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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Dear Santa

Santa, I know it is just summer but I want to give you a heads up on this year's holiday wish list.  I know how busy things get at the North Pole in the fall, so you may want to start looking at this list now to make sure you allocate enough resources for a December delivery.

World Peace
OK - Now I have the altruistic part of my list out of the way, the rest can focus on me.

BMW 650i Convertible
Its for my son... really!  Yes, he is only five... but one day.

Microsoft CRM Enhancements
Now for the hard part.  This is a list of features I would love to see included in Microsoft CRM 3.0 and hope they will be part of the upcoming Titan release:

  • Allowing for the display of attributes from multiple entities in a single query (beyond the basic lookup information).  The FetchXML schema supports this, but the graphical tools in MS CRM do not.
  • Providing for true many-to-many relationships.  This is a biggie.  Sure, it is possible to create a many-to-many relationship by creating a junction table, but this can lead to awkward navigation for the user.  I would like to see the functionality given to some of the system relationships be available via customization (i.e. Opportunities <--> Competitors).
  • Generic lookups.  I have had a few instances where I want to create an entity that can be attached to several other entities, but not in a many-to-many scenario.  For example, I have created an Image entity that can be associated with an account, contact, custom entity, etc.  The referencing entity can have many images, but an image would never belong to multiple entities.  However, if I create a standard relationship from each referencing entity I end up with an Image entity riddled with physical links back to them.  What I would like to see is the ability to great a generic lookup using the same "ObjectId, ObjectTypeCode" approach MS CRM uses for annotations and activity pointers.
  • Ability to suppress related entities from appearing in the navigation bar when editing an entity.  They can be removed from JavaScript, but this is an unsupported hack (which we have chosen not to implement).  On a similar subject...
  • Ability to suppress custom entities from showing up in the New drop-down menu.  There are times I want to use an entity for system purposes (like one of those many-to-many junction tables) the user does not need to know even exist.
  • Filtered lookup dialog.  Need I say more.

I know I am asking for a lot this year, Santa.  But I have been very good this year and eating all my veggies every day.

Yours truly,

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

...More on "MRM" vs. "CRM"

I saw this article referenced in one of the other blogs I read, and it struck a chord with me, especially in reference to my earlier entry "CRM Just Doesn't Cut it Anymore." I think it's dead on...we've worked with many leading CRM packages over the years and they've all evolved to a level of useful competency. It's time to think of these toolsets as a master front end application...the hub of the spokes.

"But now that we have a broad number of packaged CRM applications that generally work, the temptation to think about CRM as a tactical rather than strategic tool is even greater. Rather than merely use CRM as a sales forecasting application, the time may have arrived when we need to think about it as the new universal front end to all of our other enterprise applications."


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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Job opening at AdvantageWorks

Product Development

Dallas, TX, 75240

Job Title
Full-time developer (Mid-level)

Reports to
Director of Product Development

General Description

Microsoft .NET developer who has experience working as part of a team in a fast paced (agile) environment. Needs to be a creative thinker who can solve problems independently, and at the same time someone who interacts with other team members to deliver a consistent, unified, and quality product. Experience with Microsoft CRM (any version) is a plus, but not required. Must have a solid understanding of scope management, the ability to estimate tasks and work under tight deadlines.

Activities may include ASP.NET development with C# and SQL Server 2005, building deployment packages, object oriented programming, creating Windows and/or Web Services, XML Serialization, defect resolution, and writing documentation.

Work Experience Requirements

  • Three plus years experience developing solutions using Visual Studio 2003 / 2005, C#, ASP.NET, XML, SQL Server 2000 / 2005, JavaScript, DHTML, and HTML
  • One plus years experience developing Smart Client (desktop) applications using Visual Studio and C#
  • Understanding of “object oriented” concepts such as inheritance, interfaces, and collections
  • Full life cycle experience for at least three projects with teams of five or more resources
  • Understanding of scope management, iterative development, and agile methodologies
  • Practical experience with Visual Source Safe, Visio, Word, Project (from the perspective of a developer)
  • Optional experience (more important) includes Microsoft CRM (any version), SharePoint, Office automation (InfoPath, SmartDocs, etc)
  • Optional experience (less important) includes other CRM products, Windows Services, Mobile applications

Education Requirements

  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Science or
  • Other degree with five years applicable work experience

About AdvantageWorks

AdvantageWorks Software Group, LLC is a privately held corporation located in Dallas, TX. The company is a spinoff and sister company of Ascendix Technologies, Inc., a premier consultancy and implementer of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, founded in 1996. Read more about Ascendix.

AdvantageWorks stems from a unit formed within Ascendix in 2004 focusing on industry-specific CRM modules for the financial services and real estate industries. The company is led by the CTO and one of the original founders of Ascendix, Todd Terry. In May of 2006, Ross Goldberg joined the firm as Director of Product Development.

Interested parties should submit resumes and salary requirements to info@advantageworks.com

Sunday, August 13, 2006

“CRM” Just Doesn’t Cut it Anymore

I’m a firm believer in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools and philosophies. I’ve seen how tools that support CRM processes and methodologies can really impact an organization. I’ve also seen many organizations implement a CRM tool, thinking they will inherit the espoused benefits of CRM, yet 12 months later have nothing to show for their investment except user indifference and another app for IT to support and maintain. But this is all a different topic for another day. Today, I want to talk about the actual term “CRM.”

I remember when I first entered this industry about 10 years ago, the tools existed, but the term didn’t. Then, it was called a few things; “SFA” or Sales Force Automation, and “Sales Information Systems” were among the top two of many. Oh, there was definitely a term mismatch: We were implementing SFA and sales information systems for people who weren’t sales people or selling a blasted thing! It seemed like we were constantly “re-branding” the software tools internally so we wouldn’t confuse the eventual end-user community! (“Co-Pilot” was one of my favorite client-termed re-brands for SalesLogix. “Let the tool be your co-pilot” they would say, since none of the end users were sales people.)

It was all about delivering productivity tools and key business information to users. The one thing that these users seemed to have in common was that they tended to be either directly or indirectly client-facing information workers. This obviously inspired the eventual use of the term “CRM” since most client-facing people are either in sales, marketing or support, the three pillars of CRM.

Well, during these past 6 or 7 years of using and misusing the term CRM, I’m again finding that it just doesn’t capture the essence of what this tool does or can do, yet I don’t think “front-office productivity system” (FOPS) will unseat the incumbent any time soon!

A good real-life example is our application of CRM in the commercial real estate industry. We have seen on many occasions where the user of our system is not in sales, marketing or support, and their job of managing clients or client information (the "C" of CRM) is second or third tier to managing the complex processes and relationships around acquiring, managing or disposing of the asset itself. Tenants, leases, construction projects, brokers, listing agents, building owners, property managers, etc. are all entities whose information needs to be managed, but it is not clear which one of these is actually a “customer.”

So what do we use? Well, at AdvantageWorks and at our sister company, Ascendix, we’ve tried on a few different terms. The one that seems to fit the best for us is “MRM” for “Master Relationship Management.” A master tool, methodology and process for managing all your relationships; be it clients, products, vendors, partners, contracts, issues, you name it.

We’ve tried it on at a couple of our real estate clients, and it seems to clear away some of the confusion.

Will it stick? Well, time will tell. But for us, we’ll use “MRM”.


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