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Popping the Bubble – Collaborative CRM December 4, 2015

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in CRM, IOT, Microsoft CRM 2016.
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In 2000 I attended a presentation by Wolfgang Grulke who at that time was billing himself as a “futurist”. He had just published a book called 10 Lessons from the Future. He commanded a presence on the stage, was an inspirational speaker and it was riveting stuff, however when he said “In the very near future you will be able to do banking and buy things using your phone” there were audible sighs from some of my banking colleagues who all thought he was barking mad.

I recently re-read the book and indeed he was extremely forward thinking. Sometimes we forget that some of the technology that we just use and take for granted just was not there a few years ago.

With the release of Microsoft CRM this week, brimming with lots of new functionality I thought it might be fun to put on a set of futurist glasses and like Wolfgang pop the bubble of convention and take a view of just one little aspect of where CRM may take us in the future.

I call it Collaborative CRM.

Imagine companies working together and using a common CRM system to serve the customer better. A paint company and a paintbrush manufacturer have the same customer base. This would require collaborative data, synergistic processes however it is infinitely doable.

Couple this to visual monitoring of shoppers, cameras at various levels in the store monitoring your every move all aimed at effectively predicting shopping patterns, and GPS data understanding your location. This is where big data, meets visual cue inputs, predictive analysis, sophisticated integration, the fabled IOT and a high degree of data science.

I suspect that the ability to remain anonymous as a shopper will slowly disappear as has cash in many societies where all transactions are mostly electronic. Therefore if I go back to my initial point about the sharing of data consider this scenario:

If the Bank, the mall owners, the stores within the mall, your mobile provider, the service company who services your tools and the GPS in your car are all sharing data on a common CRM platform, they will know where you are, how much money you have to spend, what you normally like buying, when you last bought specific products and they can effectively market to you using customised content.

Customised Content; It could work like this, you make use of voice recognition (Cortana) at store level as you enter the store ask your phone or a digital sales assistant robot where the product is and a small hovering drone quadcopter displaying your name on a led display leads you to the shelf where the products can be found and to a personalised display based on detailed analysis of your previous purchases and what you have asked for on this occasion.

Therefore for example if last time you had bought an electric drill and are now looking for a concrete drill bit, a personalised video shows up on a small screen on the shelf giving the benefits between different types of masonry bits.

This video is optimised for your vision as the system knows that you are short sighted and recently purchased bi-focal glasses from an optician in the mall.

The system has also seen that you spent a few minutes looking at a chainsaw on the way out, the data knows that you have a hedge as you previously bought a hedge trimmer, and recently had it serviced where it showed a high degree of wear and tear in a short space of time. Effectively the system could determine that this hedge really needs cutting with a chainsaw, a local store demonstrator turns up at your house to do a demo.

The product he brings with him is the one that you picked up in the store.

The system is also aware that you are not shopping with your partner, and that your buying patterns are completely different when you are out as a couple, and therefore the marketing approach is altered to cater for these circumstances.

All of this technology is here and available right now. Bolting it together into a comprehensive system is what is a little futuristic. I can hear a few dissenters among my readers, all probably thinking that I too am barking mad.



CRM used as a Data Cleaning Tool November 26, 2015

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in CRM, Management, Microsoft CRM 2015, Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
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There is often a lot of talk about poor data within CRM systems and sadly this tends to be the case in many instances. However it is possible to make use of the system itself as a mechanism to assist in data cleansing. It might sound anachronistic that bad data sitting in a system, can actually use that system to assist in cleansing the data, I will outline how this can be done. It is not quite a self-cleaning oven, not yet.

By the creation of Views, Special Advanced Find’s, Business Process flows and by adding “Data Cleansed” fields to various forms and by monitoring these elements, Microsoft Dynamics CRM can indeed assist in the cleaning of data.


For example a view can be created that shows all customers with no Business Phone or Address. The criteria being all records where <field> “does not contain data”, and other filtering as necessary.

This view would facilitate a view for management on how many records still meet this negative criteria, and by keeping records one can manage how these numbers decrease on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

The same as is done for performance, you can create a chart from these views in a data cleaning dashboard. And unlike the performance chart, the objective is to see the graph shrink.


