Sonoma Partners Microsoft CRM and Salesforce Blog

No blog postings for Windows Live Writer, isn't that ironic?

I use Windows Live Writer to write my blog posts, and I like it a lot. Since this product is currently just "beta", I was curious if Microsoft released an updated version recently. I searched online and found the official "Windows Live Writer team blog". I looked around but I didn't see a new version of the tool. In fact, I noticed that the Windows Live Writer team hasn't blogged a new post since November 21st, 2006! What the heck? How is that possible? That's over six months without a single post! Their product is designed to make it easy to create blog posts. I guess these guys don't really buy into the whole dogfood theory, eh?

Vanity plus four zip codes, coming soon to a CRM system near you

This morning I read a story in the USA Today that Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City will get its own "vanity" zip code, and of course I was thinking about how this change might impact Microsoft CRM. Basically, instead of sending mail to just the regular old Saks zip code of 10022, customers can now send mail to the 10022-SHOE zip code. The last four digits SHOE are part of the zip plus four mailing code, and Saks wanted their own plus four zip code because they claim their new shoe department is so large it is a destination. Sure this is a blatant marketing scheme, but it is kinda clever!

Thinking about Microsoft CRM, my initial concern with this Saks zip code story was that people would want to enter these vanity zip codes as shown (with a mix of numbers of letters) and that might cause a data entry issue. However, I quickly remembered that the zip code field of Microsoft CRM is actually the Zip/Postal Code field so it was designed to accomodate both U.S. zip codes and international postal codes (which are often non-numeric). So marketers and CRM implementers all over can feel free to ramp up the use of vanity plus four zip codes without fear...your systems will support you!

I wonder if we could contact the United States Postal Service and try to negotiate the zip code 60661-4CRM for Sonoma Partners?!

How to "untrack" Microsoft CRM Outlook e-mails

In my opinion, the Track in CRM functionality is one of the most useful pieces of integration between Outlook and Microsoft CRM. The one drawback with this feature is that Microsoft didn't provide a way to "untrack" a record (specifically email records). I have found that sometimes I may have clicked "Track in CRM" on the wrong email or even more common is setting the wrong regarding record on accident.

Recently a customer of ours did just that...accidentally set the wrong regarding record on an email. They figured the easiest solution was to simply deleted the email record in CRM, and then just re-track the email. Makes sense, except that deleting the email in CRM doesn't update the user's Outlook email, so now that email is tracked to a missing email record in CRM and producing an error when the "View in CRM" button is clicked. Ugh!

Well, this call finally spurred me to figure out a solution/work around and here is one approach to resolving this.

When an Outlook record (email, task, appointment, contact) is tracked in CRM, the Microsoft CRM client add-in will create the record in CRM and take the resulting information and store it in a handful of custom created user-defined fields in the outlook record. This is easily seen when examining a contact record in Outlook 2007 by clicking the All Fields button.

If you want to untrack a CRM contact record, you can simply edit the crmLinkState value to 0 and remove the value in the crmid field. Then click Save, and you will see that the Track in CRM button is enabled again. Now if you were to click Track in CRM and save again, a NEW record would then be created and linked in Microsoft CRM.

Too easy...I just need to do these steps on the email record and I will be all set. The only problem is that I was unable to find out how to show the user defined fields on the email record easily (if someone knows how, drop me a line). In addition, Outlook 2007 does a nice job of hiding the developer actions. To alter the email record's hidden fields, I then did the following:

1. Enabled the Developer tab in the Ribbon
(Tools, Options, Other tab, Advanced Options, Check Show Developer tab in Ribbon)

2. With the Developer tab enabled, when you open an email record, you will now see a new tab called Developer in the Ribbon. Click that tab, and then click the Design This Form button.

3. Click the (All Fields) tab and you will see the CRM user defined fields. Delete the values of all the CRM fields listed here, click Save, and then Close the form.

4. Reopen the email, and you will see that you can select Track in CRM button again and create a new email activity record in CRM.

