May 08, 2013
I am often asked as we are beginning a project, “What are some of the most common pitfalls in implementing CRM?” Or, “What do people typically underestimate in a large CRM deployment?” A number of possible answers may come to mind, but in my experience, the effort to cleanse and connect to enterprise data wins every time. Everyone has bad data. It’s the dirty little secret of enterprise systems. The one that IT guys are embarrassed to explain to upper management. Systems store data in different ways, laid out in deferent architectures. Some are legacy systems that have been around for years. Some for 20 or more years. Others are more current architectures, maybe with web services interfaces. But the underlying problem is the same in each. People key data with the constraints placed on them by the user interfaces and systems they interact with. And when people interact with systems, data is not clean.
March 29, 2013
Gartner recently revealed that CRM has emerged as the number one priority for application software spending in 2013 and 2014. Besides CRM, ERP and office productivity tools rounded out the top three. The fact that CRM has vaulted past ERP and is projected to drive IT enterprise investments in upcoming years makes sense for many reasons:
October 03, 2012
Accessing CRM from a mobile device is one one of the hottest topics in CRM today. In a previous blog post, I outlined four choices available today for using Microsoft CRM 2011 from a mobile device. I referenced three big trends in mobility that are affecting CRM mobile strategy today. A deeper dive into those trends is below.
1. CRM Users Expect More From Mobile Devices. Our information access options are growing. Since the introduction of the smartphone in the early 2000’s, we as mobile device users have rapidly increased our expectations about what we expect to be able to do away from the office computer.
- 2005: Early smartphone and mobile devices delivered texts, emails, and some awkward browsing. In 2005, your smartphone was a two-way voice communication device, but just a one-way data consumption device. Laptops were powerful and great for consuming and creating (MS Office, enterprise apps). Heavy-duty computing and analysis was still the domain of powerful desktops and servers.
- 2010: Consumer tablets take hold. Tablets, like smartphones, took off when they got really good at helping people consume data and media. EBooks were easy to read and movies easy to download. Laptops and desktops continued to get more powerful, but tablets really become the focus. iOS devices were popular for their perceived ease of use and quick startup times, but out-of-the box they were not ready for the enterprise because they were poor at helping people create the type of work product they expected. Third party app developers stepped in to fill the gap between hardware people liked and the work they needed to produce. (Currently, 4 of the top 5 business apps in the Apple App Store help people access and create MS Office compatible documents).
- 2012: Hybrids Surface. The gap between traditional consumer tablets and laptops is closing. Hybrid devices, such as the upcoming Microsoft Surface are giving users a light-weight, easy-on, and touch enabled device with the computing power of a laptop or desktop. I’m going to read the tea leaves here and predict that users will become less satisfied with trying to use a consumer tablet (and bolt-on business applications) to create work product. They tablet-laptop hybrid model should fill the gap between the devices users want the the work they need to do.
Notice the line is getting higher and flatter. We simply expect more computing power from any and every device we use.
So what does this have to do with CRM? Users today expect to be able to create from almost any device. They know they are limited by the real estate of a small, portable screen, but they expect two-way communication, mobile data entry and mobile content creation. Successful CRM solutions (those focused on productivity gains and user adoption) need to meet the consumption and creation expectations of their users.
2.User Experiences, Across All Forms, Become Unified. If user adoption is one of your key success indicators in a CRM project, then good UX design is going to be one of your best tools. Users are quick to adopt systems that look familiar and support the same conventions across channels. If CRM on my phone has different visual cues than the CRM on my desktop browser then I may be less likely to adopt. If the data architecture is different and results in different steps to access, then I may prefer one form over the other. Either way, more mental chatter is created on the way to get what I need from my system and I become further away from satisfied.
Windows 8 is a unified platform, meaning the same OS running the same apps across tablets, PCs, phones, etc. This creates a high comfort level among users who are looking for seamless experiences across devices. However, the real power of the Universal UX is not in the UI, but in the cloud. Since this new OS was built ‘from the cloud up’, you will be able to synchronize data across all devices. The things you create on your phone, and then tweak on your Surface are instantly available on your desktop system. The in-progress folder on your desktop is always available on your phone.
This approach is not being embraced by everyone. When asked about a tablet/laptop concept Apple’s Tim Cook famously quipped, “You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those aren’t going to be pleasing to the user”.
3. The “App Effect” Creates Demand for Small, Personal Experiences. The App Effect refers to a book that was published by Sogeti Group and focuses on the revolution in business, thinking and behavior that has taken place in the post-PC era. Apps in this context refer to application software written for mobile devices. The shortened name reflects the size of target device (mobile) and the scope of the software.
To illustrate, think about the problem of wanting to know a weather forecast. If you were on your laptop, you would type “weather” in Bing, choose a weather site and then (after you close a pop-up) you would have access to literally 1000’s of options of weather data. Then you would perform another search for a location and activity and you would get what you need. With a weather app, you simply open it and based on your location and previous activity, your forecast is displayed on your mobile device. Your app experience is personal, gives you exactly what you need and it is, by design, not the entire world of weather data.
“So much information enters our brain that it becomes paralyzed, so to speak, and any kind of stimulus to take action can no longer penetrate. From combat situations, we know that an overload of new signals can paralyze the executive function,” notes the authors of The App Effect (p. 43). The answer to information overload is guided process via apps. Some of our most successful stories around mobile CRM are where we designed an app for a pre-defined, line of business process. The app displayed only relevant data from CRM and guided users through on-boarding steps. The platform was CRM, but the user experience was small, personal and exactly what they needed to get their job done.
July 12, 2012
The 2012 version of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference is wrapping-up in Toronto today. Below are some numbers collected during the sessions that speak not only to the sheer size of the Microsoft user base, but to the momentum of emerging technologies and a new emphasis on design.
1,300,000,000: Number of Windows users on the planet.
1,000,000,000 : Number of Office users worldwide.
630,000,000: Number of Windows 7 licenses sold to date, making it the best selling OS in Microsoft history.
357,000,000: Projected number of new Windows PCs to be sold in the next 12 months.
250,000,000: Number of Skype users every month. They average 100 minutes per month using the product.
