Godshall’s Quality Meats, a Pennsylvania company that supplies turkey products and other meats nationwide, faced a challenge that plagues many small businesses: It was growing very, very fast. “We’ve more than doubled in size in the last four years,” reports Tony Hill, Godshall’s business manager. “We found out when you do something that fast, you lose a bit of control.”

One of the biggest problems was inventory. When raw turkey arrives at Godshall’s plant, FDA regulations require that it be dealt with immediately, so keeping close track of it is essential. Not only that, the company risked finding it didn’t have enough product to fill orders. “We were caught short on inventory many times,” Hill says. Godshall’s would scramble to make up the gap by getting emergency shipments from suppliers and paying for expedited shipping. “It could get costly,” Hill says.

For Godshall’s the solution was Sage MAS 90 software, which sends out automatic e-mail alerts triggered by specific events -- such as a particular supply falling below 5,000 lbs. “That lets people out on the floor track inventory levels,” Hill says. “They could find out by getting reports from the system, but often they’re too busy to think of making a query.” On the other hand, most check in at their desks and look at their e-mail at least once every two hours, and many carry handheld devices such as Blackberries.

Notification software is gaining popularity as a way to transmit vital information, whether to employees, customers, or prospects. Alerts may be automatically triggered by specific events, or initiated by users or administrators. They may arrive by e-mail, SMS, or just appear on users’ desktops. All are designed to get time-sensitive information into people’s hands just when they need it the most.

Beverly Hillsgolfers

“Real estate is very low-tech from a lot of perspectives,” says Sagiv Rosano, founder and managing partner of Rosano Partners, a boutique commercial real estate firm in Los Angeles. In that market, he says, a lot of commercial real estate buyers are “65-year-old guys who go golfing in Beverly Hills.” Most already own property, know the market very well, and can easily tell from the characteristics of a building whether it would interest them or not. But they’re unlikely to enter their requirements at a real-estate website, or regularly check online listings.

So Rosano Partners is creating software that will take the initiative instead. Launching this month, the new system will automatically send an e-mail to a customers when a property matching his or her interests becomes available, based on information gathered in an interview by Rosano Partners staff. And, the e-mail will come from the agent who did the interview, providing something of a personal touch. With about 1,000 clients, Rosano anticipates about 30 percent will sign up for these e-mail alerts. “There is a need for this,” he says.

When e-mail isn’t fast enough

Though e-mail is the most typical venue for alerts, some people want something faster, or with more functionality. For these customers there are applications that will actually send a notification directly to the user’s desktop. “The value is in seamlessly instantaneous delivery,” explains Jess Dolgin, CEO of E-shop Enterprises, which publishes an instant notification system called Desktop Alert. “We can send an alert to 10,000 users in two to three seconds, and avoid a lot of the pitfalls, such as e-mail being caught by spam filters or pipeline slowdowns that delay delivery.”

Users (or their employers) must first install a small application, he explains. Then, when an alert arrives, the software automatically opens a box on the desktop with alert information in it. In addition to text, this can include images, or even video. “We had one client, a news agency, send out video of a plane making an emergency landing,” Dolgin says. “Another deals with sports, and sends things like the last basket of a critical game.”

With more and more options, look for various forms of notification to grow as well, especially users struggle with information overload and the pace of business gets faster. “In these days of instant communication, things happen in minutes or even seconds,” Hill says. “By the time someone arrives in the morning and runs a report to see what needs to be done, we could already be 24 hours behind.”