If a field is added to CRM for Account and Contact, which gets updated with a date once the record has been cleansed. It is possible to pull reports from the system showing the number of records updated over a specific period.

What is best in this scenario is for someone to validate that the record has been cleansed and is up to date by selecting a tick box field, this then becomes read only and also populates a date field and also records who performed the action.

A similar process can be undertaken on an annual basis where records are checked for completeness.

Targets can be set and this can be linked to incentives. Again special views get run on all records that have been classified as cleansed to ensure that the standards are being kept.

Once the system is live and all the data is clean, these fields can be removed from the forms if required.

Business Processes

You can create a business process that requires data to be collected, cleansed or otherwise updated. This business process will immediately alert you to the fact that the customer record is incomplete. Again some reporting can be effected on these processes.


You can create an advanced find, select every field that is on the form, and export to Excel, have a look at all the white space where there is no data. You can then populate the Worksheet and reimport this back to CRM

The functionality of Excel to copy down data can also be used, especially where you may have multiple contacts at an account record and the addresses are incomplete, export them all, and copy down the addresses and other static data and reimport.

Address Validation Software

Address validation software where postcodes and complete addresses can be sourced from databases can be used to populate the CRM system. Although there is normally a cost involved in implementing one of these tools and they generally require some integration and setup, the results are very powerful and once implemented you can inspect and update existing records, and ensure that new records address details are always accurate and up to date.

More importantly someone needs to be made custodian of the data and be held responsible for its accuracy and completeness. This needs to be at executive or senior management level.



Change Management for CRM Implementations November 20, 2015

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in Change Management, Management, Microsoft CRM, Microsoft CRM 2016, Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
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In the last few weeks I have again been reminded that as CRM 2016 nears there is a huge amount of technical and application related tweets, blogs and other postings filling the airwaves, the list of the new features in Microsoft Dynamics 2016 is staggering.

And meanwhile back on the front line some companies may be struggling with the reality that the introduction of any new system, technology or process involves change. It is evident that some of the new functionality if embraced, will require a level of change.

In order to illustrate the impact of change I will just highlight one feature out of the current Microsoft Dynamics CRM offering and outline what change means just for this single context.

Consider for a moments the “Goals” functionality, this is a very powerful and sophisticated toolset that sells easily to higher management, where the reality for the implementers and users is that the introduction of this functionality is likely to involve some considerable change in the day to day operation of the business.

For example once the functionality has been implemented there will be the capability to showcase total visibility as to the Target and Actual, for any number of metrics that can now be measured. And as we all well know from management 101, “If you can’t measure it, it is hard to manage it”.

However to implement this functionality encapsulates a lot more than just this measurement. For example In order to have targets for phone calls and appointments set in goals, it would also mean that the users have to create, complete and then close those appointments and phone calls in the application. This could be another change to the current process, accompanied by a very real possibility that there may be a little resistance from the ranks at this change.

There are therefore many steps and logical machinations that require change management just for this one small single aspect of the system, and if as is the usual case the implementation is using many more of the wonderful elements of functionality within the Microsoft CRM system there is scope for change management for each and every one of these, there is a ripple effect right across the business.

You really can’t address this with a blanket statement “There will be change” and expect that everyone will rally around on day one and gladly embrace all of the changes.

So what can be done? There is no magic wand, however when organisations are undergoing rapid and considerable change either by the introduction of new systems and processes or even as the result of takeovers and acquisitions some form of change management fundamentals need to be implemented, these can range from the appointment of a Change Management Officer, through to some adequate training for the project managers and administrators who will be implementing the new systems or processes. The overarching element is communication, something you need to be really good at, if you are driving any form of change.

This is a training issue, a management issue and ultimately a corporate responsibility issue, as the introduction of a new system may involve some considerable capital outlay the effect of which needs to be maximised and not wasted.

I think another look at the aviation industry is in order, an Airline introducing a new airliner will need to train the pilots to accept the changes in technology, however the cabin staff need to be trained on the emergency procedures for this aircraft, the ground staff, fuelling and loading cargo specialists need to be trained on the changes that are needed, the list just goes on and on. Everyone has to accept the changes, adapt and ensure that the new processes and procedures are in place. This program of change will be thought about, planned and executed, there is no time or place for non-compliance.

