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what is crm

What Makes a Project Successful?

What Makes a Project Successful?

The key elements to a successful project

Get to know your client

Completing a project does not only include meeting deadlines and completing tasks. Knowing your client and taking the time to fully understand their wants and needs can allow you to incorporate more elements that make that product specific to the company. In taking the time to understand them, it strengthens the connection between you and your client, creating a more well-rounded product. 

All hands on deck

Essential for an efficient project, the team must work like a well-oiled machine. In working together to achieve the project’s goals, it ensures that all ideas and opinions are heard, optimizing your team’s productivity and problem-solving abilities. With deadlines fast approaching, it will be guaranteed that your team will always be on time. 

Know your product

As the creator, you have to know all the ins and outs of your product. Without thorough knowledge, your product will not meet your client’s expectations, much less your own. To maximize efficiency, that knowledge is key. Along the way, your client may have different requests and expectations, or problems may arise. Knowing your product will let you give better or alternate solutions to what your customer is asking for, allowing you to give the best product that you can within the scope of your client.

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Purely CRM Helps MetroQuest Increase Back Office Efficiencies with CRM

Purely CRM Helps MetroQuest Increase Back Office Efficiencies with CRM

May 26, 2015 - VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- MetroQuest has been utilizing the services of Purely CRM to enable their Microsoft Dynamics CRM implementation achieve new levels of operational efficiencies.  The CRM configuration modifications facilitated by Purely CRM have allowed MetroQuest to overcome the operational hurdles associated with their previous CRM configuration.  Purely CRM also coached MetroQuest on how they can make additional adjustments to their CRM such that they can now make many remaining configuration modifications themselves.

Purely CRM used its' senior resources with deep Microsoft Dynamics CRM knowledge to enhance the opportunity management, sales process, project management, and the billing process.  Specifically with the billing process, the CRM configuration enhancements delivered by Purely CRM have enabled MetroQuest to better automate what were previously manual processes, and thereby reducing time, cost, and errors associated with invoicing their clients.

MetroQuest chose Purely CRM because of their experienced CRM resources.  Purely CRM worked closely with MetroQuest staff to ensure that complex configurations were implemented in CRM in a smooth fashion without interruption to MetroQuest's business processes.  MetroQuest now has better control and greater efficiency of some important back-office processes.

"We thought we were the technology experts with enough CRM skill to accomplish our objectives, but Purely CRM's expertise helped us to become much more effective," said Mike Walsh, President, MetroQuest.  "With the help of Purely CRM, MetroQuest is now able to continue with our own CRM configuration adjustments with the skill and speed that we could not have achieved without expert CRM knowledge and help."

"Most companies will offer you consultants who have generic consulting skills or simply one or two CRM projects worth of experience," said Marty Hall, Managing Director at Purely CRM.  "At Purely CRM, our consultants have been practicing CRM for more than ten years each and really understand the Microsoft Dynamics CRM product and customer relationship management system capabilities and limitations."

About MetroQuest
MetroQuest has been providing public involvement software and related services to the leading planning, engineering, architecture, and public involvement firms and agencies for over 18 years.  First developed through a major university research project, MetroQuest has gone on to be used in hundreds of high-profile and award-winning projects on five continents.  MetroQuest's growing team of professionals have decades of experience in both public engagement and software development, and their software has topped best practice lists for public involvement year after year.  For more information, visit their website at www.MetroQuest.com.

About Purely CRM
Purely CRM is a privately held company that is 100% focused on Microsoft Dynamics CRM with customers across North America.  As a team, they have been involved with Microsoft Dynamics CRM since version 1.0, which dates back to the early 2000's, and bring a combined 50+ years of experience.  Purely CRM has made the strategic decision to solely focus on Microsoft Dynamics CRM and brings industry expertise in such areas as mining, banking, membership management, manufacturing, and many, many more.  For more information, visit their website at www.purelycrm.com.

The CIO's Must Have CRM Dashboard

The CIO's Must Have CRM Dashboard

Don't Miss Critical IT Operations Info

Purpose Of A Dashboard

The purpose of a dashboard in IT is to typically provide a one-pager on the state of things, similar to your dashboard on your car.  On your car you can quickly see the gas, the temperature, and the speed.  Does it show everything about your car, like tire pressure and brake fluid levels?  Most likely not, but it may show them if they become necessary to know.  The dashboard is kept to a clean and simple "must-know" information, unless some other flag should pop up as critical.

