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Posted on 09.26.2014


Transitioning from one content management system (CMS) to another is never easy. So why would an enterprise voluntarily make the switch? Simple: both the market and companies evolve.

Website Magazine enlisted the help of eight Internet professionals who have made the switch from one content management system to another. They provide a snapshot of their migration experience and tips for their peers who are looking to make the daunting, yet often-rewarding change.

WM ImageDenny Cave, Web developer at Cave Interactive Media

CMS formerly used: WordPress and BusinessCatalyst

CMS currently being used: LightCMS

What do you use your CMS for?

LightCMS is a part of our core custom website development package for small businesses and non-profits. We also use LightCMS for our own marketing and internal project websites.

What led to the decision to change your CMS?WM Image 1

Our primary point of friction was frustration with the complexity and maintenance requirements of other solutions. Since we are a service provider for small businesses, we often don’t have the luxury of working with large development and maintenance budgets. As Web technologies improved throughout the years (better javascript libraries, responsive design, etc.) it become more difficult to launch a custom site on our then-current platforms (WordPress and BusinessCatalyst) at the standard of quality that we hold ourselves to and are known for.

Also, the small business owners we work with are wearing many hats (managing the business, working the front counter, doing sales calls, keeping books, processing payroll and so on) and usually don’t have much time to learn the skills required to properly manage their site. As we worked with more and more small businesses we realized the education and on-boarding process was a thorn in both of our sides and was degrading the ultimate experience of owning a website for these clients.

How long have you been using your current CMS and does it solve any issues that your former CMS did not?

We’ve been with LightCMS for six years and have never been happier with a CMS. It has sliced our development effort in half, allowing us to spend more time getting to know our clients’ businesses and collaborating with them to make sure all the necessary goals are being achieved. Client education is a breeze: even our least tech-savvy clients rarely need more than a 30-minute phone call to learn – and fully understand – how the CMS works and what they’ll need to do to keep the content updated.

What tips can you offer other Internet professionals before they change their CMS?

As someone who has used dozens of CMSs on production sites throughout the years, I consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur. Throughout my adventures and the process of settling in with LightCMS, I’ve learned several important things:

• Outline both your needs and the needs of your clients and choose a CMS based on these requirements. After you’ve clearly defined your goals, choosing an appropriate solution will be much easier.

o You can’t always trust that a client actually needs the features and functionality they are requesting. Part of your development process should focus on discovering the true requirements of the site as they relate to the business objectives and eliminating, or at least questioning, any requests from clients that they present just because they think it’s cool or because someone else had it on their site.

o Learn to embrace constraints of a platform. Many things can be worked around or implemented a different way if not natively supported in a CMS. There’s no need to choose a monolithic, all-encompassing solution as your primary platform “just in case” a future client should need expanded functionality.

• It’s OK to use more than one CMS for different needs but resist the urge to use the latest, shiniest solution on a production site until you’ve had a chance to properly evaluate all aspects of the software.

• Most importantly: evaluate ALL costs (development, maintenance, setup, etc.) of a solution, not just the software licensing and hosting costs. For example: WordPress is free and can be run on a cheap Web host, but has significant “hidden” costs in installation, configuration and ongoing maintenance that aren’t always apparent. A hosted solution like LightCMS might seem more costly up front due to the higher monthly fee, but it doesn’t have the same headaches or ongoing costs as a self-hosted platform.

WM Image 2Paul Martin, Interactive Manager at Full Plate Living

CMS formerly used: Expression Engine

CMS currently being used: Drupal

What do you use your CMS for?

We use our CMS for extending the reach of our nonprofit, Full Plate Living. We provide education to address health issues with food and transform our global audience’s weight loss goals. We use our site to deliver free blog articles as well as our paid learning platform where users can learn about things like healthy dining options and sustainable weight loss.

What led to the decision to change your CMS?

As we set out to extend our reach and impact we knew we needed a robust platform – one that had already solved most issues that websites encounter. We wanted to build an interactive platform that allowed us to be more nimble and spend less money solving common issues.

We decided to work with Drupal because Drupal is a community of people committed to making better websites and doing it with standards. We knew we could leverage that to give us the flexibility we would and still need. We hired Web design firm and Drupal experts, Four Kitchens, to assist us in the process of building our platform.

How long have you been using your current CMS and does it solve any issues that your former CMS did not?