Unfortunately far too often I hear of systems being implemented without the requisite change management planning and even more disturbingly a lack of training. Both of these activities take time and have a cost, an investment that just needs to be made. So when I am on your project, expect to hear my change management chant regularly.

Customer service in Microsoft CRM 2016 November 12, 2015

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in CRM, Microsoft CRM 2016, service management.
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The release of CRM 2016 is imminent and there are lots of blogs, tweets and even a few really cool videos doing the rounds, however I would like to put into context one element of what all of these channels are telling us.

What is available with CRM 2016, is not just a token upgrade of the existing customer service module, there is a whole lot of new functionality and capabilities within the system.

To quote Bob Stutz from Microsoft “The way people interact with businesses has changed dramatically, and companies are looking for ways to respond.  A recent Customer 2020 report noted that by the end of this decade, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator — placing customer service at the epicenter of a company’s ability to deliver a consistent and intelligent engagement experience.”

So what has Microsoft actually done with the service module? It has put in place the tools and mechanisms to enable businesses to get a head start on this differentiator outlined above.

They have introduced something called the “Interactive Service Hub” this allows data to be presented logically, graphically and contextually. It no longer looks the same, it is vibrant, powerful and obvious.

The enhanced Unified Service Desk has had a makeover and now introduces a chat element, via Skype and Yammer, this in reality means the capability to interact directly with a customer from within the application. This is becoming more and more the norm today for customer service.

However if you look closely at what Bob has said, it’s all about customer service. Many organisations have their own internal help desks or functions where the customers they service are actually people within their own business. Consider for a moment an internal IT service desk, they need to raise tickets, action requests and meet SLA’s etc. this is what Microsoft Dynamics CRM can deliver.

Therefore it maybe is worth having another look at this new functionality, look at things from a different perspective and through some other lenses, consider that the customer may actually not be who you first thought it was.

Merging CRM Systems after Takeovers November 11, 2015

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in Uncategorized.
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Over my career I have had considerable first-hand experience with Takeovers, Mergers and Acquisitions. Having been involved in the maze of confusion that is often apparent during these sometimes turbulent times has made me reflect on what I consider the three most important elements that need attention when dealing with the CRM (Customer Relationship Systems) as part of the merger process.

Often the priority for this is lower than it should be, with obviously ERP and Payroll being most important, however I would contend that if left for too long, this inaction could be seen as a risk to the business.

(1.) Pick the Best System

Just because you are the acquirer does not necessarily mean that you have the best system. Look very closely at the two systems and select the best of breed, what will give the best results and when looking at the data. Where is the better data and data structures housed? Running the two systems side by side in the short term is also possible, however this should be curtailed as soon as possible. You also need to consider existing integrations and how this will impact the process of replacing or switching off a system.

(2.) Migrate all the relevant data – quickly

Takeovers are often synergistic and both systems will more than likely have details relating to the same customers, which is probably the reason you purchased or took over the business in the first place. There may be a considerable amount of contact and activity data that can be very valuable when amalgamated. Data migrations are often “hard” however this is one that should be undertaken. Take the pain and then interrogate this data. You will also find a level of duplication that is often not easy to discern, where company names are spelt differently in the two systems. BNZ in one system and Bank of New Zealand in another. It is important to get this cleaned up as soon as practical.

(3.) Consider the risk of data walking away

There are often personnel casualties with mergers and takeovers, sometimes rightsizing is undertaken and sometimes people just leave of their own accord. If these are client facing people, and if they have access to the CRM system, suitable strategies need to be enacted to ensure that the data integrity is not breached and that existing customers and prospects within these systems are contacted and appraised of the situation.

Remember this data is one of the assets that you would have paid for as part of the deal.


Planning for this should be high on your agenda during the planning phase of the acquisition, and I would also suggest that even if there is a CRM system in place that has fallen into disuse and is not being used effectively, that consideration is made to evaluate this system, as the static data may well be useful.