Quick Must-Know Facts

So, if you are the CIO of a company what would the "must-know" quick facts that you would require on your dashboard?  Of course, the answer here will vary from CIO to CIO; but, there should be some general consensus on what the key items are.  If I were to throw out some quick key items that I would want on my dashboard if I was a CIO there would be four items.

The first item would knowledge of the network and WIFI status.  Is the network up and the WIFI up across my office(s)?  Are the speeds OK on those networks.  The second item I would want to know are how many critical help desk tickets do we have in the system and what the top three critical items are.  The third item would be what staff do I have on-hand today, who is off, and any sub-contractors that have contracts coming up for renewal.  The fourth, and final item, that I would want to know is if I have any software licenses coming up for renewal.

Future Direction

CRM has the ability to provide a dashboard that would meet all the items listed in the previous section of this blog article with some configuration, but what is the future direction of dashboards?  The first thing I would like to see in CRM dashboards is better use of graphics.  Not simply graphs, but graphics similar to what you would find in a car dashboard like an oil can picture or a gas tank image.  The other direction that dashboards should offer is a quick method to flip between various dashboards.  Dashboard generally exist for each role or grouping of job functions within an organization.  The drop-down list view of various dashboards is not intuitive enough or a quick enough method to flip between dashboards.  The final thought is that I would like dashboards that can hide and show dashboard elements based on some sort of criteria.  For example, the oil can only shows on your car dash if their is low oil in your vehicle.  An example of that in CRM might be only showing upcoming software licenses if they are coming up for renewal, otherwise it should completely hide any mention of software licenses on the dashboard.

Is your dashboard letting you manage effectively?

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Will CRM Go Away?

Will CRM Go Away?

Making Technology Fade Into The Background

My iPad Love Affair

I knew I was in love with my iPad when it won me away from my TV set as a form of decompressing in the evenings.  I was able to sit on the sofa and just flip thru news on the iPad as effortlessly as looking at a magazine.  I didn't have to hold a laptop on my lap or look at a screen that was not the idealized size for me.  I could get the latest news in both text and video format.  And, the whole iPad seemed to fade away and I could relax and be casually entertained.

The Objectives Of Technology

When I realized that my iPad had somehow made technology fade into the background, I came to a realization on where I felt technology should go; and, my thoughts on where technology should go were not only about the living room but also about the office.  What I wanted to see achieved was making technology in the business place also fade into the background.  Technology in the business place, for me, is all about increasing the efficiencies which result in a particular business need or objective being met.  The point of using technology to achieve the result is not about the technology, but about the end objective.  Too, too often I see companies sucked into technology for technology's sake as opposed to focusing on achieving streamlined business processes.

Fading Technology, and your CRM, Into The Background

Before you can make your technology fade into the background in your office, just like the iPad fades into the background in your living room, you need to look at getting your business processes down pact.  And when I mean getting your business processes down pact, I also mean understanding why you perform certain business processes in the first place.  I often see companies make business processes more efficient where the business processes itself is not necessary if you look at the underlying reason the process is being performed.  Step one is always to look at why the business process is being conducted.  The second step is to flow out the optimal business process to achieve that objective.  And the third step is to document the current business processes and determine the gap between them and the newly defined process.  The point at which CRM comes into the mix is always around structured data that needs to be captured that does not naturally fall into any other systems that may be in place (e.g., the accounting system).  If this can be achieved, you will slowly see the CRM system fade into the background as the workers focus on doing what they were hired to achieve in the first place: doing their job!

Are you focusing on making your CRM fade into the background?

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Two Must Know Things About CRM Today

Two Must Know Things About CRM Today

Is the CRM world about to change?

Are These Two CRM News Items Connected?

The first news item is Microsoft's goal of getting to $20 billion in cloud revenue by 2018.  That would imply that Microsoft will triple its' cloud revenue in the next three years.  In 2014 Microsoft had cloud revenue of $5.5 billion.  Based on Microsoft's latest quarterly earnings report, they are on track to have cloud revenues of $6.3 billion in 2015.  So, how are they going to get to $20 billion in three years with the current rate of growth?