80,000,000: Current users of Microsoft’s online business products, including Dynamics CRM and Office 365
55,000: Microsoft partners selling cloud products in a given month.
497: Security vulnerabilities that Secunia discovered from Oracle in this report. Apple had 360, Google had 324. Microsoft was best in class with just 231.
82: Inches across of Perceptive Pixels large-scale, unlimited multi-touch device (right). Microsoft announced that they would be acquiring Perceptive Pixel. The move is consistent with their recent move into hardware manufacturing.
80: Percent of small and medium-sized businesses buying cloud services that are new to Microsoft. “It’s a massive opportunity for us to engage and reach out to new customers,” said Vahe Torossian, Microsoft’s corporate VP of SMS
44: Number of Microsoft retail stores by mid-2013.
30-40: Percent growth of Microsoft Dynamics CRM on a per annum basis.
15: Years. As in the anniversary of Windows XP on April 8, 2014. “And then we are going to put it to sleep. May it rest in peace,” Kevin Turner.
12: Number of times Yammer was mentioned in the opening keynote.
12: Months. As in “Every product in our portfolio is being refreshed in a 12 month period.” Kevin Turner.
3.04: Multiple that Steve Ballmer has increased annual revenue since taking over 12 years ago. Revenue in 2000 was $23 billion; $70 billion in 2011. Not bad for a ‘lost decade’.
4: Recent Microsoft “successes'” as recounted by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. They were Xbox, Surface, Kinect and Windows Phone. While the Microsoft world was focused on the WPC in Toronto this week, the Woz took some time this week at a technology conference in Chile to praise Microsoft for their recent innovations (right). “They have such a strikingly good visual appearance, which is a lot of what Steve Jobs always looked for; the art in technology, the convergence of art and technology. And usually it was visual appearance of things. So I made a joke that Steve Jobs came back reincarnated at Microsoft.”
1: US-based Microsoft CRM Partners that were named finalist for Microsoft Dynamics Financial Services Industry Partner of the Year. (It was Customer Effective, FYI).
January 25, 2012
Over the past few years, the financial services sector has experienced extraordinary change due to shrinking margins, mounting global competition, and increasing regulatory scrutiny. Even prior to these challenges, many firms were hindered by an unmanageable and inefficient legacy infrastructure consisting of disjointed business processes and multiple non-integrated applications. In such an evolving marketplace, financial institutions must focus on core competencies and waste-cutting without sacrificing the need to innovate and adapt. As they desperately seek out cost-effective technology solutions that can streamline their operations and offer them greater agility, flexibility, scalability, and real-time data, many firms are now turning to cloud computing.
January 18, 2012
Back to Part 1... Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Standalone on VirtualBox Part 1
2: Add the ASP.NET role service:
Install CRM 2011
Great! We are ready to finish and fulfill our goal. From the host machine unmount the SQL Server 2008 R2 and mount the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Server 2011. When you mount Microsoft Dynamics CRM Server 2011 from the host machine go to CRMDEMO2011 and run the splash.exe from the ‘D:’ drive.
One of the best approaches to learn CRM is to have a sandbox. A lot of recommendations out there suggest having your IT administrator provide you with a CRM sandbox to play in. That is fine and is surely a good idea, but personally creating a sandbox will certainly give you the satisfaction of getting your hands dirty and will give you a little respect with your colleagues. So here we are going to look at getting a basic MS CRM 2011 up and running with Oracle’s VirtualBox.
August 23, 2011
Sales teams that consistently increase annual revenues to exceed quotas and expand market share spend more time on client-facing communications and selling activities rather than organizing and searching for data or manually calculating forecasting figures for potential deals. This summer, Peter Ostrow of Aberdeen released a new report entitled “Chance Favors the Prepared Mind – Understanding the Science of Sales Intelligence” that echoes this sentiment in many cases. Key findings of the research related to CRM include the following:
- Only roughly 20% of top-tier companies have achieved strong sales performance without the utilization of CRM.
- 100% of sales reps with Best-in-Class outfits spend less than half their day searching for data on clients and prospects; a much lower 76% of sales reps at Laggards can say the same.
- 81% of Best-in-Class companies leverage systems offering sales analytics and forecasting functionality; a mere 34% of Laggard firms claim to do so as well.
- 75% of Best-in-Class firms currently or intend to integrate a sales intelligence solution with their CRM system; only 58% of Laggard firms fall into this category.
Aberdeen’s survey results demonstrate that a strong enabler of sales performance is to have a centralized CRM data repository, such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, that is easily accessible by Sales, Marketing, and Executive Management personnel. As all critical information on prospects, clients, accounts, and sales opportunities is stored and updated in a single place within CRM, sales reps can easily reference, mine, and segment the database to pinpoint lucrative up-sell and cross-sell opportunities, track deal competitors, produce quotes, and record any customer call history, meeting notes, and email correspondence throughout the sales cycle. Also, sales reps can instantly monitor their progress in relation to user or team-defined sales goals and analytics. Moreover, Sales Management can pull up real-time sales performance and sales activity dashboards and in-line visual charts by rep, team, region, or the entire firm. Estimated revenue, close probability, and close dates can be reviewed for accuracy. Likewise, sales pipeline building efforts can be scrutinized to ensure consistent sales production by the team and to eliminate potential future lulls or valleys over the course of the year. Furthermore, sales and marketing teams can collaborate more closely as marketing campaigns, lead sources, and trade show activities can be recorded, tracked, and ranked based on revenue generating effectiveness. Having such business development and strategic partner insights available within CRM will benefit the firm because sales and marketing departments can focus on becoming more tightly aligned with their most profitable lead generation and referral sources.
Additionally, Aberdeen indicates that Best-in-Class organizations constantly deploy and rely on business and sales intelligence tools. Sales intelligence applications used in conjunction with CRM help sales reps have a deeper knowledge of their market, region, and clients. In particular, social media aggregators can provide sales reps with the latest news on company financials, expanding offices, strategic initiatives, executive hiring/turnover, org structure realignments, competitors, and industry trends. The incorporation of breaking news and social media profiles on key account contacts results in sales professionals being more prepared for their next sales presentation with senior decision makers. As sales reps have more background on their prospects, they should be able to have more productive conversations that result in an accelerated sales cycle and more closed deals.