The Industrial Revolution and the Internet of Things IOT November 3, 2015

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in IOT, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Network Security.
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At the advent of the industrial revolution some very clever people started harnessing steam and electricity in the design of machines and industrial equipment that was to revolutionise the way that the world worked. We have not looked back and I would say that progress has continued unabated since these early days of steam.

When looked at today, some of these machines are truly amazing and of real inspirational design. As the industrial revolution picked up pace, innovations flowed across almost every facet of business life from looms for cloth making to printing presses and everything in between. Automation was delivered at a staggering pace.

There was one little problem however, the whole concept as we know it today of “health and safety” was not on the table, and many of these machines were capable of ripping your arm off if you got too close or made a simple mistake.

There is no doubt that very few of the machines from this era would be allowed to function today without some serious modifications.

I see a little parallel with the innovative developments in the area that is now termed “The Internet of things”, the “IOT”. The inspirational designers of today are creating the capability to connect and link things and systems together with spectacular results. My simple question for all of those connecting the accounting system to the toaster, have you taken into consideration security? Especially network security? I somehow suspect that the “No” answer will be forthcoming more often than not.

I work with and network together with a whole range of incredibly smart people, who I am sure if they had lived 175 years ago, would have spent their time inventing and designing sophisticated machines and automating the world. Their skill set is innovation and they are very very good at it, and for some of these folk security is a boring inconvenience as would have health and safety concerns in the 1800’s been to the innovators of the day.

The multiplier effect you need for security when you link two networks together is one thing, linking a whole menagerie of devices, networks, and systems together can become highly complex and requires the attention of network, device and system security specialists.

Think for just a moment about your new Smart TV, it is Internet ready and browser friendly, but has no real security, I appreciate that there is no hard drive (yet) on most, however once someone is on your network, or once you access a web page that has malicious intent, you are slightly exposed. This website spells it out in great detail. http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/smart-tvs-are-a-growing-security-risk-how-do-you-deal-with-this/ and remember this is just your TV.

I embrace the IOT fully, I think we are on a similar innovative path that our forefathers took and we are all going to be very surprised where this ends up in a few years. I do however think that I would check with my systems security specialists before I connect the CRM system to my electric blanket.

Enhanced Document Capabilities in the 2016 release of CRM October 29, 2015

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in CRM, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, OneDrive for Business, OneNote.
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The reality for many people working in a sales environment, especially where the products and services being sold are complex and highly sophisticated is that there is always a requirement to have documentation. For example product specifications, proposals, diagrams, price lists etc. To be really effective these documents need to be available to different people anywhere and anytime.

Within the upcoming release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 there is an increased capability to work with documents. To start with, a new templates functionality has been introduced to assist in creating documents directly in CRM using Microsoft Word.

What is even more exciting are the capabilities around storing and online collaboration of documents from within CRM directly to OneDrive for Business and Office 365. What is significant about this new capability is that users will be able to open these documents, proposals, view diagrams, presentations etc. from which ever device they access CRM and in the appropriate application. (Word, PowerPoint, Excel etc.) This additional capability augments the existing SharePoint functionality of CRM that has been available since CRM 2011. However this now adds a real mobility factor.

See: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/What-is-OneDrive-for-Business-187f90af-056f-47c0-9656-cc0ddca7fdc2

The integration to OneNote adds an additional dimension into the mix, in that source documents, notes and preliminary information is also synced, integrated and at your fingertips.


What is the real message?

Collaborative documents stored in a central location and accessible to all, is what it is all about. The contextual reality that the documents are linked to specific customers inside the CRM system, and can even relate to an actual contact means that the oft touted 360 degree view of the customer is now becoming a reality.

Another benefit with OneDrive for business is that it negates the situation where a multitude of different versions of documents are on different users computers at one time and where a definitive final version is often difficult to find. Another consideration is that as all documents are stored and accessible from within CRM, the requirement to have to make remote desktop connections to shared drives is no longer necessary to find and open shared documents.

There are so many more new capabilities that will be released with the latest version of CRM, I will be highlighting one of these each week.