Some Notes:

  • If you try this on a record not tracked in CRM, you will not see the user defined CRM fields.
  • This just removes the LINK to a CRM record. It will not delete the activity record in CRM. You will need to manually delete the CRM activity and avoid having duplicate records in CRM.
  • If you don't remove the crmid, then when you click track it will just pick up on the existing record. For contacts, it will actually provide you the following duplicate detection dialog. Just as you expect, if you were to click Yes, you would then create a new contact record.
  • Data synchronization should continue to work. Be careful when creating duplicate records for contacts, appointments, and tasks, as you may end up seeing multiples if you leave the originally tracked records in Microsoft CRM.
  • You can perform similar steps for tasks and appointment records.
  • This is probably unsupported, so use with caution. It might have some other unintented side effects as well, but I haven't encountered them yet.

Finally, I have created a simple Outlook macro that will perform the steps outlined above and is easier to use, but that will be another post. Stay tuned!

Windows Mobile 6... a must have?

Three weeks ago I posted about Windows Mobile 6 arriving for Dash owners. I downloaded the goods from T-Mobile on May 4th and ran the upgrade. It did crash and burn the first time through the upgrade, but I ran it again and it seemed to work fine. I've been using Windows Mobile 6 over the past few weeks and my thoughts are:

  • The new graphics are very nice, it makes the system more enjoyable to use.
  • It sounds silly, but I like the new message sound effect better in Windows Mobile 6!
  • Sorry, no new games built-in.
  • Some minor annoyances were fixed, such as the ability to "skip" the email account selection screen when you have a new message.
  • They moved some of the functions around, so now you can delete an email message directly from your Inbox with one click. Before you had to select Menu and then Delete. Not major, but it is nice.
  • The email viewer supports HTML, which makes is easier to read a lot of different messages. Much appreciated.
  • Built-in Word, Excel and PDF viewers rock!
  • The battery life seems to be a little worse, but not to the point where it is an issue. I definitely have to charge it every night though.
  • The new calendar view makes it easier to check your schedule and flip from day to day.
  • A few times I have had the phone "black out" for no apparent reason, the only way I was able to get the sucker working again was to remove the battery and turn the phone back on. Now sure what that is all about.
  • I have not tried the new Live Search yet so no comment.

Overall, despite a few minor glitches I've really enjoyed Windows Mobile 6 and I would recommend that everyone such upgrade if their device supports it. In fact we like it so much better that Sonoma Partners made the decision to switch our employees away from the Motorola Q so we purchased all new T-Mobile Dashes. The Motorola Q can't be upgraded to Windows Mobile 6, plus the Dash has a much nicer form factor than the Q.

Out of curiosity, I did a few searches on "Windows Mobile 7" but nothing too interesting came up.

Allowing Your Organization To View Your Email Templates

One of my colleagues recently asked why her email templates weren't available to another user in our organization. It took a few minutes to troubleshoot the issue but we got it worked out. Since the security configuration to allow a user to publish templates to others is not obvious, I thought I would share the steps on allowing your templates to be shared with your organization.

First, you will need to have at a minimum the Read and Create privileges (and probably should have Write privilege as well if you wish to edit) for E-Mail Template:

Next, you can create an email template by the following methods:

  • Personalize Workplace (link in the Workplace) -> E-Mail Templates

  • Tools -> Options -> E-Mail Templates
  • Settings -> Templates -> E-Mail Templates -> New

This will create a personal email template (meaning only you will have access to it). To allow others to see your handiwork, you will need to have the Publish E-mail Templates privilege.

After this privilege is added to one of your assigned security roles, you will see a new Actions menu when you open your email template. In this menu, there will be a Make Template Available to Organization link available.

Clicking this will now publish your template for the entire organization to use. If you click Actions on an organization viewable template, a Revert to Personal Template action will allow you to change it back to a personal template.

A couple of additional notes:

  • Due to the now well known 'missing settings feature' in Microsoft CRM when you have the Outlook client open, you might need to close Outlook or access CRM from a different URL in IE to see the email template New button.
  • If you create a template from the Personal Options dialog, your template will always be created as an Individual template, and you will need to convert it to make it viewable to the organization. If you create the template from the Settings area, your template will default to Organization viewable ONLY if you have the publish privilege as mentioned above. If you don't have that privilege, it will default to Individual.

Windows Mobile 6 arrives at T-mobile tomorrow?