We made the live transition to Drupal from Expression Engine in December of 2012. Drupal has solved more issues than I could begin to measure. Specifically, one major issue is the ability for content editors to easily edit any content type from the live view. The team no longer has to waste time hunting the page down in the admin side.

Is there anything you wish you would have known before switching your CMS?

There were just so many issues with our former site, and if we knew the convenience of Drupal beforehand – we would have transitioned sooner!

What tips can you offer other Internet professionals before they change their CMS?

Think about the community that is involved with the CMS. Research their followers online, and if you are able to attend a conference, meet contributors and hear a keynote speaker, even better. Having the opportunity to meet the engaged, vibrant and intelligent Drupal community really made a huge difference to me, and added to the easy decision it was for us to decide to go with Drupal.

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WM Image 4Josh Rubin, Owner of Creative California 

CMS formerly used: Joomla!

CMS currently being used: WordPress

What do you use your CMS for? 

Mostly content generation, with some additional functionality like social media integration, photo galleries and article management.

What led to the decision to change your CMS? 

I pushed for a change in site structure and speed for SEO purposes.

How long have you been using your current CMS and does it solve any issues that your former CMS did not?

I used Joomla! for quite some time, back from when it was called Mambo (they switched the name in 2005). I switched to WordPress about 10 months ago because I needed a cleaner, faster site, that was easier for my clients and associates to generate content for. Part of good SEO is site speed, which includes smaller code footprints and a cleaner site structure. Joomla! Is great for a lot of things, but the CMS includes a lot of plugins out of the box, and it really adds a lot more unnecessary code for most sites. It’s great if you need a site that has a large breadth of functionality, but for the average blog or article site, WordPress is much more efficient. Now my site runs with just one CSS file and very few plugins, and the loading time for a site with the same content was cut by about 60 percent.

Is there anything you wish you would have known before switching your CMS? If so, what? 

I researched WordPress pretty thoroughly before making the switch, so it wasn’t too terrible. But, I did have to put the time in to learning a foreign development environment, file structure and more. Taking time to learn about how to build the site, as well as how each template provider does things differently, is pretty important.

What tips can you offer other Internet professionals before they change their CMS?

The biggest thing in my world is to make sure that when you do transition a site from one CMS to another, is to be aware of the URL structures. Most CMSs have different ways of writing URLs, and if you don’t 301 redirect all of your old pages, you’ll find your search rankings drop dramatically.

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On top of that, most internet professionals push the CMS that they prefer onto their customers, usually because they know it will be easier for them to develop, and not with the customer’s best interest in mind. Always remember that at some point, the customer will either be managing their website and content themselves, or possibly turning the site over to another professional. Choose the CMS that is best for them, and you’ll have a better relationship as they’ll be happy with their website.

WM Image 4Nathan Winkelmes, CEO of Via Media Company

CMS currently being used: WordPress

How long have you been using your current CMS and does it solve any issues that your former CMS did not?

We are currently using WordPress as our content management system but we have developed sites for several clients in need of different CMS solutions. Our favorite is by far WordPress as it is easy for clients to use, navigate, and make updates and changes. We have been using WordPress for about three years now and it makes life so much easier for us when creating blog posts, updating our portfolio, etc.

Some issues we have seen with our clients are as follows: Those who need the ability to do e-commerce and online sales struggle a little bit with WordPress and Joomla. They are not as optimized for online sales, products, or keeping an inventory. We recommend using an e-commerce provider such as Shopify. They make it easy to keep track of sales and figures as well as optimize shipping prices, process credit cards, and do all of the things other CMSs do.

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What tips can you offer other Internet professionals before they change their CMS?

Before choosing or switching your CMS, keep in mind what your main use for the CMS is. If you plan on doing mainly blogging, we suggest WordPress as it is the most optimized. If you plan on selling online, we recommend Shopify due to all of the commerce specific features they offer. If you are a developer or designer looking for a better way to manage sites, we suggest going with Joomla, as it gives a little more freedom than WordPress to make fundamental changes to the site.

If you are just the average Joe running your own website, however, DO NOT use Joomla, as it requires a decent amount of knowledge about Web development. Another tip on migrating: When we switched our company site from static HTML to WordPress, we did so because we blog a lot, and are always updating our website. If you plan on switching to a CMS, keep in mind that you will need to hire a developer, as it is a somewhat complicated process.