Training Distractions May 25, 2015

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in CRM, Microsoft CRM, Microsoft CRM 2015, Training.
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In the last few weeks I have attended a training course and have also run a few small training courses. I am continually amazed by the capability of people to disengage and just start looking at their mobiles when someone is speaking, and for both the course I undertook and the courses I have given, individuals were also looking at personal items on their PC’s as well as business e-mails instead of listening to the lecturer and following the on screen activities.

I always ask participants to “please switch off your phones” however I am not in a position to order them to do so. The canny user switches it to vibrate, and then once they have received a message, tweet or other communication will surreptitiously have a look when they think I am not watching. There are some trainees that are worse than others and I just wonder how much they are actually comprehending from the training session. There are other offenders who just blatantly look at the device with no pretence about what they are doing.

Once they have read the e-mail, text message or social media posting, they cannot cognitively “Unsee” or “Unread” what they have read, and often the focus is gone. You can see it the eyes, they have disengaged.

We live in a world where people expect answers to e-mails and other messaging almost immediately, however that is what Out of Office was designed for, you can send a message stating that you are not available, if even for 3 or 4 hours. The same applies to the phone, it is very easy to change the voice mail, make it relevant for the day and inform the caller that you are not available.

As far as reading and monitoring social media pages. I can’t make any sensible suggestion other than to urge them to desist.

Some of the system training courses that I deliver involve the use of complex and sophisticated software and it is in the interest of the participant to try and understand as much as possible in the often abbreviated time that I am given to impart this knowledge due to budget constraints.

Many folk look at software in the same way that they look at Excel and Word, reasoning to themselves “This should be easy” and therefore are absorbing the very minimum of what they need to know in order to get by. But here is the gotcha; You don’t know what you don’t know, and if you don’t listen on the course or read the manual or view the online training material you may not be fully conversant with the functionality that you really need to understand.

The downside of all of this is sometimes the person who has been trained actually feels short-changed when after the allotted time they do not actually have the full understanding that they thought that they would. Sometimes the trainer gets it wrong the course is at fault, however the participants really have to ask themselves the question “Did I give a full 100% effort and understanding to this training course?”

Is a small one man business too small for a CRM system?? April 8, 2015

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in CRM, Microsoft CRM, Microsoft CRM 2015, Small Business.
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I recently bumped into an old friend who I have not seen for a number of years. He is now running a one man small business which is a change from his previous corporate life. Over a convivial dinner we discussed the challenges of running solo and he asked me if I thought there was any real benefit for him to use a CRM system.

He currently keeps all his contacts in Excel ,makes notes in Outlook, has only 20 to 30 customers and therefore feels that the use of a CRM system would be wasted. He does however admit that sometimes he forgets things.

To answer the question posed by the Blog, a lot depends on the type of one man business and the customer engagement model, as you should remember that the origin of Contact Management systems such as Goldmine and ACT were aimed at the one man Insurance agent and were very successful in the early 1990’s, even though they required software to be installed locally.

There certainly is scope for him to make use of a more formalised system. With the advent of Online CRM Software, for a relatively small monthly outlay he can gain access to a robust system which will easily handle the contact management fundamentals of his business. This is also ideal to have a process where long term follow up’s are recorded, as well as a history of every meeting with the customer. One needs to take a longer term view and be in a position to reengage with customers sometime in the future and at least have a reference point as to the last discussion, previous orders etc. If you only look at a CRM implementation in the “here and now” you may not see the longer term benefits.

Excel can over time become very unstructured and messy, with the resultant capability to lose or overwrite data and even just miss things that are essentially in lists.

My advice for him is to consider just using out of the box functionality, there is no real need or justification to customise the system in any way, and to just start using some of the really great functionality that is available from day one.

Good record keeping is always good.

The Origins of CRM part 2 (Sales Generator) November 25, 2014

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in Uncategorized.
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It was during the summer of 1984 (30 years ago) that the seeds for our first CRM system were borne, I was working for Kalamazoo Business Systems PLC and the idea was to supplement the manual Sales Reporting System that we sold with a computer based application.
It should be remembered that at the core Kalamazoo was a printing company and the one idea behind the system was that it would consume a large amount of printing, customer record cards, Call Reports and Activity reports etc. and keep feeding the monster.

