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Articles posted during August 2017

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Small Local Government and the Move to Cloud-Based Applications

By David Entrekin, Director, USTI

Even though the trend to move to Cloud-Based Applications in the general consumer market started several years ago, it has not been widely adopted by the small local government market. However, this has started to change with 2017 budgets.

More and more municipalities are looking to upgrade to cloud-based applications, as a result of the “Greying of Government”. These Baby Boomer leaders, who are also the end-users in most small local governments, are starting to retire. Generations X and Y, and the Millennials, are stepping into those leadership roles; they are looking for modern technology solutions that are more familiar to them. For the remaining Baby Boomer and early Gen X leaders, the idea of changing the way their organization computes can seem scary and unnecessary. Typically, budgets are tight, staffing is light, bandwidth is limited, and the perceived overall resources that would be needed to make this kind of change are just too overwhelming. Many benefits support this trend to move to cloud-based applications.

“Work from Anywhere”

The most obvious benefit is the ability to work from anywhere, which can be highly beneficial to small local governments that are typically lightly staffed and looking for ways to get more from less. Having the flexibility to take your work where you need to go means that your staff will have a less restrictive environment, allowing them to blend their work and home lives. Employees tend to spend more time on work projects when they can make an easier transition to their home life needs. For example, if an employee has a personal commitment that requires them to leave precisely at 5pm, even if a project is not complete, they will most likely complete the work that evening if it can be done at home. This flexibility increases productivity as projects tend to be completed, rather than left unfinished to pick it back up the next day. Millennials expect to have this option in the workplace, and the organizations that do will have a competitive edge over those with a more restrictive work culture.

“Better Use of Resources”

Small local governments are typically staffed lightly, and this is most prevalent with IT resourcing. It is not uncommon in small local government for the IT resource to be a functional staff member within the organization as well. The amount of time they have to devote to IT troubleshooting and maintenance is minimal. When moving to Cloud-Based Applications, you remove a potentially large drain on that functional resource and transition it to a technology partner explicitly focused on IT.

Limited staff usually means that the necessary resources and knowledge base to manage software updates is lacking. Keeping current on patches is vital to minimize the risk of cyber attacks. Moving to a Cloud-Based Application means access to automated software updates. As part of the managed cloud services, experts on the application are in place to work on any issues, resulting in less downtime and better stability.

“Lower Capital Expense with Access to Better Technology”

On top of the savings received from a staff resource not having to deal with applications on your network, you also save on the hardware expense of housing those applications. It can be very difficult for a small local government to budget the upfront costs to build a server network that can support housing a shared application and the network trafficking needs required. Cloud-Based Applications remove that upfront cost burden and move it to a more manageable shared partnership, which also results in access to better and more current technology.

“Disaster Recovery”

The potential of data loss is something that affects every entity in the public and private sectors. Providing a solution for this is very challenging for small local governments with their limited human and capital resources. Being able to utilize the redundancies and cloud server backup policies of the shared environment allows access to needed Disaster Recovery without any of the requisite management resource and knowledge.

It is our belief at USTI that the small local government market is now ready to start adopting the trend occurring in other markets to move to Cloud-Based applications. USTI launched its USTI Connect Cloud solution in the United States for asyst in the 3rd quarter of 2016 and has already started assisting a number of existing customers with “Stepping Up” into the cloud with their existing asyst data. USTI plans on launching its USTI Connect Cloud solution in Canada for asyst and Keystone in 2017.   

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Introducing Aptean's CMO Leo Tucker

Aptean welcomed veteran marketing expert Leo Tucker as the company’s new Chief Marketing Officer. We sat down with Leo to chat about his background, his early impressions of Aptean, and how he spends his time outside the office.

Q: Leo, can you start by telling us about your background and the path that brought you to Aptean?