The second news item is that Salesforce has hired financial advisors to help it because they were approached by a potential acquirer.  It is unlikely that Salesforce would hire the financial advisors if they were not truly approached to be acquired.  What is not known though is who approached them.

Who Are The Potential Suitors?

There are only a handful of companies who could potentially acquire a Salesforce company as they are currently worth $47 billion.  Those suitors most likely would be Oracle, Microsoft, SAP, Google, and IBM.

I am going to eliminate Google and IBM from this mix.  Google is, essentially, an advertising company and so I think it is a long shot that they would want to get into the CRM business.  IBM would have to get heavy financing to make this deal happen as they only have $8.8 billion in cash on hand.

SAP would also have to take on heavy debt if they wanted to acquire Salesforce.  SAP only has $5 billion of cash on hand and would have to finance the rest of the acquisition.

This leaves Microsoft and Oracle as contenders in this acquisition.  Microsoft has $95.4 billion in cash on hand and Oracle has $13.7 billion in cash on hand and another $30 billion in marketable securities.

What Happens To Microsoft Dynamics CRM If Salesforce Is Bought?

There are three possible scenarios that could play out if Microsoft would acquire Salesforce.  The first scenario is that nothing drastic happens.  Salesforce would be branded as a Microsoft product and both the Dynamics CRM product and Salesforce product would continue to coexist in the marketplace.  This is not unforeseeable as Microsoft has GP and NAV accounting products and has not combined them yet.  In fact, in the short run, this is the most likely scenario.

Another possible scenario is that Microsoft phases out Salesforce and integrates its' good components into the Dynamics CRM product.  If this were to happen, it would have to happen over a long period of time because this would be no trivial task.

And the final possible scenario would be that Dynamics CRM would be slowly wound down and the Salesforce product would take over.  Again, it would take time for this to happen if this scenario were to play out.  And, Microsoft would most likely create some sort of transition plan for its' existing Dynamics CRM customers if this were to happen.

I want to leave you with these thoughts and questions:  Is Microsoft the mystery potential acquirer?  Does Microsoft need this acquisition to hit its' target cloud revenue goals?  Is this simply a rumour or strategy on the part of the potential buyer to tie up potentially large pipeline deals for Salesforce because the potential acquisition makes their buyers hesitate?

What are your thoughts?  How would this acquisition impact you?

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The Risk With CRM Resources

The Risk With CRM Resources

What makes a good CRM Consultant?

The Right Stuff

When I was 13 years only I remember watching the 1983 movie “The Right Stuff”.  The movie was about the “space race” and the team of pilots/astronauts who eventually landed on the moon.  I remember thinking what makes these people special other than the obvious reasons.  What makes this particular group of people have the right stuff?  After all there were thousands of qualified people to choose from.    Was it there superior intellect, the superior athletic ability, stamina, or is it something else that is difficult to quantify?    History tells us that these people were handpicked to achieve a monumental task.  They were all experts in their fields and excelled and what they did.   They had an extraordinary task to accomplish under “extraordinary” circumstances and they succeeded but sometime as great risk and loss.

The Wrong Stuff

Later in life I actually became a commercial pilot and during my flight training I watched an educational movie called, strangely enough, “The Wrong Stuff”.  It was a documentary whose aim was to point out the breakdown in the cockpit during stressful circumstances such as in-flight emergencies.  There were many different responses by flight crew depending on their background, training, and individual personalities.  Some ex-military fighter pilots tended to over control the cockpit which caused them to stop delegating important tasks to other crew members.  Some civilian pilots had a very hierarchical approach to the cockpit as well.  The captain was considered the “boss” and his judgement was seen as the last word and not to be questioned by the other crew members.  There are many cases when the co-pilot or flight engineer sat idly while the captain crashed the plane.  It seems very counter intuitive that the same people who could fly a space craft to the moon could be a detriment in a commercial airliner cockpit, but you have to understand….these are two different approaches to a similar task and therefore require different skill sets.  A flight to the moon is a risky business while flying a commercial airliner is supposed to be routine.  The differentiator may seem small but in reality it is very big.  Today’s commercial airline pilot will fly the same plane daily and is expected to keep everything within very strict limits at all times.  The crew mitigates the risk to passengers, themselves, and the airplane.  They typically have years of experience which helps them to foresee any potential problem and act long before something terrible happens.  So the real difference between a commercial airline pilot of today and a NASA test pilot is the risk tolerance.  This says nothing about the underlying capabilities of each group.  Just the approach to the task.

