choice than ever when choosing a cloud strategy for their business.  C24 offers clients a range of hosted cloud services, across Office applications through to Microsoft Dynamics AX and specialist ERP applications.

Paul Hemming, Managing Director at C24, said, “Many customers are now looking at how public cloud services, such as Azure, can help them to save money and resources across their business.  C24’s cloud offering through Microsoft’s Cloud OS Network enables customers to have more choice in deploying a true hybrid solution, leveraging C24’s Private Cloud and also Microsoft’s Azure services.”

 

About C24

C24 Ltd is a specialist managed service and hosting provider, with a focus on big data and business analytics.  We tailor our solutions primarily to sectors deploying complex ERP systems where we have particular experience and expertise.  C24 designs, manages and delivers critical business applications to over 100 countries for our global customer base.

C24 is a Microsoft Gold Hosting Partner and a member of Microsoft’s Cloud OS Network.

 

Media Contact

David Ricketts  |   0121 550 4569   |   marketing@c24.co.uk


Using Analytics to Win Against New Competition in the Legal Sector

May 19, 2015

Traditional Law Firms quote image

Legal firms are experiencing more competition than ever before, as larger new market entrants are starting to capitalise on their scale and size to offer low cost legal services.

There is an increasing number of companies starting to offer legal services, with some supermarkets and insurance firms branching into offering legal services for consumers.  This puts significant pressure on traditional, high-street firms to compete and in a recent report by RBS (2014) it was argued that traditional law firms have lost out on over 50% of income that they would normally generate from transactional services such as legal-aid support and conveyancing.

Larger, non-legal firms are able to apply their skills at operating at extreme scale and delivering services to many customers at once, to the legal sector – an industry relatively untouched by standardisation and automation.   This loss of traditional services is causing firms to worry; some 31% are said to be facing an uncertain financial future in the coming year as a result of alternative business structure (ABS) firms entering the market.

 

So what is the difference that is putting pressure on traditional firms?

 

Well, the large ABS’s are used to operating within volume markets and their operations and systems are set up to cope with handling masses of transactional services.  Legal firms on the other hand tend to focus on the client, their needs and the detail of each individual case.  Larger ABS firms are starting automate aspects of service delivery, by giving clients self-service tools to reduce the workload on the law firm.  This makes transactional service delivery more efficient and cheaper to deliver.

 

So how can traditional firms change their business to attack this competition head on?

 

  • Law firms need to keep track of all of their volume customers in order to guide their sales strategies and processes.  For instance, understanding where volume customers found out about your firm from and aggregating that information into tables will serve as a guide to understanding the ROI of recent marketing campaigns.
  • Firms need to use the data they already have to spot trends in their market and make business changes quickly.  For example, if you spot that you are seeing in a 50% increase in the number of clients you lose to online divorce services, then maybe you need to start offering a cheaper, digital version of your service to compete.  Blindly deciding to do this would not make sense, you need the data to back up your decisions.
  • Employ analytics to understand why you win and why you lose – what approaches work, what approaches are unsuccessful and what activities bear minimal results.  Without understanding your current standing position, how can you make assumptions about what the business needs to do to generate more customers?

 

C24 has written a whitepaper on how legal firms are now using business analytics to inform their sales and business development activities, access the full whitepaper here.

 

 

Source:

RBS. (2014) A perspective on the legal market [Online]. Available from http://www.rbs.com/content/dam/rbs/Documents/News/2014/03/perspective-on-the-legal-market.pdf. [Accessed 11th March 2015]


Top 5 Things NOT To Do When Deploying Cloud ERP

May 14, 2015

Many organisations are re-evaluating their ERP strategy and, quite rightly, are recognising that cloud could be an enabler for better business operations, whilst potentially being cheaper and more cost-effective.

As an ERP hosting provider ourselves, the team at C24 regularly sees clients who are looking at how to best leverage cloud for their new ERP platforms.  But we also come across many who have jumped into a cloud ERP solution that either doesn’t work from the beginning, or quickly creates problems for the business when it fails to integrate well.

That’s why we’ve put together the “Top 5 things you SHOULDN’T do when deploying ERP in the cloud” to give you some ideas about what to avoid when evaluating cloud ERP for your business.

DON’T…

1.    Expect a Mini to drive like a Jeep.

Very often, organisations get stung by cloud solutions because they choose the ‘wrong’ cloud service for the job.  Like cars, every cloud make, model and version is different, and each is attuned to solve a different IT challenge.  Getting it wrong means you end up with a solution that isn’t fit for purpose.