Leo: I’ve been fortunate enough to work with technology companies for more than 20 years. I’ve worked with some of the largest companies in the world, like IBM, as well as mid-sized companies like Aptean. I was a product manager in the late 90’s, and grew my skillset to eventually manage every function of marketing, from lead generation, to product marketing, to communications and more. Immediately before joining Aptean I served in a similar capacity as the global head of marketing for PGi, so I’ve been fortunate to run all aspects of marketing globally over the course of my career.

Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in marketing?

Leo: After I graduated from business school in the mid ‘90’s, it was apparent that technology was going to be a great place to focus my career. I had the opportunity to work at IBM, which gave me my first exposure to technology products and services. After that, I joined an Atlanta-based company called S1 as a product manager. The role I had was 98 percent product marketing. It required me to understand each product’s key differentiators, what message resonated for each product, who we should be concerned with from a competitive perspective, and which new markets we should enter. I found the products interesting, but I fell in love with the strategy behind all of these questions – and I realized that’s where I wanted to focus my career.

Q: What excited you most about the opportunity to join Aptean?

Leo: When anyone is trying to decide whether to join a company – whether they are fresh out of college or well into their career -- it comes down to the team. From top to bottom, the team here at Aptean is top notch. Kim Eaton is a fantastic leader, and the vision for the company and the business model is fascinating. I’m especially impressed by Aptean’s focus on how to make strategic acquisitions that create a whole that’s greater than the sum of the parts for our customers.

Another exciting thing about Aptean is that under Kim’s leadership, the company has become even more customer-centric. Every company talks about putting your customers first, but I’ve rarely seen it put into action the way it is at Aptean.

Q: You’re still getting your “sea legs” at Aptean, but in these early days, what are your initial observations about the company and the CMO role?

Leo: The laser focus on the customer that Kim introduced means that we have spent less time in recent years on what you might call traditional lead generation. Aptean has great products and customer relationships as a result of this strategy, so customers are choosing to stay with Aptean and expanding the business that they do with us. This has been exactly the right strategy for Aptean. But we’ve reached a point where we need to spend some cycles reinvigorating our demand generation function to add new customers as well. In addition, the brand hasn’t been refreshed in a while, and the time has come to think more deeply and creatively about how we tell our story. It’s going to be a really fun challenge.

Q: As a marketer, you work alongside technical experts and need to speak their language. How do you stay current on technology in order to convey the value of products to customers?

Leo: At the end of the day, it comes down to understanding who your buyers and your users are – and then communicating in a language that makes sense to them. In my career, the buyers and users have been on the business side, so I’ve had to understand their business challenges and goals, and how to translate technical features to address their goals and challenges. So I’ve always seen the marketing role in a technology company as being the translator – translating technical capabilities into solutions.

Q: One of Aptean’s strengths is that it provides products to customers across a broad number of industries. Is it challenging as a marketer to keep up with so many different industries and truly understand each customer?

Leo: From a marketing perspective, it has to be a two-level approach. First, we need to have a strong corporate identity that can serve as an umbrella across all of the different products and services that we offer and to all of the different industries we serve. Second, we need to translate this identity at the product level and apply the right messages to individual business challenges that we’re trying to solve. And of course, it means that our marketing team has to stay very closely aligned with our product team so that we’re always synced upon how to convey the value of what we do to clients, and also relay customer feedback as we continue to build and iterate on our products.

Q: As fast as the tech industry changes, how do you balance the need to deliver the products that customers say they need today with investing in the products you believe they will need tomorrow?

Leo: It’s a critically important question, and a balance that many, many companies struggle with. Our basic approach at Aptean is to start with understanding the business challenge we’re trying to solve for our customers. If a new technology is cool – but we can’t envision how it will help our customers today or in the near future - it tends not to be our top focus. It’s tempting to place big bets on emerging technology to stay ahead of trends, but if you can’t draw that clear line between what you’re investing in and how it will tangibly help your customers, you’re not going to be successful. We also take special care to look at some technologies in the macro sense – to identify the capabilities that we need across our products and across all the industries we serve – but we primarily think about how to apply our technologies to specific client needs and use cases.

Q: Let’s talk about culture. What kind of company is Aptean? What’s it like to work there?