CRM — Crew Resource Management?

In order to correct these problems the aviation industry implemented a new training program known, coincidently, as CRM (Crew Resource Management).  The intent was to break down the hierarchal structure in the cockpit and have crews work together as a team instead of as individuals.  CRM is now a standard in the aviation industry and you’ll want to bet the captain on the next flight you take has had lots of training in it.

CRM vs CRM — Parallels

As a Microsoft CRM consultant I see a lot of parallels between these two worlds.   I have worked with many different consultants on a variety of different project over the years.  Every consultant I’ve worked with has had different approaches to implementing CRM.  Some approaches were slightly different and some radically different.  Even when skill and experience are equivalent the approach is sometimes the factor that indicates to me whether they have the “Right Stuff”.   

Understanding Where You Are Going

For Purely CRM, the “Right Stuff” is a consultant who not only takes the time to understand the client’s requirements and processes but also ensures that they stay within budget and scope while mitigating risks.  This usually starts by having a clear picture of where we are going, setting expectations, confirming them with the client and working to meet the objective.

It’s a great thing to know a lot about CRM, but if you attempt to fly the client to the moon when they only needed to go to “New York” then you are not doing a good job as a consultant.   If the client needs to go to “New York”, then the right approach is to carefully plan the route, check the weather, do a preflight inspection, make sure we have enough fuel, and set off to our destination.  While en-route we may need to make slight course corrections but we know exactly where were going and how were are going to get there.

This is truly the difference between a CRM consultant with the “Right Stuff” and a test pilot.

Don't Miss The Opportunity To Be Strategic With CRM

Don't Miss The Opportunity To Be Strategic With CRM

From back office to the front office

IT Is No Longer Relegated To The Back Office

Times, they are a changing.  It was not that long ago that we all thought of IT as merely a cost saver in back office operations.  It was relegated to running the infrastructure that a company was based upon.  It made it possible to do the accounting, run the shop floor, or handle the phone systems.

CRM Plays A Key Role In The Future Of IT

Customer relationship management (CRM) systems truly helped to take IT out of the back office and move it over to the sales side of the business equation.  It enabled organizations to better focus on their customers, to understand their needs thru the buying cycle, and provide better customer support.  CRM became the knowledge base that helped organizations retain the organizational knowledge within the company, even after key employees left.  And, CRM did all of this while integrating with the old IT, the back office.  CRM also plays a key role in collecting all the information that will go into the business intelligence systems to help look at the big-data.

From The Industrial Age To The Information Age

The big change that we are currently in the process of going thru is moving from an industrial age to an information age.  It means that all businesses are essentially becoming information enterprises.  Some would argue that this transformation in our economies has already taken place, but a lot of companies still have to go thru this change and truly understand what it means for them.  IT has now become an enabler for businesses to achieve objectives they never thought possible before.  An understanding of how IT can help with your organization's differentiator is what will help most organizations.

Does your organization see IT as strategically enhancing your organization's offering?  Is CRM a part of that?

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A Team Of CRM Experts Is Better Than One

A Team Of CRM Experts Is Better Than One

Sole Contractors Know This -- Having Good Backup Is Key!

Freedom In Flying Solo

When I first started contracting some nine years ago, there was this great sense of liberation in being solo.  I felt like a mercenary who showed up with is own shield and sword, a laptop and my intellect, to fight for hire.  I no longer cared about my "title" or about "promotions".  The sense of freedom, even if it was just in my head, was extremely liberating.

Sometimes We Can't Do It All

There were a few projects I had, though, were I wished I had the old support network I had when I was back with Pivotal.  Back in those days I could have walked over to the Support Team to ask questions or call on the Technical Writing Team to point me to an exact location in the documentation to help me; but, as a sole contractor those days were gone.  Along with all that freedom I loved was also this need to be completely self reliant.

Where Is My Go To Expert Nowadays?