Consider the following factors to choose the right one: WM Image 7

• Do you plan on blogging a lot?

• Do you want to be able to make changes yourself?

• Are you planning on selling products online?

• Do you need a way to process credit cards and keep track of shipments and inventory?

If you answered yes to any of the latter, then Shopify is for you. If you just want to blog and make changes, then go with WordPress. Before you switch, consider your budget. Converting to either CMS isn’t cheap, but can be well worth it if you need it.

WM Image 4Margaret Walker, Marketing Specialist at CohesiveFT 

CMS formerly used: Drupal

CMS currently being used: WordPress

What do you use your CMS for?

Corporate website

What led to the decision to change your CMS? 

As part of a website redesign, we wanted to move to WordPress, for the ease of use, familiarity with WP, and the ecosystem of plug-ins to use WP as a website with forms, posts, scrolling images, event calendars, etc.

How long have you been using your current CMS and does it solve any issues that your former CMS did not?

We’ve been using WP a bit over a year. As mentioned above, WordPress has much more features for our website such as plugins for calendars, sliders, etc. and the ability to dig in and edit our own HTML or CSS. Drupal did have some functions, but it was challenging to navigate from the back-end. Now it’s much easier to whip up a landing page for a campaign, add and edit events or blog posts, and simply add in a new feature via plugins.

Is there anything you wish you would have known before switching your CMS? If so, what? 

No, we were pretty set on using WordPress and it was going back to my comfort zone after using Drupal.

What tips can you offer other Internet professionals before they change their CMS?

If working with a website design firm, make sure they walk you through how they use the CMS. Although I was familiar with WordPress from previous projects, I still wasted a bit of time looking for things on the back-end. A quick level set with designers would have saved me so much time figuring it out on my own.

WM Image 4Justin Deaville, Managing Director of Receptional.com

CMS formerly used: Drupal

CMS currently being used: WordPress

What do you use your CMS for? 

We use WordPress to run our website – both sales pages and our blog.

What led to the decision to change your CMS? 

The site’s look and feel needed a refresh – its design was outdated. So, we took the opportunity to move to a more user-friendly and SEO-friendly system.

How long have you been using your current CMS and does it solve any issues that your former CMS did not? 

We have been using our existing CMS for about a year. We find that WordPress is much easier to use than Drupal. Also, it is SEO friendly. Site traffic from Google increased by 77 percent in the month after the site relaunched on WordPress.

WM Image 8

One of the great benefits of working with WordPress is that it is possible to add free extensions that provide additional functions. One great extension is the Yoast SEO plugin. It has loads of great features that help to make the site more SEO friendly.

Is there anything you wish you would have known before switching your CMS? If so, what? 

It’s a good idea to have a baseline from which to measure performance. It is very easy when switching CMS to lose authority – so that Google sends you less traffic. Another common problem we see is that the new site gets fewer conversions than the old design.

If you have collected information about how your site performs – traffic levels, conversion rates and so on – you’ll be able to tell whether the new site is helping or hindering your marketing efforts.

What tips can you offer other Internet professionals before they change their CMS?

Be aware that swapping CMS systems is fraught with difficulties. We often receive calls from businesses – very well-known businesses – that have launched a new site, only for traffic or sales to fall through the floor. As with any activity, it helps to have a clear plan with well-defined objectives.

It is worth researching your choice of CMS. First and foremost, it must be easy to add new content. It should be SEO friendly. If you’re looking for a way of creating content and don’t need to be able to sell products online, WordPress is often a good choice of CMS. We have built many WordPress sites, and find it is the simplest, most cost-effective way of building a site. WordPress is the world’s most common platform, so if you’re not technically minded, it’s easy to find help.

Do you need commerce capabilities? If your site needs to be able to sell products, you may want to look at the Magento CMS, a common choice. Again, there are lots of modules that you can add to the basic framework when you need particular features.

One of the main benefits of both WordPress and Magento is that they are free.

Many larger organizations need a CMS that works well with Windows. In which case, you may need to pay a license fee for a CMS such as Sitecore, Kentico or Umbraco. These systems are suitable for building larger sites. But, you may need to invest time and effort to make them SEO friendly.

Before you start building the site, it’s worth thinking about what content you’ll want to change. Users (and Google) will appreciate a clear, logical structure.