In conclusion, in order to achieve optimal sales performance and to maximize sales rep productivity, it is essential to arm sales reps with a flexible and scalable enterprise-wide CRM Sales/Marketing/Service suite that includes sales analytics and sales intelligence tools, such as the powerful CRM 2011 solution.
June 23, 2011
Last month, the Aberdeen Group published a research report entitled “Creating a Complete Customer View: Best Practices in Master Data Management.” In one section of the report, Aberdeen cited the following top business drivers for why firms with greater than $50 million in annual revenues absolutely must achieve master data management and a 360-degree view of their clients:
- “Need to improve customer experience”
- “Customers demand better service”
- “Activities of all customer-facing groups unaligned with business goals”
- “Insufficient share of customers’ wallet”
- “Lack of product differentiation requires more emphasis on service”
For the aforementioned reasons and pressures, Aberdeen’s research asserts that Best-in-Class organizations invest heavily in integrated technology solutions, such as CRM and ERP. In particular, CRM enables companies to create the highly coveted complete view of their customers that captures all prior and upcoming interactions and the overall health of the account relationship. With the use of a CRM tool, internal executive stakeholders can monitor summary dashboards of key performance indicators, while client-facing personnel throughout sales, marketing, and customer service departments can immediately access and drill down into more detailed information concerning the accounts they are targeting and servicing. All layers of the organization can leverage a CRM system to attain more insights on customer and prospect needs, preferences, tendencies, and purchasing behavior. As a result of now having this newfound deeper understanding of new leads, qualified prospects, and longstanding valued clients, it should become much easier to close and onboard new business, cultivate relationships, and preserve existing accounts.
Aberdeen’s research also demonstrates that Best-in-Class organizations with a 360-degree view of their book of business have a distinct competitive advantage over their competitors in the Industry Average and Laggards categories. The chart below that I have created using some of Aberdeen’s findings reveals that Best-in-Class firms definitely experience higher customer retention and satisfaction levels. Furthermore, compared to the competition, Best-in-Class firms spend less of their time searching for customer data. Lastly, the Year over Year Net Client Value for Best-in-Class firms increases, while it actually decreases for Average and Laggard firms who rely on siloed systems, thereby having to constantly jump from one application to another to find answers, often in a very inefficient and inconsistent manner.
Source: Aberdeen Group “Creating a Complete Customer View: Best Practices in Master Data Management, May 2011
Firms looking to attain a 360-degree view of their customers should consider investing in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011. It is a centralized, enterprise-wide CRM solution that offers robust salesforce, marketing, and service automation along with personalized flexibility and intuitive point-and-click customization capabilities. Tightly integrated with and operating directly within a user’s Microsoft Outlook application, CRM 2011 resembles the look and layout of other popular and familiar Microsoft Office products, thus increasing user productivity, response times, and the likelihood of user adoption and implementation success. Additionally, as previously noted here on the Customer Effective Blog, the utilization of CRM 2011 as a central repository is an effective way to optimize integrations and capture data from multiple disconnected systems.
Please visit www.customereffective.com to further explore how Customer Effective’s proven CRM implementation expertise can help your firm meet its strategic objectives and achieve Best-in-Class performance.
April 08, 2011
Social selling has arisen as the word du jour in the sales industry, and its prevalence amongst successful sales representatives suggests that social selling is more than just a trendy buzzword. Seventy-nine percent of global companies use Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube in their sales teams, and Forrester Research estimates that firms will spend $716 million on social media in 2011. So, if social selling is here to stay, what should your sales department do to stay up to speed with the social selling craze?
The most important, and often most perplexing, aspect of social selling is its definition. While millions of business people connect with professional acquaintances through LinkedIn and Twitter every day, they do not all recognize that they are social sellers. In a recent study, advertising powerhouse OgilvyOne learned that while forty-nine percent of salespeople think social media is important to their success, only nine percent of US salespeople feel their companies have adequately trained them to use social media to increase their sales success. This vast disconnect lies in the reluctance of sales leaders to label their sales strategy as social media based. However, chances are that if ninety percent of your sales representatives research their prospects’ social media presence at any point during the sales cycle, your team has embraced social selling. Whether or not a sales team terms their selling approach as social, sales representatives who recognize that they can use social media to learn everything they ever wanted to know about their prospects – without even picking up the phone – have mastered the art of social selling.
Deciding which social media tools to engage with can also confuse sales teams. Millions of bloggers post opinions and intelligence on just about everything – every day. As of January 1, 2011, Twitter users were tweeting 110 million tweets per day. With so much traffic to popular social media sites, such as Twitter, it is a no-brainer that you will find your customers and prospects through social media. The challenge lies in determining the relevant social media sources amongst the millions of impertinent ones. Sales representatives that get the importance of social selling can spend hours sorting through hundreds of sources every day to find the one gold coin that will help them win a deal. Which brings us to the next social selling challenge: finding the right platform to enable your success with social selling.
Social selling can be as simple as following a customer on LinkedIn, but the most successful salespeople fully integrate all relevant social media with every aspect of their sales cycle. Sales intelligence applications, such as InsideView, bring social media into Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 so sales people can incorporate social media into their existing sales pipelines. When social media integrates into your sales pipeline, you don’t have to open twelve separate tabs to show LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google Alerts, company blogs, etc. Social selling becomes a lot less elusive when you can practice it with every lead, every prospect, and every customer.
Besides bringing in real-time content from social media sites, InsideView also triangulates and aggregates company and executive contact information from leading and more traditional data sources, such as Capital IQ (a Standard & Poor’s company), Thomson Reuters, Jigsaw, Cortera, and NetProspex. As seen below, core company data, including Revenues, # of Employees, Industry, business description, and org structures, are accessible within Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 along with social media profiles and recent tweets of key contacts and decision makers. Constantly receiving these compelling prospect and client insights directly within CRM 2011 in such an organized and timely fashion will definitely increase your sales productivity and accelerate your sales cycle.
Brad Wilson, the General Manager of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, further comments on InsideView for Sales and the strategic partnership with Microsoft:
“InsideView for Sales is a great addition to Microsoft Dynamics CRM. InsideView for Sales provides an entryway to the social Web and empowers sales and organizations to gain valuable insight from a wide range of information sources beyond data contained in Dynamics CRM. As a partner, InsideView complements our mission of enabling businesses to find, win, and grow profitable customer relationships.”