Things have sure changed now that I am a partner in a firm of individuals focused on the same skill sets.  Although I would consider myself an expert in CRM, I am now with a team of experts.  If something is not known to me about Microsoft Dynamics CRM, I can get an answer to my question in minutes now.  And although I still consider myself pretty self-reliant, the knowledge that I have these other experts just a call away gives me a sense of empowerment that I have not felt in long time.

Do you have a network of experts that you can call on for help?

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Don't Place Your Company At Risk of Fraud With Integrated Computer Systems

Don't Place Your Company At Risk of Fraud With Integrated Computer Systems

When integrating computer systems, reconciliation reports become all the more important.

Integrating Computer Systems and Segregation of Duties

Accountants have been taught the importance of "segregation of duties" and have been trained on this for years, but IT folks often overlook this import business control.  For example, the person who opens the mail at the front desk should not be the same person that pays the bills in a company.  If we allowed the person at the front desk to pay the bills, then that person could easily create a false, bad payable and throw the invoice out every time it came into the company. We also make sure that the mail is all opened at the front and not just passed on to the employee for whom the mail is meant for.  This is because we do not want any bills to arrive and get missed.  The idea of segregation of duties can also be carried over into the computer systems world and is of importance to IT folks.

An Example Integration:  CRM Sales Orders to Accounting Invoices and Receivables

An example of segregation of duties in the context of computer systems would be how the sales person generating an invoice should not also be the person entering the received monies from that invoice into the accounting system.  So, having a CRM system used by a sales person to record invoices and a separate accounting system where the accounts receivable clerk takes receipt of monies creates a great segregation to enforce a policy that looks to ensure no fraud happens within the company.

The Importance Of Reconciliation Reporting Between Systems

Reconciliation reports form a great way to ensure that systems that are in place with integrated records, but remain as separate systems for segregation of duties, remain correct.  It is also important to note at this point that reconciliation reports present hard cold facts to the person that reviews the reconciliation reports.  Reconciliation reports do not dictate what a person should do.  Let's look at our example from the previous section on sales people entering invoices and accounting clerks taking receipt of monies.  We can have a reconciliation report that identifies how many invoices were created from the CRM system and how many invoices were created from the accounting system.  We could also look at the sum total of invoices created in the CRM system and the sum total of invoices created in the accounting system.  The reconciliation report would also show, if there was a difference, the following two items: (1) invoices in the CRM system, but not in the accounting system; and (2) invoices in the accounting system, but not in the CRM system.  This will help to ensure that the accounting clerks are not creating invoices in the accounting system, which is the responsibility of the sales people.  It also ensures that the correct dollar figure for monies owed is dependent on the sales person and not the accounting person who takes receipt of those monies.

How do you reconcile between your integrated systems?  How are you segregating your duties to ensure no fraud occurs?  Are you using reconciliation reports as well?

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Craftsmanship And The Art Of Specialization

Craftsmanship And The Art Of Specialization

From craftsmanship to artistry.  It's more than just money.

What Is Craftsmanship?

Every profession requires particular skills and knowledge.  Achieving mastery in one's profession is often what is thought of as "craftsmanship".  Arriving at the level of skills and knowledge to call yourself a "craftsman" is a combination of schooling and practical experience in the field.

How Many Years Or Projects Till You Achieve Craftsmanship?

Is it one year in the field?  Is it three successful CRM projects?  Or, is it twenty years and atleast ten CRM projects?  There is no exact answer here, but it is definitely not one or two projects and one year of CRM work.  It takes time in the game to really develop a mastery of your profession until you can call yourself a "craftsman".

What's After "Craftsman"?  The "Artisan".

Once someone truly masters their professional skills to the point that they can call themselves a "craftsman", I believe that they can still achieve one level higher.  To me, that level is the "artisan".  An artisan is someone who has achieved such a level in their craft that what they accomplish thru experience and aptitude reaches such a level that they are truly as expressive as "artists" in whatever their profession may be.  An example of this would be Muhammed Ali at the height of his boxing career.  He was so skilled at his job that he would orchestrate the whole boxing match in a manner that it was his artistic expression of how he wanted the fight to go down.  He was not just simply executing the skills he had learned during practice.  His years of experience took it to a whole new level.

My Craft.  My Art.