Because ERP permeates throughout the entire business’ operations, it is important to get the right cloud for the job from the start.  This is unlikely to be a low-cost, public cloud, multi-tenant, scale-out environment.  ERP relies heavily on the ‘grunt’ of the infrastructure beneath it, so the technology needs to be up to the job.

 

2.    Look for the lowest cost solution.

In an ideal world, ERP cloud hosting would be as cheap as web or email hosting.  However, it rarely is.  Hoping to drastically cut your ERP costs by moving your onsite infrastructure to the cloud is perhaps a little unrealistic, so setting expectations early on about the true cost of cloud ERP hosting is key – and your ERP or hosting provider should be able to do this.

Being aware of the costs enables you to understand how other cloud services can be offered at such a low cost; usually the result of infrastructure being shared by many customers at once, or by security levels being lower than mission critical environments.

If you can afford to risk the uptime or security of your ERP estate then a lower-cost public cloud option may be suitable.  But if like most businesses you need a good degree of certainty when it comes to your business’ central operations, then looking for a more robust and comprehensive solution is key.

 

3.    Think that one supplier can do it all.

Some cloud ERP suppliers offer an all in one, software-as-a-service model that may be perfect for businesses with simplified operations.  However, the companies we usually work with tend to have complex systems, spanning manufacturing, invoicing, and customer services – that all need to be integrated into the new ERP solution.

The team at C24 always works with ERP vendors or specialist resellers to craft a holistic solution for our customers – if we did it all in house we just wouldn’t be able to retain the levels of knowledge about individual ERP applications that our ISV partners have, and likewise they wouldn’t be able to deliver the expertise around the hosted infrastructure and analytics layer that C24 can.  Choosing a partnership that has been tried and tested instead of selecting one supplier who is a specialist at just the ERP application layer is a surer way of making a safe choice when it comes to your cloud ERP deployment.

 

4.    Be the client and the project manager at once.

We have found that every ERP deployment is different, with its own nuances and idiosyncrasies.  This has given us a wealth of knowledge when it comes to new ERP projects that we can draw on, alongside our partners.  Trying to reduce costs by going it alone can prove costly in the long run – as project timescales for ERP projects can quickly slip into years, if not managed well.

Trusting a proven supplier or consultancy to project manage your deployment is a good step – however it’s also important to make sure that all parties involved (consultancies and suppliers) can work well together and communicate.

 

5.    Buy an off-the-shelf product for a not so off-the-shelf company.

Unfortunately, ERP projects aren’t simple.  We can tell you that from experience.  Because the ERP system touches almost every part of a company’s operations, projects have to be delivered with precision and care to mitigate risk at all stages.

Sometimes clients purchase an off-the-shelf product with the aim of driving standardisation throughout their business, and that is a great aim.  However, if your business and IT isn’t ready for standardisation, due to the way you invoice, or the way that your clients require orders to be handled or processed etc., then that shiny new off-the-shelf product isn’t able to deliver the change you need.

Instead, working with specialist ERP providers who can tailor solutions to you, whilst also building in a roadmap of how to better standardise current ERP operations so that you can achieve that level of simplification you desire, is a much safer way to drive consistency throughout your organisation.

 

Hopefully that’s provided some thinking points about what to avoid when deploying ERP solutions in the cloud.  Can you think of anything we have missed?

 


What role does social media play in marketing for law firms?

May 12, 2015

Social Media

Legal firms are looking at new ways to attract clients and grow their market share in a bid to be more competitive and profitable in the long term.  By being more proactive with marketing, law firms can differentiate themselves from new market entrants offering generic, low-cost, transactional services rather than being pushed down on pricing.

We are seeing many of the law firms we work with investigating the merits of social media for client acquisition, here are a few facts and figures we have collected from our research on the web:

  • 91% of lawyers use social media
  • Of those, 60% say that social media plays a role in marketing
  • 39% perceived LinkedIn to be the most effective social media channel
  • However, just 4% said social media had been “very responsible” for client acquisition.

(Source: http://www.attorneyatwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/2015-Social-Media-Survey-Highlights.pdf)

 

So, what can we take away from these findings?

I think it’s fair to say that the majority of firms are active on social media in some form or another, however many do not see it is a key driver in client acquisition as a sole marketing activity.  Yet as part of a cohesive marketing campaign, social media plays a crucial role.

Research from Orange Business on Hinge Marketing blog said that in 2012 there was a 663% increase in people using Twitter to ask for recommendations around professional services.  Web design was number one on the list of requested recommendations and solicitors were up there at number 2, highlighting how consumers are turning to social media to find legal resource – so the firms should be bringing their marketing engagement to them, proactively.