--- Source: http://www.insideview.com
Additionally, InsideView, when used with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, gives you the added capability to bring social media intelligence right into your Outlook email. Sales reps can opt to receive daily emails containing the latest stories on highly coveted prospects, such as leadership changes, funding news, new product offerings, or expanding operations. In the example below, I opted to receive a daily email for one of my favorite companies, Nike. The email contains feeds on some new product offerings, a few announcements on new office and warehouse locations, and one story about an upcoming business challenge. Having this relevant, up to date information delivered to your inbox can certainly give you a better understanding of your prospects and give you an immediate edge on other sales reps.
For more information on how the use of InsideView’s sales intelligence solutions in conjunction with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 can help you find and close more deals, please visit www.insideview.com.
Lastly, special thanks to Lisa Fugere at InsideView for contributing content to this post and sharing her insights!
March 29, 2011
Recently, the Aberdeen Group published results from a November to December 2010 survey of sales management executives from a wide array of industries. The intent of Aberdeen’s study was to identify best practice methods and technologies utilized by the sales organizations of Best-in-Class firms, which are defined as the top 20% of all respondents in terms of aggregate performance. Key findings from Aberdeen’s report, which is entitled “Streamlining the Top of the Funnel: How Inside Sales Teams Source, Qualify, and Close Business,” include the following:
|Best-in-Class (Top 20%)||Laggards (Bottom 30%)|
Achievement of Annual Sales Goals by Inside Sales Reps
Year over Year Increase in Lead Conversion Rates
Year over Year Increase in Corporate Profit Margin
Aberdeen’s research shows that Best-in-Class sales divisions attain the aforementioned successful results because they share many defining characteristics, such as the following related to technology:
- 82% provide their inside sales producers with a CRM platform that integrates with email
- 73% track their performance with BI reporting and analytics
- 66% track their web visitors in real-time (key players in this space that integrate with CRM include CoreMotives and ClickDimensions)
One of the overriding themes throughout the report is that a properly-deployed CRM system is an essential enabler of strong performance, not just for inside sales reps, but also the whole sales team, and really the entire enterprise:
“Email-integrated CRM is the leading current Best-in-Class enabler, with more than four out of five top performers supporting it, while barely half of Laggards do so. By blending email with the most common of sales-oriented applications, inside sales reps are able to launch messaging directly from their CRM interface, and relevant stakeholders can quickly track the conversational history of each prospect and customer within the selling technology portal.”
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 certainly addresses a firm’s need for email-integrated CRM. As you can see in the screenshot below, Microsoft Dynamics CRM is embedded within Outlook.
Since users are already familiar and extremely comfortable with the look and feel of the native Outlook application, they will experience a significant reduction in the number of ALT-TAB clicks and have to switch less between systems. As a result, sales reps will increase their productivity and be better positioned to improve their sales effectiveness, and ultimately grow revenues.
To learn more about how CRM 2011’s new functionality and tight integration with Outlook can empower your sales team, optimize your sales efforts, and help achieve or maintain Best-in-Class status, you can click on this great post previously written on the Customer Effective blog.
March 25, 2011
Firms across the globe, regardless of company size, are trying to obtain a full 360° view of their customers by integrating multiple sources of data with a core CRM system. These organizations intend to enable employees to better understand their clientele and, in turn, allow them to win and acquire more business. These strategic objectives, however, cannot be achieved without accurate data. A recent December 2010 research brief from Experian QAS entitled “Improving Contact Data for CRM Users” elaborates on this theme and emphasizes the importance of having quality contact data. Experian QAS assists firms with their CRM data cleansing and governance strategy, specifically the arduous task of a large-scale contact and address data cleanup. Key findings from the study pertaining to U.S. organizations are highlighted below:
- 87% have a defined strategy for maintaining data quality
- 71% note that efficiency is the primary reason for sustaining contact data
- 53% cite client satisfaction as the top driver for focusing on contact data quality
Other critical research highlights that CRM practitioners may find quite concerning are as follows:
- 90% suspect that they possess inaccurate data on contacts and prospects
- 79% reveal that over the past three years, inaccurate data has caused at least one negative consequence in their business
- 73% are currently managing the quality of their data in some sort of manual fashion
- 56% report that the element of human error is the top reason for not trusting their data
Inaccurate data makes it extremely difficult for firms to better understand and improve customer and prospect relationships, streamline operational processes, and enhance business intelligence reporting, which are the most common reasons to execute a CRM strategic implementation in the first place. Incorrect data results in hampered sales and marketing performance, as users constantly have to scrub, cleanse, and massage their data. As they have to spend more time and effort on reconciling, users will probably become extremely frustrated. Moreover, executive management will lose faith in the accuracy and validity of the KPI reporting metrics found on the real-time dashboards and forecasts. All in all, users from top to bottom of the enterprise will unfortunately become less inclined to adopt the CRM system of choice.
To overcome these data management challenges and pitfalls, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 contains powerful functionality designed to help manage, control, and enrich customer data. Examples of this functionality are below, and can be found in CRM 2011 by going to Settings – System – Data Management.
Create system settings and rules to monitor, detect, and manage duplicate data found in any list of records or results from an Advanced Find search. This feature improves data integrity by preventing the creation of duplicates. It also provides a safeguard by alerting you of duplicates resulting from the import of data from another CRM system.
Examples of built-in out-of-the-box Duplicate Detection Rules are below.
Based on Advanced Find criteria or from a particular grid list view, you can edit or delete bulk records. Assuming you want to make the same change to multiple records, a single edit can be applied to all of the records in question, thereby saving precious time. Records containing inaccurate data or stale data that is no longer needed, such as old sample testing entries, can also be deleted in bulk. Doing so will preserve data quality and system storage space. This feature can also be run periodically.
In the case where different updates need to be made to different records, you can export data from CRM to Excel using the Export to Excel button. After making the necessary updates in Excel, you can then reimport the data back into CRM using the Import Data Wizard.