I, personally, have been a CRM consultant for more than 15 years now.  I've worked on Siebel, Pivotal, and now Microsoft Dynamics CRM.  I have worked on more than 20 individual CRM projects and I have partners in our firm that have worked on more than 30 CRM projects.  Are we artisans yet?  I don't know.  Perhaps our hair needs to get even more grey (or start falling out?).  I know I will be in this profession till I retire now.  It's the road I've taken.  It's the road my business partners have taken. 

Are you an artisan at your craft?  Is it about more than money at this point?  I know I LOVE my art at this point.

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A Brief History Of CRM

A Brief History Of CRM

From personal information managers to cloud-based enterprise CRM

PIM's

Most people's first contact with the predecessors to sales management systems are thru PIM's.  PIM is the acronym for personal information manager.  PIM's are what your Microsoft Outlook contacts listing is.  PIM's are what a lot of people came in contact with thru Lotus Notes for basic maintenance of contact information.  The concept here was that you moved your traditional rolodex of business cards into an electronic format.  PIM's generally contain simple information regarding your contacts.

Personal Sales Management Software

Maximizer, Goldmine, and ACT! software really took the PIM to the next level.  And, it seemed like self-motivated sales people, like Real Estate Agents, were really pushing this move.  All of a sudden there were these sales management systems that lived on individual laptops and PC's that, in addition to tracking basic personal information against contacts, would also track sales opportunities.  These systems were great for individuals, but their biggest flaw was that they didn't roll-up nicely for Management to view what was happening across all Sales Reps in their organizations.

Sales Management For The Enterprise

The objective of rolling up sales opportunities into one unified view in an efficient manner is what really drove the next phase of sales management software.  You soon had players like Pivotal, Onyx, and Siebel offering solutions that allowed Management to have a rolled up dashboard of what was happening in sales.  This did wonders for software and IT as it moved IT out of the backroom, where its' primary job was reducing costs, to the front room, where software and IT all of a sudden became a revenue generator.  The only problem was that these big sales management systems were expensive.  They were only being used by the big companies where implementations would, more times than not, cost upward of $1 million.

CRM For Everyone

The need for a CRM for mid-market organizations was ripe when Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Salesforce entered the market.  The need for sales management software that was applicable at an enterprise level and coming in at a price point in the 100's of thousands or 10's of thousands instead of one million was overwhelming.  And, besides the fact, Pivotal and Siebel seemed to have completely implemented CRM across the upper market.  And, as it is with technology, the functionality found in those larger CRM packages was slowly making its way into Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Salesforce; so much so, that the need for the larger players in the CRM market had been giving way to the mid market players in CRM.

Software, like everything else throughout history, is built on the backs of what came before it.  CRM is no different.

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When Was Your Last CRM Implementation About CRM?

When Was Your Last CRM Implementation About CRM?

CRM has always encompassed so much more than just sales management

CRM Projects Are Always More Than Just CRM

Ask yourself, "When was the last time your CRM project was about just traditional sales management?"  I have been implementing CRM for near 20 years now and I can count on one hand the number of projects I have done that were about traditional sales management.  There is always some component that involves customer management, but rarely a component of traditional sales management.

What Are The Boundaries Of CRM?

There are defined areas within organizations with well established software systems that are not CRM.  An example of this is accounting software for the accounting department.  Another example would be a content management system maintaining a company website; and, CRM is not a document management system with all the nuances of document management that we have all come to expect today.

But CRM Does Creep Into Other Traditional Software Arenas

CRM has definitely travelled a far distance from the traditional sales force management systems that they were originally meant to be.  I often find CRM systems replacing HR systems because of the flexibility they offer in configuration.  And, I have built CRM systems that are stakeholder management systems for mining companies, configuration systems for home improvement companies, legal project tracking for law firms, membership management systems for associations, foreign exchange management systems for the banking industry, and the list just goes on, and on, and on ...

What Departments Could You See Realizing Efficiencies With CRM?

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New Features in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015

New Features in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015

Highlights from an article in the Q1 2015 CRMUG Magazine (bibliography at end of this post).