If you’re deleting content, it’s worth setting up redirects from the old content to the new version. This is a technical process – you may wish to ask for help from a professional SEO agency – but without those redirects you risk losing some of the site’s authority with Google. Don’t make the mistake of building a great looking site that very few people get to see.

There are also some technical checks you’ll need to make once the site has launched. For instance, you’ll want to submit a new sitemap to Google. You should also check that Google is easily able to access and index your content. You’ll want to check that you have analytics software properly installed, so you can see how the site is performing in its first few days and months.

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If all goes well, you’ll have a site that looks great and is commercially successful, too.

WM Image 10Kelly Wisness, Senior Director, Digital Strategy at Amerinet 

CMS formerly used: SharePoint

CMS currently being used: DNN

What do you use your CMS for? 

Managing and organizing content, page management, lead generation/forms, file storage

What led to the decision to change your CMS? 

As our needs and goals for the site expanded, we started to realize the limitations of the CMS we were using. Updating content took more time and steps than it needed to take. We were not able to fully optimize the site in order to get maximum visibility in the search engines. Ultimately, we needed something that would make our jobs easier as well as to have a system that would provide us with more opportunities to optimize our site thereby increasing our visibility and traffic.

How long have you been using your current CMS and does it solve any issues that your former CMS did not?

We have been using DNN since May 2014, when Engage, a St. Louis-based Web design and development firm, helped us make the transition. It solves all of the issues that we had with our former CMS. Managing content is so easy. We’ve been able to start making the website a lead generation channel. And we are no longer missing out on opportunities to optimize the site. In addition, we are able to easily share content throughout the site. Our team has saved so much time since the transition to the new CMS. We are very happy with our decision, and we look forward to even more success with the site.

WM Image 11Lisa Kirschner, Owner and Managing Director of Flair Interactive Services

CMS formerly used: Joomla, WordPress

CMS currently being used: Hubspot Content Optimization System (COS)

What do you use your CMS for?

Hosting and managing our website, blog, landing pages and managing social media, forms, keywords, calls-to-action (CTAs), marketing campaigns and contacts (CRM).

What led to the decision to change your CMS?

I wanted a system that would allow multiple members of our team (including people who aren’t developers) to make changes to our templates, website, blog and landing pages in one place. We were previously using multiple tools (including our CMS, Google Analytics, Vertical Response for email and Nimble for our CRM), to manage everything, but now we can do it all in Hubspot.

Even more importantly, we can also create calls to action and get a real pulse on what’s working and what’s not working with all of our online marketing activities using the built-in analytics and dashboards.

How long have you been using your current CMS and does it solve any issues that your former CMS did not?

We’ve been using Hubspot at our CMS since May, and we used the rest of the Hubspot suite for about a year prior to that. It has solved all of our previous issues (always having to rely on multiple tools, waiting for the development team to become available and not having an integrated marketing/sales tool that offers closed-loop reporting and real, measurable ways to measure success), plus issues that we didn’t even know we had!

If so, how/which ones?

For example, I am familiar with HTML and CSS, but I normally don’t get into template customization or modifications very much for our site or for our clients’ sites anymore because I just don’t have time. However, after we purchased Hubspot, I took the Hubspot COS certification classes, which walk you through how to build and modify templates using the new COS. Modifying templates in Hubspot is super easy if you have that basic knowledge, and I can modify our templates or our clients’ templates really easily usually in 20-30 minutes max. This has completely transformed the way we work. This means that I or other project managers can modify templates if needed and let our developers focus on building out more sophisticated functionality or other hardcore coding. We weren’t really looking for that capability, but it’s one of the things that I love the most about Hubspot.

Is there anything you wish you would have known before switching your CMS?

No, but I wish I had known about Hubspot years ago. We like it so much that we are recommending it to all of our customers. It completely blows away all other marketing suites that we’ve used (Lyris, Marketo) and any hosted CMS on the market if you want to get a robust suite.

What tips can you offer other Internet professionals before they change their CMS?

The most important things are: run before you walk, don’t expect a CMS to be perfect, and don’t spend months and months comparing every single feature in really huge spreadsheets. Instead, identify your top 10 features, narrow it down to your top 2-3 vendors, and then do a proof of concept using real content and data to test it out. Also, don’t believe everything that a CMS vendor tells you. You’ve got to get under the hood and try it yourselves.

