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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.

Can you actually call on all your customers? October 30, 2014

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in Management, Microsoft CRM 2013, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Sales Management.
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Recently a customer of mine mentioned that with the roll out of CRM they were getting lots of data from the sales team to be imported to the new system. These are contacts and customers. The issue was that in some cases there were more than 500 names in the lists provided and the thinking was that they will never realistically call on all of these customers.

This got me thinking, I then created a small Excel model into which I categorised customers based on how often they need to be called on by percentage. Therefore 5% of the customers need to be called on twice a month etc. These numbers are sensible for organisations that continually get repeat business from their customers. This also takes into account the traditional 80:20 rule.

Twice a Month 5%

Once a month   15%

Once every 2 months    20%

Once every 3 months    25%

Once every 6 months    35%

If you apply this across a customer base the following is quite interesting:

To call on 100 customers using this model you will need to make 12 calls per week. 200 customers would be 25 calls a week and 500 would be 61 calls a week.

This does not take into consideration annual leave, illness, public holidays and other time away from front line selling and or prospecting for new business which ultimately bloats this number.

So therefore I wonder, how many of your customers are getting neglected because the sales team physically cannot get around to the them all?

My recommendation, do the numbers, count number of customers by owner in the CRM system and see if it is realistically possible that all the customers can get called on based on your own specific metrics, if not maybe some alternative strategies of telesales and nurture marketing could supplement the real time calls that are required.

Microsoft CRM Outlook Client is a game changer June 17, 2013

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in Management, Microsoft CRM, Microsoft Office, Polaris, Sales Management, Uncategorized.
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Microsoft CRM Outlook Client is a game changer

It was in 2006 that I attended a Microsoft sponsored business breakfast where I first saw a demo of the then CRM 3.0 with the Outlook Client. At the time I was so very much impressed with what I saw, that the very next day I took decisive action to join a Microsoft partner just to be part of this amazing journey that I perceived was coming. it is now 7 years later and I was not wrong.

As with the demo I saw that day, today I still think that when used properly the CRM Outlook Client is fantastic and makes using CRM just so easy and very very powerful.

There are however a few things that really stand out, and recently I met with an enthusiastic user who, even though he had been using this client for two years, was unaware of some of the features, So I am going to outline my top 5 features, the first three of which this user did not even know existed.

Many of the Outlook Client features are in fact pure Outlook or even Office functions and if used correctly can enhance CRM usability.

You may need to use Outlook or CRM help if you are not sure, or look up a You Tube video, as I am not giving a click by click step through on how to use these functions. I am just outlining the basics so you can go and explore.

1.  Reading Pane Advanced Actions

Just as you can use the reading pane on your e-mail, you can use this when looking at CRM views in Outlook. Once you open a reading pane, you can scroll down the view and the data will change contextually within the reading pane. The Customize Reading Pane button is where the real power is, it will allow you to add and remove sections from the record in the reading pane, as well as being able to sort and move the order of the data around. What this actually means is that you are able to build a view of a CRM form that is totally different to the view you would see when you open the record.

2. Quick Access Toolbar

This is a standard Office function that few people use, and if used with CRM it in effect allows you to have access to CRM items with one click from anywhere in Outlook. Right mouse click in free space on the ribbon and select the Customise Quick Access Toolbar. Once it is switched on, either above or below your ribbon you can then go to other areas of CRM and select menu items with a right mouse click and add them to the toolbar. I have accounts, contacts and leads on mine and no matter where I am in Outlook I can with one click create a new record. Obviously you can use this for standard Outlook and Office functionality as well.

If you add the CRM record icon to this view, you get the dropdown for all CRM Records. If you have everything that you use regularly, you can close the ribbon and get some more screen real estate.

3. Recent Visited Records

When you go to the left navigation pane of Outlook and look at CRM entities, if you right click once on any of these items, you will see a Recently Visited option, this then shows the recent records that you have viewed. This is a really fast way to navigate to those recent records.

This also works on custom entities and is very useful.

4. Conditional Formatting and Categories

This is one of my all-time favourite options. This is standard Outlook functionality, which if used correctly will allow you change the formatting of different views, and when working in tandem with Categories (you can make the colour of different rows within the view different based on the category or categories that you have added to the view). This really has a powerful application in CRM, in that it is easy to highlight information.

You need to go to a view, select the View Options and then Conditional Formatting. It is not quite as extensive as the condition formatting in Excel, but comes a good close second.

5. Filter

For those of you familiar with the Excel Filter, this is a similar tool and allows you the capability of looking at views of CRM Data that are filtered. Just click on the Filter button and you are away. As with Conditional Formatting it also works on custom entities.