Favourite New Features And Why

  • "The expansion of business rules so Users have more opportunities to avoid writing JavaScript is huge win.  Not many Users want to miss with that."
  • "The expanded server-side processing of Business Rules can also eliminate the need for plug-ins in some cases."
  • *"... a new preview feature on the tablet client for iOS and Android that allows frames and web resources to be used ... allows for a wide array of possibilities for integration with other line of business applications or mash-ups with other services"

What Users Will Love The Most

  • "There aren't as many clicks or back and forth in terms of the User interface ..."
  • "The simple act of putting the advanced find and access to the multi-entity search on the main navigation so that they can launch it from anywhere is very basic, but it's a very useful benefit ..."

What Won't Be As Popular Among Users, But Really, Just As Important

  • "Calculated fields and roll-up fields will allow Users to apply extended logic and calculations without the need to write accompanying code ... We used tho use plug-ins for this, but they weren't as flexible."

What Advice Can You Share ... About Upgrades To Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015

  • "Make sure any custom code is up to date, including all third-party solutions, before you start your upgrade."
  • "Be aware that solutions exported from a Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 environment won't import into Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015."
  • "Don't rush your upgrade over a weekend and expect to be up and running that Monday."

Bibliography

Lattimer, Jason, and Carsten Groth. "New Features in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015." Comp. CRMUG. CRMUG Magazine Apr. 2015: 14.

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Microsoft’s New Marketing Message

Microsoft’s New Marketing Message

Not an Advertising Company … Not a Hardware Company

“What We Are Not …”

Who started this new mantra or marketing meme that a company is “not something”.  I believe the first time I heard something like this it was from Apple taking a swing at Google.  In a Charlie Rose interview of September 15, 2014 (http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2014/09/15/apples-cook-your-data-is-not-our-business/), Tim Cook was very clear in stating that Apple is not in the business of trading its’ customer data.

Now, at Microsoft’s recent convergence event, Convergence 2015 (http://convergence.evo-td.com), the new CEO, Satya Nadella, stated in his opening keynote that Microsoft is not a marketing company and not in the business of making money selling hardware.  Instead, he wanted to emphasize that they are in the business of making great software and empowering people.  Now, I know, Microsoft has not had the best track record in the past little while for consumer sentiment around its’ software, but they continue to absolutely dominate the business workplace; and, IT purchasing decision makers in many businesses continue to purchase Microsoft software because they believe it is the right choice for their organization.

So, Apple is stating that they are not in the business of selling their customers’ data.  This is clearly a swipe at Google.  And that can be their differentiator in the marketplace.  And now Microsoft is saying it is not an advertising company and not in the business of selling hardware.  They are clearly taking a swipe at Google and at Apple.  And that is fine, that can be their differentiator.  We need Google’s retort now to these two messages, or perhaps they will not reply at all.  Regardless, we have Apple and Microsoft clearly stating their unique position and offering to the marketplace.

Has The New Mantra Been Effective

How do we define effective?  If effective is simply planting the thought in someone’s head with the intent of influencing that person’s thoughts on a particular subject, then Apple has been effective with their message to me.  I also believe that that message is being heard loud and clear by lots of other folks just like me.

Has Microsoft’s new message been effective?  Well, it is still too early to tell in my opinion.  I think Satya Nadella has to get that message out there more.  He needs to hound on the fact that their differentiator, their unique proposition to consumers of their products, is about empowering people with software and that is all.  He needs to show that they are focused on software and nothing else.  That message was clear when Bill Gates was at the helm of the ship, and now with Steve Ballmer gone Satya Nadella has the opportunity to reiterate this position in the marketplace.  I am withholding judgement on whether Microsoft’s new mantra will be effective because Satya Nadella needs to sell this position more.

What Is Your Unique Value Proposition In The Marketplace?

Does your company offering have a unique position in the marketplace?  Can you effectively state what you do well and how it is different from your competitors?  At Purely CRM our focus is on Microsoft CRM.  We wanted to differentiate ourselves by not being a company that takes on all facets of an IT project.  When you only have so much peanut butter and you start spreading it across the bread, that spread gets pretty thin when you try to cover everything.  Focus, focus, focus.  That’s our position.  What is yours?

Tasks in Outlook versus CRM versus SharePoint

Why write this blog post?