- See more at: http://www.websitemagazine.com/content/blogs/posts/pages/tips-for-switching-your-content-management-system.aspx#sthash.BW3m7INb.dpuf

 


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CE logo_4102

Sept. 17, 2014

Obamacare-Cheif executive image

 

As if struggling to adapt to the new healthcare landscape wasn’t hard enough for SMEs, now the new ground is shifting underfoot.

 

By C.J. Prince

The July bombshell of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in Halbig v. Sebelius is the latest in a history fraught with challenges and confusion for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The conflicting decision from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in King v. Burwell also created a potentially game-changing quagmire for the healthcare law. It is now unclear whether more than 5 million Americans in 36 states that chose not to set up healthcare exchanges will be eligible to receive federal tax subsidies for healthcare purchased on the federal exchange—a key lynchpin in the new system.Cheif executive box

If individuals in those three dozen states ultimately are ruled ineligible for the subsidies, they would no longer have to fear a penalty for not purchasing healthcare on the federal exchange, since that healthcare would no longer be affordable. Employers in those states would not be subject to the $3,000 penalty if an employee receives a subsidy for coverage on the exchange, since such a subsidy will be unavailable. Together, those consequences could—at least, in theory—topple a system that relies on a critical mass of individuals signing up for healthcare.

But some say the reaction from both the right and the left has been exaggerated. “Far from all the media hype about these decisions, this is only a speed bump for Obamacare,” says Avik Roy, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. No state will want to pass on federal subsidies and all will ultimately do what they have to do to comply with the law. “Even if you’re Alabama, are you really going to turn down hundreds of billions of federal funds that go directly to your state with no outlays by you? I think that’s extremely unlikely.” Roy also points out that the ruling on subsidies would only appeal to those companies employing lower wage workers who qualify for the subsidies.

Back to the Courtroom
In any case, the Obama administration is expected to appeal on multiple fronts and, if it comes to that, the Supreme Court could decide to hear the case as early as October, with a decision in May. In the meantime, with full rollout for businesses with more than 100 employees set for Jan. 1, 2015, and a year later for those with between 50-99 employees, companies will proceed as they have been and the recent challenges will not impact companies’ larger healthcare strategies. “It does create more uncertainty for the Affordable Care Act, but until a decision is made it’s business as usual” with the next open enrollment starting in November, says Brian Marcotte, CEO of the National Business Group on Health. Adds Jim Winkler, senior vice president for Aon Hewitt, “For the vast majority of employers, the lack of clarity regarding subsidies in the public exchange will have little to no impact on their health strategies for active full-time employees. Employers have more pressing concerns about volatile health costs and worsening population health.”

Not all employers agree on how to deal with those challenges, of course, and Obamacare has had plenty of dissenters. From the beginning, employers subject to the mandate bemoaned the law’s complexity, onerous requirements and expense. As the numbers were crunched over the past few years, CEOs began warning of the dire consequences to the country’s economic growth should the new healthcare system proceed.

In November of 2012, Zane Tankel, the CEO of Applebee’s New York Franchise, Apple-Metro, told Fox Business, “We’ve calculated it will be some millions of dollars across our system. So what does that say? That says we won’t build more restaurants. We won’t hire more people—exactly the opposite of what the President says…if it’s possible to [implement ACA] without cutting people back, I’m delighted to do it. But that also rolls back expansion, it rolls back hiring more people and, in a best-case scenario, we only shrink the labor force minimally.”

Promises, Promises
Some who agreed with the premise behind Obamacare’s mission don’t believe it delivered on its promises. “If you read the bill, they call it the Affordable Care Act. It’s not about affordable care, it’s about outcomes,” says Tom Harrison, chairman emeritus of Diversified Agency Services, a division of Omnicom, the global advertising and PR giant. For example, incentives were built in for hospitals to keep patients from being readmitted for the same health issue within a period of time, and for companies to create healthy lifestyles programs at work that keep covered employees healthier for longer.chief executive box2

Those are noble goals, Harrison says, and companies should be focusing on ways to keep their employees healthy and therefore using less healthcare. But, he argues, that’s not necessarily the purview of the federal government. “There is a lot in the bill that goes beyond a­ffordable care and one could say, why is the government getting into something they probably shouldn’t control only to insure the 35 million who didn’t have healthcare? They probably overstepped their bounds. I think a­ffordable care has nothing to do with a­ffordable care because it’s actually more una­ffordable today. It’s just gone the wrong way.”