Users can create records in bulk by importing thousands of records, such as contacts or accounts, from other CRM systems into CRM 2011. The source data must be in a .csv file, .txt file, an XML Spreadsheet 2003 (.xml) file , or a compressed (.zip) file. Existing data maps for source records can be utilized or you can choose to create a new one. The import process runs in the background and, upon completion, import records are classified for review as successes or failures.
Maintaining data integrity is critical to the success of a CRM implementation. The plethora of Data Management tools in CRM 2011 enable firms to place more trust in the quality of their data. Since users can access their data more quickly and rely more on its accuracy, they are now better positioned to realize and leverage the full business value of the data, and respond more efficiently and effectively to client demands and market challenges and opportunities.
December 30, 2010
You have probably seen the latest Microsoft “To the Cloud” themed commercials and advertisements. This global marketing campaign focuses on the power of cloud computing in which IT capabilities are delivered as on-demand information, applications, and services in homes or offices via PCs, mobile devices, and entertainment consoles. In a recent Microsoft Partner presentation on “Cloud Power,” Microsoft cited some key statistics on the growth of cloud computing:
- 75% of IT managers reveal they are already utilizing or in the process of evaluating a cloud solution (IDC, June 2010).
- By the year 2012, 20% of businesses will own no IT assets (Gartner, Jan. 2010).
- The cloud computing industry will grow at about 27% annually, which is close to 6 times faster than the growth of traditional, on-premises IT. In 2014, cloud computing spending will reach $55 billion per year (IDC, June 2010).
Microsoft’s reliable, secure, and scalable cloud solutions enable IT departments to focus more on innovation, strategic product development, and the creation of better applications, rather than spending most of their time, resources, and budget on managing hardware and software and keeping existing systems up and running. Microsoft is one of the few firms with the vast financial resources and technical expertise to have a presence in all of three of the commonly-cited segments of the cloud:
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) - provides raw physical capacity to build and deploy public and private cloud servers, CPU, storage, memory, networking, and web hosting data center services (i.e. Windows Server and Hyper-V).
- Platform as a Service (PaaS) – an operating ecosystem that facilitates the creation, testing, and deployment of custom development applications (i.e. Windows Azure).
- Software as a Service (SaaS) - an on-demand subscription model that is the most common form of cloud computing today. The application and data are hosted by the software vendor, delivered over the Internet, and customers pay on a per-use basis (i.e. CRM Online and Office 365).
By leveraging Microsoft’s cloud hosting, application development, productivity, and collaboration tools, smaller and mid-sized businesses can immediately obtain the benefits of a larger infrastructure without having to deploy and administer it directly. Cloud computing enables firms to better optimize servers anywhere on the globe and access multiple data centers across different time zones, instead of buying additional capacity for a single location. Without having to invest in additional hardware, firms can add additional services on an as needed basis and scale elastically with the demand for peak loads and seasonal variations. Since platforms come online only when required, they do not lay idle and reduce computing power as in the traditional client/server data center model. Overall, Microsoft’s cloud services help firms improve business value and agility, increase time-to-market and upgrade frequency, and significantly lower capex and total cost of ownership.
Unlike other cloud solutions providers, Microsoft provides its customers with the flexibility and power of choice to allow them to use their technology on their own terms. Firms can move as much or as little as they want to the cloud. They can also choose between multiple deployment options at the initial roll out. In the case of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, for instance, firms can opt for an on-demand online hosted model or an on-premise software installation. There is certainly no “all-or-nothing" approach. As their needs change, firms can even switch from on-premise to on-demand or vice versa at any time in the future as their business needs change. No one is locked into their initial deployment selection. If firms prefer, they can even opt for a hybrid solution consisting of an on- and off-premises model.
Contact Customer Effective today to receive help on crafting a CRM strategy and roadmap to better navigate the Cloud with Microsoft technology.
December 09, 2010
Financial advisory firms, including large Wirehouse Brokerages, Independent Broker/Dealers, and Registered Investment Advisor firms (RIAs), are always clamoring for cutting-edge technology solutions that can help their advisors build more efficient and profitable practices. Investing in and offering sophisticated technology platforms can often help firms successfully recruit and retain top-tier reps and top-producing teams as well. The typical financial advisor workstation consists of a combination of the following software platforms: 1) a portfolio accounting and consolidated performance reporting system to track investment holdings, market values, transactions, and cost-basis, 2) a trade order management system for trade order entry, settlement, and rebalancing, 3) a financial planning engine to help with retirement planning via portfolio growth projections and hypothetical Monte Carlo simulations, 4) a client relationship management (CRM) system to track and manage client data, prospecting activity, and sales pipelines, 5) a compliance module to satisfy Know Your Customer (KYC), Anti-Money Laundering (AML), investor suitability, and trade fraud detection requirements, 6) an investment research tool for portfolio analytics, screening, and backtesting to aid in portfolio construction and risk management, and 7) a document storage solution to image, archive, and manage client documents. Merely offering some or all of the aforementioned platforms is not enough, though. Unfortunately, many of the currently available specialized software solutions designed for the advisor workstation only run as standalone applications and do not harmoniously work in sync. Since these legacy systems cannot exchange real-time data, advisors and their support teams must switch back and forth between platforms to manually input data twice, thereby wasting valuable time and opening themselves up to potential error. To truly gain an edge over the competition and to make their producers more efficient, financial advisory firms must eliminate disparate solutions and instead offer a tightly integrated technology environment.
An integrated advisor workstation provides many benefits to financial advisors. First, integration eliminates cumbersome, time-consuming re-keying of duplicate data between multiple systems, thus significantly reducing the risk of inaccurate data entries. With an integrated suite of solutions, data entered in one system will then automatically populate the others. Due to the newfound convenience of reduced data entry, advisors can now focus more of their precious time prospecting for new business. Now able to more effectively nurture relationships with their clients, advisors will be well-positioned to cement trust with their more profitable clients, win future large dollar opportunities, and receive more referrals to other high net worth individuals.