It is not a ribbon button but is found at the top of the view, hence a few people miss it, however once you use it you can have your filtered records on screen with a customised reading pane and conditional formatting giving you a fantastic view of your data all with real context.

Give it a try I Dare you.

Asking Difficult Questions June 10, 2013

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in Management, Microsoft CRM, Sales Management, Training.
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The Board Report (Asking those difficult questions).

Some years ago I was involved in a CRM project for a Financial Institution, where the Microsoft CRM system we were implementing was to replace an existing legacy system. One of the primary requirements of the new system was that the reporting should replace the manual reporting that was currently in place for the monthly board report.

What they were doing at the time was taking information fom the existing system, supplementing this with data from some other places and eventually charts and tables were created in Excel all of which were incorporated into a weighty tome, beautifully printed and bound and then delivered to the executives on a monthly basis. I was told that the new auto generated Board Report should look identical to the manually created one.

As we needed to create these charts with SQL Server Reporting Services, I was very surprised to find that a number of the charts were identical, in one version the X Axis and Y Axis would represent the data, and then in another chart the axis’s were switched around but it was exactly the same chart with the same data. This was repeated with the tables.

When I queried this I was told, that this is the way it has always been done (See my blog… http://wp.me/s1kkKG-129) and that the executives on the board would not take kindly to having the monthly board report changed. I was told “They won’t like it if you change it”. Not being one to shirk away from asking difficult questions, I made an appointment to speak with one of the recipients of the report, who quite cheerfully told me that this 50 page report that was supplied had very little information of real importance with the exception of the financial summaries on the final two pages, which was the main metric for the management of the business.

What is important here is a valuable lesson in business analysis. Sometimes junior staff will not question things when they involve very senior management and the assumption that you need not question the executives as part of the project is bit of a misnomer. Always ask the questions. In this case the information supplied in the board report was vital for management in terms of decision making, but only a little bit of information.

This is blog number 11 in the series “The more things change the more they stay the same”.

The Origins of CRM Part 1 – Call Reporting April 23, 2013

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in Management, Microsoft CRM, Sales Management, Training, Uncategorized.
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The Origins of CRM, Early Days, Part 1 Call Reporting

I am very fortunate to have been involved right in the beginning of the computer based CRM industry. I was working for Kalamazoo Business Systems PLC in the early 1980’s before the introduction of MS Dos and when the concept of the Personal Computer was really in its infancy. Most companies had large mainframe systems or what was termed mini computers, however no one was doing anything that looked like CRM on these computers at that time. Many companies still ran manual systems for Accounting, Payroll and Cash Book.

Kalamazoo also had a manual Sales Reporting System which had remained unchanged from the mid 1960’s and I was given the task of giving this product a total overhaul as the precursor for the computer based sales management system we were planning. Principally this manual system had a number of quite interesting components, with the main selling objectives being:

  • A system to aid in the retention of customers.
  • The capability of monitoring of salespeople and their activities.
  • Something that was easy to use, and thus no extra work for the sales staff
  • Giving management some basic control and visibility of information over what the external sales teams were doing.

Sounds a little like modern CRM doesn’t it?

The way it worked was as follows: Each sales person was given a ring binder with a set of customer cards, just imagine an A5 card divided into two sections, the top section had all of the customer static information, name, address phone number etc. and the bottom section had a set of ruled horizontal lines each denoting an individual appointment or call made on the customer.

The sales person was also given a special clipboard onto which a daily call report was placed. This board had a series of pegs on the left hand side. This A4 form had the same ruled lines that were found on the customer card.

The sales person would make the call, and then remove the customer card from the binder, place it on the clipboard and update one of those single lines for the appointment. This card used carbonised paper, and therefore whatever was written on the customer record appeared on the call report. The sales person could then go onto the next call and by just lining the next card up on the next blank line on the report was able to do his work and the by product was a call report that was handed in. (see the link below)

Some of the changes that I introduced through the judicious use of form design meant it was possible to create a manual report that would give considerable management information and by ticking boxes on the customer record card, and selecting options from a key, it was possible from a single A4 report with 22 calls on it to determine many metrics just by looking at the form.

For example (See attached Image of a Call Report from 1984 from which the following can be derived).

  1. Brief Call Report. Only pertinent facts, no long stories (these can be transferred to the Action Request if necessary).

2. Time Utilisation. See how the salesperson used his time when there was a broken appointment.

3. New Business. After a broken appointment see if the salesperson was prospecting.

4. Action Request. Via the action request which is a short memo form, other departments can be notified as to actions that they must undertake. The salesperson keeps a copy and files with customer record card.

5. – 10  Call Analysis.