Given how highly politicized Obamacare has been, and continues to be, it’s di‑fficult to get a clear picture of how the healthcare changes are actually impacting employer decision-making and strategy. “Economists on each side o­ffer wildly disparate versions of how the next several years will play out,” says Winkler. “Both sides of the political arena have economists running models that tell two di­fferent stories so it’s hard to sort through the rhetoric vs. fact.”

The Cost Quagmire
That said, expenses for HealthCare.gov have been much higher than anticipated, with the July report from the Government Accountability O‑ffice estimating the tab at $840 million thus far, due to a variety of overages. Insurance providers are reporting smaller margins; Aetna CEO and chairman Mark Bertolini told CNBC in July that the numbers on new enrollees “were worse than we expected.” Those enrollees tend to be older, less healthy and expected to use more healthcare.

In part owing to that, premium costs for employer-sponsored plans have gone up, by virtually all accounts, although the numbers vary widely depending on the source. For example, a National Small Business Association survey of 780 small business owners conducted late last year found more than 90 percent reporting higher premiums for their health plans during their most recent renewal. One in four reported that premiums jumped by more than 20 percent. An annual 2013 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, however, found premiums had increased just 4 percent.

But as far as how the new law is impacting hiring and other benefits-related decision-making, surveys again tell conflicting stories. For example, according to a May survey of accountants working with privately-held businesses, 54 percent said the ACA would adversely impact hiring in the year ahead, compared with fully two-thirds of respondents polled the previous year, according to Sageworks, a financial information company that conducted the surveys. The 2014 survey also found a slightly larger percentage this year predicting the ACA would have no impact on hiring in the next year.

On the other hand, the National Small Business Association survey found that one-third of small businesses had held off­ on hiring and more than half said they’d held off­ on salary increases for employees due to the added expenses of the ACA. But in early 2014, a nationwide survey of 3,500 smaller firms with 300 or fewer employees found 26 percent were adding to payrolls, while 20 percent were cutting, and about half holding steady. Overall, hiring in that group was up 1 percent over the previous month, according to Roanoke, Virginia-based CBIZ Payroll Services.box3

Whichever numbers one looks at, it’s clear that businesses have spent the past several years struggling to get their arms around the increased costs and compute the likely impact on their bottom lines. “The ACA has been a big distraction over the past few years as we’ve all tried to figure out the implications,” says Marcotte, of National Business Group on Health, which represents large employers, including approximately two-thirds of the Fortune 100. Those employers are looking at how to cope with the ramifications of the so-called “Cadillac tax,” which will assess a 40 percent excise tax on companies whose health insurance benefits exceed a $10,200 threshold for individual coverage and $27,500 for family coverage beginning in 2018.

Employers are also trying to manage healthcare costs rising at a 6-7 percent clip, says Marcotte. “For any CEO or CFO, when you’re faced with 7 percent trends year-in, year-out, that’s incredible headwind.” Some large employers, like Target and Walgreen, are making major changes to employee benefits, with Target dropping coverage for part-time workers and Walgreen moving employees onto a private exchange.

Hampering Hiring
Anecdotally, among smaller “large” employers—or those with 50 or more employees—the ACA will be a major challenge to future growth and will signifi cantly impact key strategy and hiring decisions in the near- and long-term. Take Bongarde, a web-centered information and training tools company focused on the compliance and education needs of safety, environmental and human resource professionals. The company, which has o‑ffices in both the U.S. and Canada, recently decided to add new hires in British Columbia, where healthcare costs are lower in part because of its national system.

“Obamacare has made it more expensive to hire new people in the U.S.,” says Wayne Cooper, CEO of Bongarde Media. “Even if you prorate the taxes on an SME employing fewer than 100 people, it still makes more economic sense to make new hires in British Columbia versus Washington state.” He adds that the decision is also partly due to Washington state’s high corporate taxes.