Additionally, advisor teams will now have more time and resources to better serve their existing client base. Moreover, advisors will be more prepared and better able to quickly respond to client inquiries and possible even turn them into sales discussions. For instance, suppose an advisor has been unsuccessfully trying for months to reach one of his C-level exec clients about a substantial IRA R/O opportunity and a forthcoming maturing CD. Then, out of the blue at 7am, the exec randomly calls just after the advisor has turned on his computer. If the advisor has to slowly fumble through multiple systems to address the busy exec’s question and give him a brief update on his portfolio, he will run out of time to engage in quality dialogue and ask for more business. It could be weeks, let alone months, before they speak again, and by that time, the funds may already have been invested with another financial institution. A better scenario for the advisor would be to immediately pull up the client’s name in a CRM system, such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM. From CRM, the advisor could then quickly glance at current opportunities, answer the exec’s question, provide him some insight on his investments, and schedule a portfolio review meeting. Without having to open up multiple systems, the advisor can view background info, opportunity detail, and portfolio holdings all from within his CRM system. Then, after the call, the client data from CRM could automatically populate an integrated financial planning engine to produce a proposal on how to better allocate the rollover and maturing CD funds. Next, the advisor could email the proposal to the exec and instantly store the email message and proposal documentation in CRM for future reference and follow up. Having a single comprehensive view of the client due to integration is a huge time saver and competitive advantage for financial advisors.
Findings from the Aite Group further support the case for integration. Their research indicates that advisors leveraging integrated technology spend close to 50% more time with clients compared to other advisors. Along those lines, Aite also found that there is a direct correlation between the level of technology integration and RIA firm size. For instance, their research shows that 91% of surveyed RIAs with assets under management of $100 million or greater have most or all of their systems integrated.
Without tightly integrated, configurable, and easy-to-customize business applications, financial advisors will not be able to provide an optimal level of client service and grow their book of business. Financial advisory firms must invest in integrated technology to enable their producers to be more efficient. As financial advisors spend less of their day on manual-intensive administrative work, risky data duplication, and onerous switching between multiple screens, they can commit more time to revenue-generating activities with high-growth clients and prospects.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM is one example of a cornerstone system containing an open, flexible architecture that can seamlessly integrate with not just other Microsoft applications, including Outlook, but also with other core 3rd party applications on the advisor workstation. Check out www.capitaleffective.com to learn more about how investing in Microsoft Dynamics CRM and integrated technology can produce significant dividends for financial advisors.
December 07, 2010
The other day, I received my monthly eNewsletter from my Financial Advisor. Personally, I enjoy receiving the eNewsletter because it is a non-intrusive, gentle reminder of the quality of services and expertise he and his firm provide. In particular, I like reading the informative articles and videos on current stock market trends and evolving regulatory reform. So I thought I would briefly write today about how an eNewsletter is an excellent medium and marketing tool for all companies to cost-effectively stay in front of clients in a non-threatening way.
If well-written, informative, interactive, personalized, and professionally designed, an eNewsletter can keep firms connected and visible to not only clients, but also prospects, partners, and professional referral sources. Through consistent delivery, an eNewsletter can build brand awareness to increase revenue opportunities, generate referrals, and strengthen customer loyalty and satisfaction. After receiving the eNewsletter multiple times on a regular basis, subscribers will more than likely think of that company when the need arises for them or for one of their friends, relatives, or colleagues.
So what should be in the eNewsletter? Contact info (phone, email, company website link) and a picture of the author should always be included. Also, contact info for co-workers should be listed if a team selling/service approach is utilized. Additionally, links for questions, feedback, and customer service should be easily viewable. Regardless of the industry, the content and links in the eNewsletter should be targeted towards key high-growth market segments. There should be a nice blend of promotional articles, educational commentaries, and videos that highlight upcoming events, new products/services, sales promotions, or rewards programs. Interactive polls on current events and buyer preferences can be added in the eNewsletter, too. Poll results should be available real-time and eventually officially tallied and relayed to subscribers in the next edition. Also, it never hurts to thank clients for their business and continued loyalty or to even include a few testimonials or case studies of clients who benefited from certain products or services. In addition, the eNewsletter can emphasize that client meetings and visits can be scheduled outside of standard office or store hours, if applicable. Moreover, be sure to abide with CAN-SPAM Act regulations, honor opt-out requests, and always check with the compliance department to determine appropriate messaging and required disclosures for the eNewsletter.
To set up and send out a monthly eNewsletter in CRM 2011, users can first set up a specific new “Monthly eNewsletter” template in the Settings-Templates area. Then, after following the instructions below, the eNewsletter can then be sent to active contacts.
Should the need arise for only a certain segment of contacts to receive the eNewsletter or any other promotional email, CRM 2011 also provides the ability to filter all contacts/accounts/leads to create a more targeted marketing list. In the case of a quick campaign, all contacts can be filtered to produce a marketing list that drives to whom the eNewsletter is then emailed. Alternatively, an eNewsletter can be incorporated into a more extensive full campaign, such as a new product launch that is going to occur in eight months. A diverse mix of marketing activities, including eNewsletter and other email blasts, outbound calls, mailing of product announcement fliers, webinars, and a global road show, can be targeted towards exclusive members of a custom-filtered client marketing list. All marketing activities and their corresponding costs, results, and responses can then be tracked, reported, and scrutinized directly within CRM.
To help CRM 2011 users further distinguish between when to use the direct email feature compared to the other available out of the box e-mail communication methods, I have included the table below from the 2011 Online Resource Center.
Yes (as an activity).
Yes (as an activity) -
Yes (as a campaign response).
Yes (as a campaign response).
Unsubscribe request tracking
Return on investment tracking
Yes. Return on investment (ROI) can be tracked based on the cost of the campaign and its activities. The Campaign Performance and Campaign Comparison reports can be used to track and compare ROI.
Automatically send e-mail messages
Use marketing lists for recipient selection
Attachment in e-mails
Yes (when using an e-mail template).
Yes (when using an e-mail template).
Firms sending eNewsletters directly from CRM out to thousands of recipients via their Exchange Server may experience severe performance issues, though. Besides possibly bogging down their Exchange and CRM Servers, the bulk eNewsletters that firms send out may be perceived as spam or phishing emails, and thus never get delivered. Furthermore, Exchange has no way of tracking whether or not the intended recipients received, opened, or read the eNewsletter, and if they clicked and focused on particular links. To overcome these potential challenges, Customer Effective often suggests that Microsoft Dynamics CRM users consider utilizing the services of CoreMotives, ExactTarget, or ClickDimensions, which offer automated email marketing solutions.