The platform that was chosen was the Pick Operating System to run on a mini computer which was part of the deal http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pick_operating_system the system was built using a 4GL called System Builder. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SystemBuilder/SB%2B. In 1984 this was probably deemed a very good platform decision as at the time there was little else playing in the mini-computer space apart from IBM.

For the young ones out there, have a read about Pick, it was truly innovative and Dick Pick the inventor was a very very smart guy.

Our system was based around a customer record, with the notion of Opportunity and Activities (I can’t remember if we had a contact record as a separate table). The system would print out customer record cards onto specially prepared paper and there was also some customised call report forms that reps would complete and then hand in for data capture.
We were therefore capturing all activities undertaken with the customer broken down into calls and call categories such as Appointment, Cold Call, Planned Call, and then either a Discussion Quote or Order for a list of products and a range of other metrics which we used to capture on the manual call reports, see origin of CRM part 1.

We had the system linked to the Jet Word Processor http://www.countyhistorian.com/knol/mbasj7lzroyk-41-jet-word-processor.html and we had a true mail merge capability which when coupled to the Pick TCL (Terminal Control Language) SQL for the modern types, it was possible to select all customers of a particular type with specific activities etc. and mail merge the results into customised letters, remember folks this was 1984, there are some people today who struggle to do this with all the flashy tools at their disposal. We also had a connection to an early Spreadsheet for export of data.

This was a truly innovative idea for 1984 we called it “Sales Generator” and I remember we had some very flashy presentation folders, and some top of the line printed marketing material. I cannot trace any of it on the Internet today which is a real pity.
We were geared for success, ready for action on a number of continents (Kalamazoo was a truly world-wide company) and what happened………

Not a lot

When we hit the market around the middle of 1985, our target customers being medium to large corporates with big sales teams, we immediately ran into internal computer departments in these companies, these were generally a department called Electronic Data Processing and were run and controlled by the accountants. They all told their bosses that “This is easy stuff, we can build this ourselves”. So many doors were just closed in our faces long before we even got down to talking about price. When the sales approach went through the Sales or via Management the standard reaction was to ask internally for advice, and most were buoyed by their own teams saying that they could do it in house.

We sold a few, there were some companies out there that had the vision, understood that their own computer departments would never actually come up with anything as sophisticated and bit the bullet, however supporting only a handful of customers from the UK, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand was just not possible. Kalamazoo management at the time understandably just reached a decision that the plug had to be pulled and that was that, by March 1986 it was all over, even though we as a product team had on the table a design and prototype for a PC based version that would have run on the IBM PC and compatibles of the day.

Hindsight is such a precise science and I wonder today what we could have done differently. I believe that the resistance by accountants who held the computer purse strings was underestimated by all of us, surely they would have seen the potential return on investment that additional sales would have brought! Not a chance, not in the early 1980’s. All of the customers in our target market had computer departments, and the fact that they had not provided such an application internally was also a motivating factor for many of these people to try and sell their own management on the idea that they could create their own systems. They were the trusted, we were interlopers trying to sell something radical.

No one had done anything like this before, and I can remember pitches to large boardrooms full of grey haired executives who sat there stony faced as if we were talking about science fiction, the whole concept of retrieving data from a system and automatically putting this in a spreadsheet “Visicalc” was as probably foreign to them as things could get. Why would you do a mail merge when you had a perfectly good secretary to type letters? I think we were just too early and our own board then lost the faith jumped in and stopped it too soon.

I know that we had a really good offering, it was a true B2B CRM system, I am aware that one car rental company who implemented it became so efficient that they managed to end up buying up one of their competitors, and one of the executives from a company that sold earthmoving equipment told me years later that his directorship came about due to additional sales generated by the system while he was sales manager.

The model however is still a very interesting one, sales teams updated their call reports, handed them in and someone keyed them into the system, the sales manager was presented with a set of printed reports each week showing how effective or otherwise the sales team had been, and the system produced a list of calls for each rep each week telling them where to call and what was discussed last time. Sounds a little like CRM 2015, only the people doing the data capture has changed.

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