I have been using a T-Mobile Dash as my cell phone for several months now, and I really like it a lot. So I was going along perfectly happy with my T-Mobile Dash (which runs on the Windows Mobile 5 operating system) until Bill Patterson gave me a sneak peak of Windows Mobile 6 at the Convergence conference. As happy as I was with my dash, I had some serious envy of the shiny new Windows Mobile 6 OS. It appeared much faster, it looked very cool, and I wanted it right away. Unfortunately unlike Bill, I didn't have access to the goods so I have been patiently waiting for T-Mobile to post the Windows Mobile 6 update on their website, and it appears that tomorrow is the big day. Can't wait!

Here are some of the other great new features in Windows Mobile 6:

  • Support for HTML e-mail: Improve readability with the ability to send and receive e-mail messages in HTML format, preserving tables, bulleted lists, colored text, links, and inline images.
  • Out of Office Assistant*: Retrieve, set, and change your Out of Office status and AutoReply notification from a Windows Mobile 6-powered device.
  • Smart on-device filtering: Search call history, contacts, and e-mail more quickly and efficiently.
  • Exchange e-mail search*: Search for any e-mail message stored in an Exchange Server mailbox from your Windows Mobile 6-powered device.
  • Enhanced Word Mobile editing tools: Cut/copy/paste and Spell Check

* requires Exchange Server 2007

Where did that pesky COM Add-in manager go in Office 2007?

Sometimes the Microsoft CRM Client for Outlook will mis-behave a little bit and act unusual. When I recently had this happen to my machine, I decided to check the Outlook COM Add-in manager to make sure everything looked ok. As you might know, the Microsoft CRM Client for Outlook is actually just a COM Add-in installed on top of Microsoft Outlook. There was just one small problem with my plan though...my machine is running Windows Vista and Office 2007 so finding the Outlook COM Add-In manager was no small chore!

I've been using Vista and Office 2007 full time since they were released and overall the experience has been pretty good. One minor complaint I have is that sometimes it can be tricky to find different functions of the software that I could absolutely find in my sleep using Windows XP and Office 2003. Where's the Add-in Manager in 2003? I don't even need to look it up...Tools -> Options -> Other -> Advanced Options -> COM Add-ins.

 

I assumed it would be somewhere similar in Office 2007, but I was wrong. There's still a Tools -> Options -> Other -> Advanced Options area but there is absolutely no reference to the COM Add-ins!

 

I spent probably 10 or 15 minutes poking around every single menu item looking for anything that sounded remotely like an Add-In manager but I couldn't find anything. After randomly clicking on something called "Trust Center"...VOILA! I found where Outlook 2007 was hiding the Add-in Manager! From the Trust Center, I could manage the Microsoft CRM Client for Outlook just like I was used to in Office 2003. In all honesty, the Trust Center naming isn't entirely intuitive to me, but I guess now that we know where to look in the future it isn't a major issue. I hope this tip helps save someone the headache I just went through trying to find this dang thing!

What's it worth to work with real experts?

I recently had a few experiences in my personal life that got me thinking about Microsoft CRM and consulting firms. With the weather getting warmer here in Chicago, my family and I are getting ready to enjoy some time out in our yard so we decided to purchase a swingset (for my kids) and a new BBQ grill (for me!). While neither of these purchases were nearly as important as selecting a CRM platform or a consulting firm, I think that some of my experiences as a customer definitely apply to CRM customers as they navigate through the platform and vendor selection process.

BBQ grill sales and CRM sales....not as a different as you might think
As I mentioned, we needed to buy a new BBQ grill for our house. Of course we started by researching the different grills online and trying to decide what fit in our budget and met our needs. We were very disappointed with the lack of information about these products online, either through a retailer's website (like Home Depot) or the manufacturer's website. Most websites had a "glamour" photograph of the outside of the grill, but they didn't have any photos of what the grill looked like inside and the types of shelves they had. So instead we had to go and physically visit stores to see what these products looked like. Bummer.

While at the stores, we asked a few questions about the different grills. At Sears, I asked the sales person "Can I convert this grill from a propane tank to a natural gas line if I want?" This conversion option is known as "Dual Fuel". His response was that none of the Kenmore grills can be converted to Dual Fuel. Disappointed, I walked over to a grill and there was a giant sticker affixed to the front of the grill saying "DUAL FUEL READY"! When I pointed that sticker out to the sales person, he mumbled something about this must be a new version or something like that. Annoyed at this guy's ignorance, I decided he had lost my purchase.