Furthermore 77% of professional firms (not just legal firms) are reported to generate new business leads online – and more importantly, the firms that generate on average at least 40% of their leads online are positioned to become twice as profitable as those firms that don’t.  This demonstrates that by switching to more cost-effective marketing avenues such as social media, firms can increase sales and profitability.

 

However, are legal firms capitalising on this good news?

An article published at Solicitors Journal highlighted that the top 200 firms in the UK only have 360,000 Twitter followers between them (to put it into perspective, Coca Cola has 2.7m followers, Topshop has 1.09m, and Morrisons has 127k alone).  The article highlighted how smaller firms are actually punching above their weight and gaining more traction through social media than their larger counterparts as 8 of the 10 most social-media proficient firms fall outside of the UK’s top 50.

 

So what types of social media can law firms start to use to build up their brand and lead numbers?

  • Social media sentiment analysis – before embarking on a social media campaign for your firm, be sure to have in place a system of analysing the results you get from your efforts by tracking sentiment and checking what your customers are saying about you.
  • Thought leadership – are you sharing your expertise with your potential new prospects? Using thought leadership strategies to build credibility on social media is recommended for firms within the professional sector whose reputation is based on expertise and experience.  You could try having experts within your business creating content such as whitepapers, industry perspectives or how-to content to share with your clients.
  • Twitter – Twitter is great for real-time access to a world of prospects, however Twitter alone is unlikely to win you new business.  Instead use it to build your connections, enhance your brand and get your name known by a wider audience.  Sharing tips from your own firm with industry relevant news helps to establish you as an expert in your field.
  • LinkedIn – LinkedIn is perfect for high level networking as it is dependent on the contacts you already have, and your fee earners will typically be connected with decision makers across a wide range of companies – so capitalise on their existing connections and reputation to share content and information about your firm’s services.
  • What information do you share with existing customers?  How about setting up a company newsletter with insights and perspectives on industry news that you can share with clients by email.  You can rejig and reuse existing content from your thought leadership activities to put into your newsletter.

 

The key is consistency – having an approach that is repeated regularly so new clients become familiar with your brand by seeing numerous articles, tweets, posts, shares etc.

The next step is then using analytics effectively in order to make sense of the data you collect from social media to inform and guide your next steps in marketing.

Read the full whitepaper from C24 about how to use analytics and business intelligence to improve business generation activities within your law firm.

 

 

 

Sources:

http://www.attorneyatwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/2015-Social-Media-Survey-Highlights.pdf

http://www.hingemarketing.com/blog/story/4-metrics-to-track-in-b2b-online-marketing

http://www.solicitorsjournal.com/news/management/marketing/small-law-firms-use-social-media-punch-above-their-weight


Free downloadable books on Microsoft Azure

January 30, 2015

Cloud is getting bigger, Microsoft, Google and Amazon AWS are all offering great learning programs, below is a link to the Microsoft Virtual Academy and some free downloadable books on Microsoft Azure. Great start for those new to the technologies and some real value for those of us who have been in the industry longer than we care to remember.

Microsoft’s Virtual Academy has grown to include more courses, training materials, videos and an entire section of free downloadable books on Microsoft Azure.

Below is also a link to Coursera who has 11 active cloud computing courses today: 

https://lcolumbus.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/roundup-of-cloud-computing-courses-update-january-12-2015.pdf

 

 


TextBlade magnetic device overturns how we do mobile typing with sensory approach

January 30, 2015

At coffee shops, in business meetings and on public transportation, we type on our smartphones as often — if not more often — as on our laptops. We’ve seen many companies introduce improvements to the touchscreen keyboard for more efficient, predictive typing on-the-go, but there is still a need for the multi-sensory experience of typing on a physical keyboard.

Post by PSFK.

http://www.psfk.com/2015/01/magnetic-multitouch-keyboard-change-mobile-type.html


Westfield Malls: How Connected Glass & Electronic Windows Engage Shoppers

January 20, 2015

Courtney Lapin talks about the power of digital interactions in retail environments

PSFK was privileged to have Courtney Lapin speak at our Future of Retail Event in San Francisco. As the Head of Retail Partnerships for Westfield Labs – the innovation arm of Westfield Malls – Lapin shared how new technologies in malls are helping online brands engage with customers in real world settings.

Great presentation – for more details please visit http://www.psfk.com/2015/01/courtney-lapin-retail-tech-customer-engagement.html


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