For Kenneth Jennings, CEO of Mr. Rekey Locksmith, a company that employs 70 in more than 20 markets in the U.S., the consequences may be even more dire. Jennings competes with dozens of independents who don’t have to comply with ACA regulation. “We do a great volume, which is fantastic, but our profit per job is pretty small,” he notes, adding that with margins as thin as they are, he can’t afford to lose any more per job by adding more cost to his employees. “When we go up on our prices, we lose customers. With this ACA we’re going to have to either raise our prices substantially or we’re going to just not make a profit.”

Jennings is still in the process of finalizing premium costs with two insurance companies bidding for the business. “We don’t have a final number yet and the numbers keep going up. And what can I do to stop them from going up in the future? I’m scared to go back to our customers in six months and say, ‘We’re going up another $10 a job,’” says Jennings, noting that this variable cost is one more straw on the camel’s back—and could be the final one. “I can’t control the price of fuel, electricity or materials going up—and now health insurance. It just feels like it’s so much at one time it swamps the boat.”

Because they now have to cover both healthy and less healthy individuals, insurance providers have raised box5premiums to cover risk for their whole book of business, which has changed. But the fluctuations in premium prices should be leveling out now, says Mark Lutes, a senior member of Epstein Becker Green’s healthcare and life sciences practice and the firm’s chairman. “Carriers have been baking in the increased costs of some of the coverage parameter changes that the ACA has caused, so while there are adjustments to price being made to accommodate the changes, there should be a decent estimate of those already.” As insurers get more comfortable with the new landscape, he says, the market will likely become more competitive and prices could potentially come down.

That would be good news to Bijan Golkar, principal and co-owner, FPC Investment Advisory in San Francisco. With only five employees, FPC is not required to offer insurance under the new mandate, but Golkar says it’s a must to remain competitive as an employer. “The rate for the insurance plan we were offering nearly tripled,” he says. “We just couldn’t afford it.” As many other companies are doing, FPC moved over to a high-deductible, health savings account plan and set up a pre-tax company contribution to the HSA, putting in the maximum allowed. As a company with fewer than 25 employees, FPC can deduct the premiums—but Golkar is still dissatisfied both with the cost of the plan and the quality. “Because of Obamacare, our company is forced to pay for dental insurance for the kids on the plan. We’re paying dental for my infant daughter and she doesn’t even have teeth yet. That’s just criminal,” he says.

For companies with significantly more employees, the other major concern, outside of higher premiums or deductibles, is the prospect of penalties for plans that do not meet the twin tests of affordability and minimum essential coverage. “[Clients] are worried about the penalties,” says Pamela Tehim, senior associate, Tredway Lumsdaine & Doyle. “If any employee is getting a tax credit for purchasing insurance outside of the plan, they’ll get hit with the $3,000 penalty per employee.”

Attorney Kaya Bromley, founder and CEO of Your Obamacare Advisors (YOA) and author of The Employer’s Guide To Obamacare and The Obamacare Roadmap, understands her clients’ fears. “It’s the most complicated law employers have had to deal with since Social Security. Lots of red tape, pitfalls, lots of places employers will end up paying penalties they didn’t even know existed or that they were incurring for two years,” she says. “But on another level it’s really not that complicated, if you have the right resources. That doesn’t mean you have to spend $10,000 on a consultant. It means you have to learn the basics.”

Once the company’s leadership understands the basics, they can make better decisions on healthcare strategy to avoid penalties and fees, pay lower premiums and even create profit centers within the company. “An unintended consequence of Obamacare has been that more business owners are finding ways to self insure,” says Bromley, who sees self-insurance as a viable option for companies with as few as 100 employees. “If it’s set up with proper facilities and a proper administrator and structure, it can have tax benefits and can actually be profitable for the company.”

She cautions CEOs not to delegate the company’s healthcare strategy to any one internal or external advisor or broker, but to get actively involved in the decisions themselves. “Yes, you have to have a team of experts because it’s too much to do yourself. But they all have a stake in the outcome. As the CEO, you have to take all these different points of view into account and make the decision about what’s right for your own business.”

Jennings, who has been taking a very active role in the process for his business, hasn’t quite found the light at the end of the tunnel just yet. But even he admits Obamacare has succeeded in at least one goal: “This is giving our country a rude awakening that you have got to pay attention to these things. Your company pays a lot more than you can imagine for you to have health insurance. Now people are starting to have to take responsibility,” says Jennings. “There really is no free lunch.”