  • Is the salespersons activity above or below the national average, how does he compare?
  • What is the call to order ratio?
  • How many broken appointments?
  • No activity on product F, why?
  • Were there enough new prospect calls?
  • Which competition did I run into the most?
  • What is the discussion to order ratio?
  • Is the spread of market sector calls proportionate to orders?
  • How many action requests and queries?
  • How many quotes to orders?

11. Order Value. This is only for orders picked up by the salesperson, how does this compare to the phoned in orders?

12. Follow up Dates. These dates make for pre-planned calls. Transferred immediately to the new call report sheet to act as a diary. New staff would have a ready-made list of calls to be made, maintaining continuity.

13. Monitoring Opposition. For example in 22 calls, ran into opposition number 2 six times, and others only once or twice. Is there a trend here?

14. Detailed Product Analysis. Can indicate good and bad lines. Are sales people not discussing any particular products?

See Call Report here.


When this data was entered into the VisiCalc Spreadsheet that I designed, management were able to get a consolidation of this information by sales person, team and office. This was ultimate Business Intelligence for sales people in 1983. Although it is possible to get exactly all of this from a new Microsoft CRM Sales Implementation, I don’t believe that many sales organisations actually go this far in 2013. Remember folks that this was 30 years ago. The key lesson here is that if you are able to capture information you will be able to use it, sales people are often the eyes and ears of the organisation, and as in the example above, if the sales person runs into competitor number 2 that many times, it would only become apparent if the information was recorded with the correct context.

It should be remembered that conceptually a CRM system in those days would not have involved the sales and marketing teams entering data themselves, this would be captured on manual reports and forms and entered into the system by a data capture clerk.

There will be more blogs to come on some of the other manual systems that were used and the computer based CRM system “Sales Generator” that we launched in 1985.


More information on why CRM projects fail April 7, 2013

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in Management, Microsoft CRM, Microsoft Office, Sales Management, Training, XRM.
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I read an interesting blog today on Why CRM Project Fail by Mark Smith the nzCRMguy


And although in principle I agree with the four main reasons Mark outlined, I think that not to offend modern sensibilities and rock the management boat, has meant that one of the other real main reasons for pure CRM sales project failures, Weak or Poor Management is often not tabled as a reason or not even talked about.

(Generally I am not talking about complex XRM implementations, but CRM as it is used to support sales and service organisations which also have a high failure rate).

I have been implementing CRM systems since 1985, I have seen all kinds of failures, and over time have seen one common thread. A little bit of the tail wagging the dog.

A sales persons’ job is to go out get orders, process the orders, handle customer queries etc. and these are things that you would expect your sales team to do in order for them to keep their jobs and keep on getting paid. It probably also means that you would not tolerate them writing offensive e-mails to customers, looking at porn on the company network and generally not doing what they are asked to do.

Using systems is and should be part of the job, end of story. Most employees use Outlook or a mail program and are expected to use Word if they need to create letters and documents. If a sales person does not hand in an order for a product, or issue a quote to a customer, there are generally consequences.

So how come we get into the situation where the sales person does not bother to enter a Lead, or complete an Opportunity or starts getting stroppy and starts complaining that the new CRM system is different, too difficult to use and they don’t like it, and so won’t use it? And the project fails!

The only reason is: They are allowed to get away with it, and that unfortunately points to weak or ineffectual management. Certainly we want user involvement, all working together with the project team, making sure that adequate training is given, and the fundamentals of change management are considered during the process, however if at an individual level, a staff member just elects not to use the system, they are and probably should be in violation of their employment agreement. And action should be taken.

In one of my previous blogs I talked about the management at a large bank where I implemented CRM. We issued a mantra, “If it is not in CRM it did not happen”. Staff who forgot to enter sales calls that they actually had made, ended up not getting bonuses as they had not met their KPI. Which was, everything you do you enter in CRM.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is easy to use, and with the Outlook Client, it does not take extensive training. The system can be an exceptional tool for a motivated and energetic sales person, and will give management tremendous business intelligence information, and really should be embraced.

A little bit of management leading by example also can be quite helpful.

If I was spending money on a system, there would have to be much more of a reason than “The staff don’t like change” for me to allow my management team to just bend over and give up.

User Acceptance Testing for an XRM Solution v Out of the Box Solution March 16, 2013

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in Management, Microsoft CRM, Polaris, Training, User Acceptance Testing, XRM.
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User Acceptance Testing for an XRM Solution v Out of the Box Solution

 Recently I have been involved in the UAT process with a customer on a highly customised Microsoft CRM / XRM solution with the customer creating detailed test scripts to handle end to end processes, all of which is pretty standard fare when faced with a big system. However this got me thinking about the crossover that we often see between an XRM component and standard out of the box functionality, and how this should be tested and what should be reported as bugs and what should drive changes in functionality.