Leo: One thing that became apparent from day one is how well-communicated and understood Aptean’s vision and priorities are across the company. It’s so common in companies of Aptean’s size, and particularly with Aptean’s complexity, for there to be confusion about priorities, strategy, and how everything fits together. Kim and the executive team have really excelled at conveying the vision at the companywide level. And this takes away roadblocks, because we are all clear where we’re going. So as a result of that, the culture is extremely collaborative. And there’s a tremendous amount of energy. When everyone knows the direction they’re heading, it really lends itself to productive conversation. And, from a purely personal perspective, I felt welcomed and comfortable at Aptean right away. There is a great warmth and camaraderie here that I’m excited to be a part of.

Q: You are active in the Atlanta-area community. Tell us about your work with the Atlanta Children’s Museum.

Leo: It’s been a real honor to be on the board of the Children’s Museum for six years now. We’ve just completed a multi-million dollar renovation, and it’s a jewel of downtown Atlanta. My children were frequent visitors to the museum when they were young, so when a friend asked me to join the board, I was excited to do it. Not surprisingly, I was asked to help with development and marketing, which has been a lot of fun. The museum really focuses on learning, through structured and unstructured play, and I’ve seen the tremendous impact is has on the community. There’s also a good lesson there about volunteering in ways that leverage your skills to help others. There are endless ways to make a difference, but I find that if you focus on the things you are best at, you’ll have the greatest impact and enjoy yourself.

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The Return on Investment Customers Receive from Maintenance

Consistently operating at peak performance and getting the most out of assets is a key objective for many companies. Implementing the right software solutions is how Best-In-Class companies are continuing to excel. Investing in a maintenance contract ensures that your company’s critical software is always at peak performance.

Considering software maintenance is similar to purchasing car insurance. The type of coverage you purchase directly correlates to the support and security you will receive in the event of an accident. Purchasing liability coverage will provide the minimum amount required by law, but that minimal amount may not be enough protection, which can result in a significant out-of-pocket expense. Purchasing comprehensive coverage may be costly, but you are protected should anything happen to your vehicle through no fault of your own. For example, if you are involved in an accident where you are at fault, liability insurance will pay to repair the damage to the other car, up to the limits of your policy; you will be responsible for any cost above that and for the cost of repairs to your own car. Comprehensive coverage, on the other hand, would pay for repairs to both vehicles.

A software maintenance plan allows the same peace of mind as comprehensive insurance, the security of knowing that you have the necessary tools to allow your company to gain a general competitive edge. When customers think of maintenance, the first thing that comes to mind is access to technical support via phone, email, or the web support portal, but typically there is so much more. Customers who invest in Aptean maintenance have access to the Self Service portal, which provides access to a wealth of information. The resources include articles, support incident submission, management and reporting. The portal also provides educational recordings, product downloads and documentation, and a community base where customers are able to communicate with one another. Through the portal, maintenance customers have access to view and manage company profiles, access to industry and technical bulletins, and the access to subscriptions to receive updates about their products and Aptean.

For many of our products, Aptean also provides a full catalog of courses through Aptean University for all maintenance customers. Through the use of this resource, maintenance users will have 24/7 access to diverse video libraries that help educate and encourage employees to be well trained so that they have the ability to super charge systems and processes.

Maintenance also means having access to upgrades on solutions, which means that your company has state-of-the-art functionality to continue performing at their best. These upgrades include the newest releases, as well as any hotfix updates and service packs. Customers are able to receive access to new features and functionality that can help position your company to better meet your business objectives while implementing the latest technologies and best practices. Customers on maintenance contracts also have the ability to offer insight into the product roadmap. Customer advisory boards comprised of passionate hand-picked customers are able to provide their opinions for the direction of the product.

Investing in maintenance will ensure that your business has the coverage, support, and security it needs to operate at peak performance and ensure you are getting the most out your software solution from Aptean.

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August 09, 2017 Tola Begbaaji Jump to Comments

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