That goes for employees and employers. While it isn’t yet clear just how the conflicting appeals court rulings will be box6resolved, Obamacare isn’t going away, even if the Senate changes hands in the midterm elections, says Manhattan Institute’s Roy. “There may be some incremental changes, but frankly, I don’t think repeal will ever happen. That ship sailed when Mitt Romney lost in 2012.” Right now, businesses have to continue on as they have been and figure out whether to provide affordable healthcare for all employees; provide affordable care to some, but not to others (e.g., hourly workers), and take the $3,000-per-employee hit for those individuals; or not offer coverage and pay the $2,000-per-employee penalty.

Small and midsize businesses can also talk to their legislators about ways, other than repeal, Congress might be able to soften the blow for them, says Roy. “If they’re in a state with competitive Senate election, they can make sure they’re involved in the race and that both candidates have sufficiently pledged to address those things that are important to them. They can make sure their voices are heard.”

 


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LS Social media channel blog

Updating your social media channels are just as important as updating your business proposals and company information on your site. You most likely don’t have the exact same goals, vision and competitors as you did a year ago so, just like everything else in the business industry, bring those social channels up-to-date regularly.

Plus, with the never-slowing tech world, new advances are continually being developed for all social media channels, along with more innovative channels coming to the forefront. Living in the Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn world makes sense for more professional service businesses, but if there are any visual identity and products being offered in your business, get them on Pinterest!


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IC.PNG

The company’s Summer 2014 Release gives users time-saving task automation for improved IP analysis

By Amanda Ciccatelli

September 16, 2014patentmap96-crop-600x338

With the burst of new and changing technology, now more than ever before, patent litigation is one of the most gigantic and most challenging areas for businesses to navigate.  With litigation costs now reaching the millions, it is critical for businesses to understand the potential outcome of a case in order to save significant money – and that is where intellectual property (IP) analysis can save the day.

A well-known software provider in the IP space, Innography, has introduced the Summer 2014 Release, to further increase the power and configurability of its patent analytics suite.

“Our newest release pushes the envelope for efficiently generating unique insights from intellectual property analytics, and distributing them throughout the enterprise,” said John F. Martin, CEO and chairman of Innography, told me in a recent interview. “At our Insights user conference in April, our most frequent users voted on new features that would be most helpful to their day-to-day tasks, and this release, just a few months later, especially reflects their input and priorities.”

With the release, Innography added capabilities in many areas including: highly configurable new alerts; new document alerts will notify when a patent changes; user-configurable family reduction and grouping; a new text cluster visual that includes claim language, which shows the technology applications more directly; expanded export capabilities and configurability that eliminates many manual steps and continually runs in background and; a configurable option in PatentScout that allows claims to be eliminated from patent search results, which minimizes the risk of inventors viewing a competitor’s patent claims.

Specifically, Martin said, heavy users will benefit from advances in the alerting system, improved family reduction capabilities, versatile exporting and claims analysis enhancements. Heavy users often send out notifications to other employees when certain patent events happen, such as when a competitor is granted a patent, which is made more easily and automatically with the new alerting system. In addition, the improved family reduction capabilities give options on reducing patent families to relevant patent to perform analyses on a per-invention basis. Finally, heavy users often export patent sets for their own use, and the new exporting system makes this more efficient for the user.

“I especially wanted to thank Innography’s engineering team for building the most accurate, best-in-class, and easy to use product,” said a VP of IP Assets, a Fortune 20 company. “I wanted to thank their Client Success team too. They simply have the most responsive customer support and the highest levels of dedication to everything they do.”

This new release pushes the envelope for generating unique insights from IP analytics, and distributing them throughout the enterprise. According to Martin, in addition to the 50-plus visualizations already in Innography, this release adds the option of incorporating claims verbiage into the text cluster analysis, which gives deeper insight into the application of the technology.

“The expanded alerts provide new and timely insights, letting the user know when a new patent application cites their patents. The alerts also allow distributing these notifications to those who need them most, anywhere in the enterprise. PatentScout, which provides both keyword search and semantic search, can now be rolled out enterprise-wide without claims so that casual searching doesn’t increase the risk of later willful infringement,” he added.

Today, Innography leads the industry in ease-of-use and speed of analysis, allowing analysts to generate more insights and value, more quickly.  Martin commented, “We often hear from new users analyses that used to take hours or days with other tools is done within seconds in Innography.”

 


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