Consider for example that during configuration and build you have added an XRM component to facilitate bulk capture of appointments from Users, Contacts and a custom entity using a Silverlight control, leaving the remaining functionality of Marketing Lists, Campaigns and Campaign distribution etc. untouched.

If your customer has not used Microsoft Dynamics CRM before, during testing he will not be able to distinguish what is custom and what is out of the box in the creation and distribution of appointments as a campaign activity. Obviously from the customers perspective the whole solution needs to be functionally tested and operate the way it was outlined during the analysis and design phase, and if you got this right you will get sign off and everything will be perfect.

In reality I often see really strange requests coming out of the UAT, and sometimes some really bizarre decisions are made and items marked as bugs and changes requested. I have seen users requesting the removal of ribbon buttons that are greyed out, the changing of fonts or colours within the system, a window to view the SQL database table within the CRM record plus a large number of other items requesting changes to out of the box components, some of which would not be supported, supportable or would be just plain costly to implement for little or no tangible benefit.

It’s all about management of expectations for a new system, managing the UAT is part of this expectations management and being able to decisively say to your customers, “That is how it is supposed to work”. and “If you change this there is an implication that when Microsoft introduces additional functionality to this process, your changes may not allow you to benefit from this new functionality and leverage on your investment”.

I am sure that some organisations with a highly customised Lead and Opportunity process in CRM 4.0 or 2011 will have to review, and possibly make some large and in some cases costly changes if they really want to reap the benefits of the new Polaris release.  It may well be that these customisations were the result of UAT where out of the box functionality was illogically changed.

This is blog number 10 in the series “The more things change the more they stay the same”.

When is a requirement not a requirement? March 11, 2013

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in Management, Microsoft CRM, Sales Management, Training.
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When is a requirement not a requirement?

I was involved with a company in the medical field who had patients allocated to them by the Ministry of Health, it was their responsibility thereafter to look after the patients and handle the medical care and on-going treatment.

When we undertook the analysis for a new Microsoft Dynamics CRM system which was to be used to manage the patients journey through the organisation the subject of a “Waiting List” came up in the workshops.

From the time that the referral was received until the patient was first seen and processed could sometimes be a few days to a week or two, and during this time effectively the patient was on a waiting list. The organisation vehemently opposed this concept and did not want any reference of this in the new system. It had negative connotations and they really did not want to face up to the reality that it was what it was. The existing process had the prospective patients randomly placed on personal Excel Worksheets that had no management visibility until they were ready to be entered into the old system.

We were not going to continue down this Excel path, therefore in the new system required a solution to this issue, we ended up with the Lead entity in Microsoft CRM being rebranded as Referrals with a status of Not Processed and In Progress with dates for each status.

Management then used a view of all Referrals where the status was Not Processed and used this as a method of managing the time it was taking to deal with patients. So as much as they tried to hide the requirement the data showed that there was in fact a requirement and the only sticking point was in effect the terminology used. When we upgraded to 2011, Management had a dashboard graph of this view and therefore actually had a Waiting List after all.

This is blog number 9 in the series “The more things change the more they stay the same”.

Making better use of Tasks in Microsoft CRM March 4, 2013

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in Management, Microsoft CRM, Microsoft Office, Sales Management, Training.
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Using Outlook Tasks

 As a young man I spent some time in the army before I started my commercial career, I was operating as an operations officer in a tactical headquarters, where lots of orders, activities, actions and tasks were all happening simultaneously. I had a very astute commanding officer who introduced me to the concept of To-Do Lists and effective task management, all very important when for example you are coordinating an air strike or vectoring in artillery. Everyone in the ops room always needed to know the status of all tasks at all times.

When I undertake CRM training, I find that very few people are actually using Outlook Tasks effectively, and when you consider that Microsoft CRM fully integrates with Tasks, it makes it very important that prospective CRM users start using tasks especially when the system is set up to generate tasks.

If tasks are generated for people, and they just don’t see them or respond to them, mainly because they don’t open tasks as regularly as they do e-mail or calendars, I find that sometimes it makes more sense to use CRM to generate an e-mail as well as the task, and embed a link to the task in the e-mail. We know that people are less likely to ignore e-mails and the tasks will get done.

Another method of managing tasks is to build a view within the dashboard of all open tasks and make this visible to management. This is similar to the process we used in the army, where everyone could see the status of each order or activity, albeit we did it manually on a large board on the wall. it’s a sort of name and shame.

Just because your users are not currently power users of tasks, is not a reason to not consider using them in the design of your CRM system.

This is blog number 7 in the series “The more things change the more they stay the same”.

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