These interactive marketing experts use dedicated, high-powered, and scalable email servers that integrate directly with a firm’s Microsoft Dynamics CRM system, thereby eliminating the burden on a firm’s Exchange Server. By using email sender authentication, they help firms comply with CAN-SPAM rules, reduce email delivery barriers, avoid getting blacklisted, and come across as a trustworthy email publisher to increase delivery success rates. Moreover, they can produce professionally designed emails and eNewsletters and even track delivery, open, response, and bounce rates, which can then be recorded directly within CRM. Additionally, their web analytics and lead capture and ranking technology can monitor website traffic patterns, detect repeat website visitors, identify particular areas of interests based on links visited and documents downloaded, and ultimately rank the lead quality of the visitors.
Contact Customer Effective today to learn how we and our digital marketing partners can help you select and set up the appropriate eNewsletter or other e-marketing campaign/communication method in Microsoft Dynamics CRM to grow your business.
March 19, 2009
Today, Microsoft officially released Internet Explorer 8. There are many reasons to like IE8, including improved standards compliance, better performance, accelerators, and improved security; however, there are three things that CRM users should especially like about IE 8.
1. It is fully tested and supported. IE8 has undergone a rigorous 12 month beta, and Dynamics CRM was one of the key "test products" for the IE team when working through their validation and tests. The IE team and CRM team worked closely together to insure that Dynamics CRM worked with IE8, and IE 8 is now an officially supported browser for Dynamics CRM 4.0.
3. Color coded tabs. This is a major usability enhancement for Dynamics CRM. As any user of Dynamics CRM can attest, CRM can open many IE windows. For example, when you open up an Account, a new window is launched, then if you open an activity associated with the account, another window opens. Tabbed browsing in IE 7 helped get control of these windows by allowing users to have one IE window open with multiple tabs. However, one potential problem is that if you also have some other sites open, perhaps researching a potential customer on MSN Money, the CRM windows can get lost among all of your other sites.
Another issue arises if you work with multiple CRM environments. If you are a CRM configurator, it is not uncommon to be working in both a dev and prod environment. This was very difficult since if records from multiple environments were open, it was nearly impossible to identify which environments those records belonged to, without checking the URL of the window.
IE 8 solves these problems by grouping tabs from related sites together, and color coding them, so you will never mix up your CRM tabs with your Twitter tabs.
Here is a pretty extreme example of three CRM environments open in one IE 8 window:
Quote from Microsoft:
“We’re thrilled to have IE8 in market and released. During the past 12 months we have worked closely with the IE team and Dynamics CRM has been one of the key “test products” for the IE team when working through their validation and tests. During the process we naturally identified issues and resolution to those were vigorously pursued and implemented. At this point we only have 1 known issue and we’re happy to be able to state that IE8 is an officially supporter browser for Dynamics CRM 4.0. We expect the Implementation Guide to be updated in April 2009 to reflect this supported status for IE8.”
March 05, 2009
Earlier this year, Sanjay Jain with Microsoft coordinated CRM Incubation Week, which allows entrepreneurs the chance to work with a team of experts and design a solution using Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0, get advice from business leaders/investors/VC's, and get help with a marketing plan.
Week 1 was very popular, and received great coverage by many non-MS sources, such as Paul Greenburg. Given the current economic climate, this is a great opportunity for small companies to get some free assistance with building their business.
This is a good opportunity not only for someone looking to build a software solution to sell, but also for a company that is looking to rapidly develop a platform for their internal line of business use.
February 28, 2009
February 01, 2009
If you go over to the Microsoft Dynamics CRM forums on MSDN, you will notice that it looks different. Over the past few days they have migrated the forums to a new platform. The new forums have many improvements to the user experience that make it easier to search, organize and follow the forums and threads that interest you.
Some of the improvements that I noticed:
- It is much easier to filter the posts--there are a large number of threads every day, it can be overwhelming to make sense of them all. For example, if you just want to see the posts with no replies, you can just click the "No Replies" button.
- You can now mark posts as read when you read them, so you don't have to weed through the posts that you have already read.
- You can view the posts in a list, or switch to thread view, and see the posts and replies in a thread heirarchy
- All forums and threads are RSS enabled now, so if you find a thread especially interesting, you can subscribe to it in your RSS reader and follow it without having to log in to the forum.
- The rich text editor is much improved, and posts look the way you want them to. Also, you can preview your post, to make sure it looks the way that you want it to before posting.
- The new interface supports tagging of threads, making it easier for people to find relevant posts.
This is just my initial impression. I encourage every CRM user to check out the CRM forums.
December 26, 2008
Occasionally someone will ask me how to best stay informed when Microsoft releases new hotfixes and knowledge base articles for Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
From the web site:
What is kbAlertz.com?
kbAlertz.com is an e-mail notification system that scans the entire Microsoft Knowledge Base every night, and e-mails you when updates or additions are made to the technologies you subscribe to. Since we scan the entire knowledge base, we also have a pretty good search system for you to use on the left menu.
Subscribing is easy. Simply fill out your e-mail address and password below. Then, select the technologies that you're interested in. That's it. Now you'll be kept up to date when Microsoft publishes updates to your favorite technologies!!!
This is a fantastic, easy way to stay up-to-date every time that there is an kb article.
November 17, 2008
We thought that this upcoming event notice from Sanjay Jain at Microsoft was worth posting:
The current economic downturn is putting many entrepreneurs (startups and students) under increasing pressure, making it critical to find new resources and ways to reduce costs and inefficiencies. Microsoft Dynamics CRM Incubation Week is designed to offer following assistance to entrepreneurs.
· Learning and building next generation business solution on Microsoft Dynamics CRM Platform (a rapid application development platform to reduce the cost and Go-To-Market time) with help of on-site advisors (Microsoft Dynamics CRM experts).
· Getting entrepreneurs coaching from a panel of industry experts (academic and angel investors)
· Generating marketing buzz for their ideas
The 1st CRM Incubation Week is being held at Microsoft Technology Center, Reston, VA from Mon 12/15/2008 to Fri 12/19/2008. This event consists of ½ day of training, 3 ½ days of active prototype/development time, and a final day for packaging/finishing and reporting out to a panel of judges for various prizes.