Microsoft currently has a 51% worldwide market share of the business email and collaboration market according to the Radicati Group; and, I would be willing to wager that the percentage is much, much higher in the North American market.  As consultant, I am in and out of many different organizations that use Microsoft products and I am often asked how tasks in Outlook work in conjunction with tasks in SharePoint.  And as I do Microsoft Dynamics CRM implementations, I am also asked whether tasks should be held in SharePoint or CRM on projects.  So, I decided to hunker down and write a quick blog post on the differences, similarities, and when & where Outlook, SharePoint, and/or CRM should hold tasks.

What is Outlook good at?

Lets first look at what tasks in Outlook are good for.  To do this, I want to start from the premise the Microsoft Outlook is a PIM (I.e., a personal information manager).  Since Outlook is a PIM which organizes your email, tasks, contacts, and appointments, it is used by many people to manage their personal tasks.  Now since most businesses use Outlook for their employees in the office, many employees mix and mingle their personal email, tasks, contacts, and appointments with work email, tasks, contacts, and appointments.  So, Outlook is good at taking care of both the basics of personal and the basics of business task management.

What is SharePoint good at?

SharePoint is Microsoft’s entry into the collaborations and document management arena thru a customizable web application platform.  One of the items that SharePoint allows placed onto its’ customized collaborative work areas are “task list” components that hold tasks.  These “tasks” are contextual in terms that they are in reference to the collaborative work area they have been placed under.  In addition to being in context of the collaborative work area they are under, additional custom field (I.e., meta data) can be placed against tasks to store additional items against each task.

What is Microsoft Dynamics CRM good at?

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a customizable customer relationship management system.  It is a CRM system that essentially provides an organization with a rapid database development tool with a pre-defined set of tables for sales, marketing, and customer service.  When companies get Microsoft Dynamics CRM and start to gain proficiency with it, they soon realize that getting this product is like obtaining a big box of lego.  One of the sets within this lego box is task management.  Task management is stand alone, but can be made relational to any of the other bits of sales, marketing, customer service, and customized work that is found in the system.

Synchronization options

Outlook and CRM

Outlook and CRM offers native two-way integration with the addition of the “CRM for Outlook Add-In” into Outlook and a setting of the synchronization filters in CRM.  If someone chooses to “track” a task from Outlook into CRM, they would simply click a button in the ribbon of their Outlook.  CRM creates a copy of the task and places it into CRM where it still remains connected to the task in Outlook.  So, if the task is updated in CRM, it would be updated in Outlook as well, and vice versa.  And since Outlook is found on peoples’ phones and tablets, the task is synchronized two-ways here as well.  Going the other direction, from CRM to Outlook, tasks created in CRM automatically get pulled into Outlook with synchronization filter settings.  A typical synchronization filter setting would be to pull in all the tasks that where assigned to you.

Outlook and SharePoint

SharePoint 2013 and Exchange Server 2013 now allow for task aggregation in SharePoint and then a choice to synchronize these tasks with the user’s Outlook.  The flow here is from tasks that are initiated in SharePoint.  There is a limitation that tasks created in Outlook have no out-of-the-box solution to synchronize with SharePoint; however, tasks that are in Outlook as a result of being synchronized from SharePoint can be updated in Outlook and those changes will be reflected in SharePoint.  And again, because Outlook is synchronized with users’ phones and tablets, we have synchronization occurring across phones, tables, Outlook on the desktop, and SharePoint.

CRM and SharePoint

At this point in time, there is no out-of-the-box functionality provided by Microsoft that would synchronize tasks across CRM and SharePoint without the use of Outlook.  Outlook must be used as the intermediary.

Conclusion

In all my time consulting at various companies across North America and Europe, I have not seen many instances where employees actually use tasks within Outlook.  However, tasks in CRM and SharePoint are often used.  The advantage of the tasks in CRM and SharePoint over the native Outlook tasks is that the tasks are held in context (I.e., the task is found in a particular collaborative project site where it is relevant or against a particular business entity in CRM that it is relevant, like against a sale).

What I have found, though, is that when people get used to using tasks in CRM and SharePoint they soon would like them also showing up on their phones and tablets; and, for this to occur it is probably most logical that we use Outlook as the intermediary or build some custom mobile solution to view the tasks.

So, my final conclusion is that it depends on the job you have in mind on whether the tasks should live in SharePoint or CRM.  Keep the tasks in context of what you have to do.  And if the users insist on having the tasks show on their mobile devices, then weigh the pros and cons of using Outlook or building a custom mobile solution.