Thursday, April 28, 2011

SmartSimple's Platform Security Just Got Stronger with Two-Factor Authentication

Despite being of central importance to any business or organization, encryption and security is best described as a cat and mouse game. Recent press attention paid to the flaws of SSL certification and HTTPS:// websites highlight that a system's security should not be taken for granted. Perhaps more importantly, putting all your eggs in a single piece of security is hardly a guarantee that they won’t break.

Because our success is dependent on, amongst other things, the security of our system, we are constantly looking for ways to protect our clients from any rogue threats.

We have a long list of security credentials, from actual encryption to process audits (CICA 5970 / SAS 70), and we are excited to extend that list by welcoming TWO-FACTOR Authentication to the SmartSimple family of security measures.

While primarily geared to our clients dealing with confidential and/or especially valuable information, TWO-FACTOR Authentication can add extra peace of mind to any SmartSimple client.

So how does two factor authentication work?

Most websites where one can login require a username and password. While a username and a password are two different things they are both “known” by the individual logging in. In short this means that anyone who knows the username and password can login, thus there is very little that can be done to identify that the individual logging in is actually the individual who owns the account.

Enter factor two. The second factor can be something that someone has or something that someone is. The former could refer to an access card and the latter would refer to a fingerprint.

As you can see, one may lose an access card or get duped into sharing a password, but the odds of both happening are greatly reduced. So by introducing TWO-FACTOR Authentication, we are enhancing an organization's ability to ensure that no one is using illegitimate means to gain legitimate access.

We’ve dotted our I’s and crossed our T’s and should be making TWO-FACTOR Authentication available to interested SmartSimple clients in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Do you know how many people use SmartSimple? We were pleasantly surprised too…

SmartSimple is used to address specific business needs in several verticals, but at a high level it has always been used by our customers to engage with their community. This may refer to  insurance carriers engaging with medical examiners around motor vehicle accidents or grant making organizations engaging with their applicants and reviewers around funding for research or community programs.

Over the years we have always been interested in how many people actively use SmartSimple worldwide, but this was more curiosity than a business need. As interest in adopting SmartSimple’s technology grows the need to calculate total active users has begun to present its self.

So how many users are there?

We were thinking that 100,000 users was a fair guess…but when we ran the numbers we ended up with 409,747 as of April 20th 2011!  Who knew?”

And what does this mean?

Well, it means that around decade after being born out of a  U of T incubator, SmartSimple is a stable and sustainable business with an extremely versatile SaaS platform.  In fact we are constantly in awe in how our clients embrace the platform’s flexibility to interact with their suppliers, clients, community members in so many different ways.

Of course the vast majority of SmartSimple users are not actually logging into but rather a fully configured and branded client copy of the platform specifically configured to their needs…so there’s a chance you’ve used SmartSimple without even knowing it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What to look for in a Grants Management System

From teens on Facebook to SaaS adoption, everyone is going online.

For some organizations the motivation for SaaS adoption is the inherent cost savings, for others it is the ability to access their work from any computer with a connection to the internet.

Regardless of the motivation, smart decisions are what will ultimately make a software investment worthwhile. As a software vendor we have listened to the needs of countless grant makers and have been able to draw a few key considerations.

By ensuring that the following are some of your top criteria, you'll have a useful system and not a headache that requires your attention day in and day out.

1. Flexibility: This is perhaps the single most important factor in selecting a grants management software solution. All software vendors know that a grants lifecylce typically begins with an LOI and ends with some sort of outcomes assessment, but only a select few understand that there are many ways to get from A to B. To this end it is crucial that you are able to keep the processes that you currently employ and are already familiar to your staff and/or volunteers.

A few specific questions to ask are:

a) How much programming will it take to get our system to behave the way we want?
b) How many user types and workflows can I create?
c) How many plugins and modules do we need to purchase before the system actually works?

The answers to these questions will be able to give you an idea of the degree of extra costs involved in getting the system to work as promised.

2. Integration: In this day and age there is a software solution for every problem and most of these are available on line. The big problem is that many of these solutions work differently from one another. This means that you not only have to pay multiple vendors and have to remember countless passwords but you also have to engage in extra labour to coordinate all sorts of information. Some of the better solutions contain functionality that is not exclusive to grant makers but extremely useful never the less.

Some questions you should ask are:
a) Can your system help me manage all of my contacts?
b) Can your system integrate with software I use everyday?

3. Sustainability: The last thing anyone wants is to be dealing with a vendor that goes out of business. This means you end up sitting on brick that is not supported and that others no very little about. That's why it's important to not only ask for some examples of existing clients, but to also for some references. You might be surprised by the number of clients that are looking to jump to a better solution. This of course does nothing to guarantee the vendor's sustainability.

To be sure this is by no means a complete list, but rather some important points that we have picked up from some of our clients horror stories. The best way to make an informed decision is the same as it has always been. Consult with your community, shortlist the best options, request a demo, ask the important questions and above all...don't bow to pressure...selecting grants management software is a big decision that can impact your organisation for years to come.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

SmartSimple Development Philosophy

In 2002, SmartSimple was founded on two distinct but equally important ideas:
  • The internet will change the way people communicate, collaborate and ultimately do business.
  • There existed fundamental shortcomings in existing enterprise software solutions. Specifically, they were either too restrictive; forcing companies to redefine their workflows and processes around the solution, or they were too passive; requiring tremendous human intervention to actually offer an ROI.
Over the years, in an effort to truly understand the needs of our clients across many industries, we have learned 3 very important lessons.

Business Is A Two Way Street

While it is the case that virtually all businesses have similar functional needs (applicant tracking, collaborative scheduling and document sharing), each industry has very specific demands in terms of regulatory compliance, security and managing their eco-system. To this end, we are very proud of our ability to address not only functional demands but also unique vertical demands.
This is especially true in the context of a given vertical's eco-system. We understand the importance of relationships and as a result we offer solutions that speak directly to this importance. We have configured our solution so insurance carriers and adjusters can communicate securely and seamlessly with health care service providers. We have done the same thing for grant making organisations and not-for-profit/research grant recipients, as well as for College and University Career Centres and Employment or Recruitment Agencies.

Every Business Or Industry Has Something Unique To Track and Manage

Every organisation needs to track, manage and measure what they deem important. In some cases, this may be unique to a specific company, while in other cases, this may be the same across an industry.
This understanding has informed our architecture from the very beginning. Our proprietary Universal Tracking Application™ can and has been configured to track sales, assets, projects, job applicants, corporate governance, grant proposals and just about anything else.

Real Value Comes From an Integrated Solution

There are countless software vendors out there, most of which offer a single feature or function. This means that many companies are using one solution to meet their HR needs, another solution to meet their CRM needs, another solution to conduct surveys and so on. This results in high monthly costs and excessive work in terms centralizing and integrating the data and ultimately justifying the value of all these separate tools that don’t speak to one another.
It is applying the above three lessons to every new development, upgrade and update that sets SmartSimple apart from the rest.