October 10, 2008
Microsoft has released the BizTalk Adapter for CRM 4.0. This adapter allows users of BizTalk to
This is an updated adapter from the previous version, and it now supports 32 and 64 bit CRM installations, multi-tenancy, and forms authentication (IFD).
Thanks to Jim Glass for the heads up.
September 29, 2008
When deploying SharePoint, it is critical to plan for not only what you need now, but for how it will grow and scale down the road, especially when Document Management is involved. If you don't plan adequately for searchability, scalability, or disaster recovery, you can easily run into problems.
One criticism I have had of many SharePoint books is that they are written from a technical perspective and explain how to install and configure SharePoint, but they gloss over the critical planning stages or the best practices for scalability.
I've recently read a new book from the Microsoft Office SharePoint team called Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 Best Practices. As the name indicates, this book is a very thorough guide covering the best practices for planning, deploying, optimizing, and organizing SharePoint. This book is not necessarily intended to give you step-by-step instructions for installing SharePoint, but rather cover the full lifecycle of a SharePoint deployment and give you best practice recommendations. The layout and organization of the book is very logical, making it easy to quickly find what you are looking for. It covers both Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 and MOSS 2007. It is written to be accessible by anyone on a team evaluating or implementing SharePoint, or anyone who just wants to learn more about it.
The book is broken into the following sections:
Introduction--includes an overview of the various SharePoint Technologies, how to determine which you need, and how SharePoint will help your business.
Part I--Planning--This is not just about planning for the IT infrastructure, but more about planning for the impact that SharePoint will have on your organization, such as dealing with push-back from users after moving away from shared folders to SharePoint document libraries and breaking down departmental "information kingdoms."
Part II--Building--This section gets into best practices for building your environment, including content management strategies, the role of custom development, and dev and test environments, including replication of content between environments.
Part III--Deploying--This section has a great discussion about organizing your content and search/crawling strategy to optimize searchability for your content, security of content, business intelligence, and intranet/extranet/internet deployment scenarios.
Part IV--Operating--This section has great tips on availability, disaster recovery, capacity planning, and performance monitoring.
What I appreciated most about this book is it is very readable and does not include a lot of "fluff," just straight forward best practices. For example, in Chapter 8, the section on should SharePoint replace file servers is very straightforward about the limitation of SharePoint and when file servers should still be used.
If you are someone new to SharePoint or a System Administrator charged with deploying SharePoint, this book may leave you wanting more--it is not designed to be a how-to book; however, it does include many good recommendations for additional resources.
August 23, 2008
We have received news that Microsoft now officially supports CRM 4.0 and SQL Server 2008. Microsoft will be releasing a knowledge base article and a hotfix to fix some known issues within the next week or so. When you install CRM 4.0, it will download the updates required for SQL Server 2008.
The versions of SQL Server 2008 that are supported include:
• Express (When used with the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Client for Outlook with Offline Access and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Data Migration Manager)
The Workgroup version of SQL Server will not be supported.
May 16, 2008
You will want to download this update if you are running any of the following operating systems on the virtual or on the host (your PC):
Windows Server 2003 SP3
Windows XP SP3
Windows Vista SP1
Windows Server 2008
April 09, 2008
Applies to 3.0 and 4.0
What is the Indexing Service?
The Indexing Service is a Windows service that indexes files to improve search performance (see Wikipedia for detailed description).
Why does Microsoft CRM require Indexing Service?
Microsoft Dynamics CRM uses the indexing service to index the CRM help files. It is required to be installed and running on the CRM server, or on any clients running the Outlook client with offline access (formerly called "laptop client").
What's the problem?
In some cases, especially on the client, the indexing service can be a resource hog. I recently installed and configured the offline client on a brand new Windows XP laptop. Everything went ok; however, afterwards I noticed that system performance was extremely slow. After checking the task manager, I found that cisvc.exe (indexing service) was eating up 97% of CPU resources.
So what can be done about it?
There are several things that you can try if you experience this problem:
- Wait and see—wait a while to let the indexing service finish indexing the CRM help files. Reboot, and see if the problem persists. After the initial indexing of the CRM help files, the indexing service should use a very small amount of resources (unless another application is using the service and causing the problem).
- Uninstall the indexing service (under add/remove windows components) and reinstall it—in case the service is corrupted.
- Customize how often the Indexing Service is used on the workstation. Within Administrator Tools/ Computer Management, right-click the Indexing Service, navigate to All Tasks | Tune Performance, click the Customize radio button, click the Customize button, and adjust the slider(s) to the lowest setting. Then, reboot the workstation and monitor the performance of the Indexing Service.
- Since the indexing service is only used to index the CRM help files, you probably could disable the Indexing Service and your CRM client would probably work ok. However, this is not supported by Microsoft, so I would not recommend it.
In my case, the wait and see method worked for me. After the initial indexing was complete, the indexing service is now using <1% of cpu resources.
March 09, 2008
A CRM user reported that they have one user who is randomly losing appointments on his calendar.
Where we have seen this in the past, it is typically more of an Outlook/Exchange issue, rather than a CRM issue.
Microsoft KB article 899704 includes several common causes of calendar items disappearing. These issues affect all versions of Exchange and Outlook.
February 04, 2008
After installing the Outlook client for Microsoft CRM version 4.0, you notice messages piling up in the "Sync Issues" folder in Outlook as in the screenshot below:
This is caused by viewing a shared calendar. This was also a problem in version 3.0, but a hotfix was released for it. The only way I have found to keep the errors from piling up is to remove all shared calendars from your Outlook. Otherwise, this will lead to poor Outlook performance including delays when typing emails. To remove the shared calendars, first choose to work "offline" in Outlook:
Next, go to your "Calendar View" by selecting the Calendar Icon at the bottom of the left navigation menu. Finally, right+click on each shared calendar and choose "Delete Calendar". Note, you are only deleting the calendar from your local .OST file:
After deleting the calendars, you can choose to "Work Online" just as you chose "Work Offline". Empty the Sync Issues folder and it should stop filling up.
When a fix becomes available, I will post a link to it here.