At Lowe's, there are several grills that feature a new cooking technology called infrared. Instead of cooking the food with a flame, the grill uses infrared heat technology to cook the meat. This was new to me, so I asked the sales guy about it. He explained to me "Oh yeah, infrared grills are the BEST. The meat cooks evenly and perfectly, and it seals in the flavor. All grills in two years will use infrared to cook". Wow, that sounded great. I was a little nervous about this new technology but the sales guy made it sound outstanding. Then I asked "So, have YOU personally ever cooked with infrared?" His response "Well no, but some of the other guys read that it was great." I was annoyed again. I know it is this guy's job to sell stuff, but I find it appalling that he's hyping up this great new technology and he doesn't have 2 seconds of experience actually using it! Again, they lost my sale.

So bringing these two BBQ grill sales experiences back to Microsoft CRM sales, I want to encourage all prospects considering a Microsoft CRM purchase to make sure you're working with EXPERTS when you're evaluating the product. At Sears, the sales person told me just flat out wrong information about the product. At Lowe's, the guy was recommending something he had no experience with. I am involved with the sales process at Sonoma Partners, and we've heard about similar experiences from our customers about working with other CRM consulting firms. Some places tell prospects that things aren't possible (WRONG) while some other firms selling Microsoft CRM don't even use it internally (NO EXPERIENCE). Shocking, but true.

Swingset installs and CRM implementations...not as different as you might think
So while my BBQ grill experience got me thinking about CRM sales, we also purchased a new swingset for the kids and that prompted me to consider CRM implementations. We ordered the swingset in the middle of February, but it was installed last week. Since we purchased it in the middle of winter, they gave us free delivery and installation. When the swingset installers arrived, three guys jumped off a truck and immediately went to work. As you might guess, there were about 1,000 parts and most of them looked really heavy! Without barely speaking a word to one another, these three guys had the swingset installed, working, the job site clean and they were out of there in about TWO hours. I could not believe how fast it went. All of my neighbors said, "wow that went up fast". Of course if you think about it this really shouldn't be a surprise , because these guys install the same swingsets again and again every day as a team. All of them know exactly what their role is and where all the parts fit...even the tricky ones because they've done it 100 times before.

As I watched the installers, I was thinking "how long would this swingset install have taken me to do by myself?!?" I am guessing it would have consumed my entire Saturday and Sunday to get it installed, and the final product probably would not be as sturdy as the professionally installed swingset. I am also imagining having that bag of unused parts at the end wondering where I should have used them! That's never a good feeling. Installing the swingset by myself would have also been complicated by the fact that I have other responsibilities on the weekend. I have to mow the lawn, watch the kids, cook food, etc. Squeezing in time for a massive project like the install would have negatively impacted everything else I am also responsible for.

This swingset installation process definitely reminded me of Microsoft CRM implementations. Customers will say "Oh, we have Joe in I.T. He can install and implement Microsoft CRM for us so we don't really need any consulting help". Meanwhile, Joe in I.T. already has 50,000 other things to take care of and he's probably never deployed a CRM product before. Given enough time and energy, Joe probably can get the software up and running but will the final product be any good? Since he's new to CRM and distracted by other responsibilities, it's highly unlikely.  Having Joe in I.T. install Microsoft CRM for your firm is like trying to install a giant swingset by yourself. It might actually work out ok, but the odds are really stacked against you.

By hiring an outside consulting firm to install and implement Microsoft CRM, you're getting a dedicated team of experts who've installed Microsoft CRM for many different customers. They know all the nooks and crannies of the software, where all the "bodies are buried". They also work on a team where everyone knows their role and they're good at what they do. Almost as importantly, they're focused on the implementation. Unlike Joe in I.T. who must hop to put out fires on a daily basis, an outside firm won't get bogged down by other responsibilities.

Wrap up
So in summary, I really have just one point to make...make 100% sure you're working with experts when you're evaluating and implementing a CRM software product like Microsoft CRM. If you don't have the experts on your staff (and most customers probably don't), make sure you really check out the consulting firm you're working with. At a bare minimum ask them:

  1. Do you use Microsoft CRM internally? Ask them to show you.
  2. Ask them how many Microsoft CRM installs they've completed from start to finish in the past 12 months. If they say 5 or less, run for the hills.

Remember, while making a purchase mistake with your grill or swingset will cost you just hundreds of dollars, making a mistake with your CRM vendor selection will cost you tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in wasted money and effort.