Sonoma Partners Microsoft CRM and Salesforce Blog

Webinar is a success, and another one is announced

Yesterday we conducted our webinar titled "Improving Sales and Marketing Effectiveness with Microsoft CRM" and I'd say it was a big success! As I mentioned last week, the webinar was totally sold out with pre-registrations and we had a great turn out yesterday. If you missed the event and you're interested in viewing the webinar and listening to me talk for an hour about how Microsoft CRM is the greatest thing since sliced bread, we recorded it and you can view it online:

View "Improving Sales and Marketing Effectiveness with Microsoft CRM" Webinar Recording

Even though the event went well overall, I did make a few rookie technical mistakes recording this LiveMeeting. We confirmed all of these issues with the LiveMeeting technical support team after the event.

  • To improve the quality of the PowerPoint images, you should select 16-bit color instead of 24-bit color.
  • In addition, I should have uploaded my PowerPoint presentation to LiveMeeting and selected it as a resource (instead of sharing it as an application).
  • When share an application, you should click the "Auto hide sidebar" check box so you don't have the black column on the left side of the screen.

I promise not to make these mistakes when we record our next webinar. Speaking of that, we've settled on a date, time and topic for our next session. The event is titled "How to Replace Your Custom Software Application with Microsoft CRM 3.0 as a Business Software Platform" (yes, that's a mouthful) and it will take place on July 26th. Here's a synopsis of the material we'll cover:

How to Replace Your Custom Software Application with Microsoft CRM 3.0 as a Business Software Platform
Does your company manage multiple "home grown" software applications that you've bolted on bits and pieces over the years? Does the code base look like a Frankenstein-ed mess of spaghetti code? Do simple changes take forever to implement and you're  absolutely scared to death trying to figure out how you will tackle the bigger system changes that the executives are considering?

If you've answered "yes" to any of the above questions, join this webinar to learn how you can save yourself and your company tons of headaches, time and money by implementing Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 as your software business platform. In just one hour, we'll show you the benefits you'll gain by deploying a highly customized off-the-shelf product like Microsoft CRM 3.0 instead of creating a custom application from scratch. We'll also show you real-world examples of our how customers are extending CRM software functionality beyond the traditional boundaries of Sales, Marketing and Customer Service into the more complex operational, transactional and integration-intense areas of their business.

Somewhat ironically and entirely coincidentally, I noticed that Michaeljon Miller blogged about Microsoft CRM as an application platform today. He's a super smart guy so his blog post talks about stuff like "enumerations, elemental types, and higher-level types". Consequently he's making me feel real dumb because I was just planning to use the webinar to demo a bunch of the cool non-traditional business applications we built for customers using Microsoft CRM!

Apple versus Microsoft CRM too?

I saw this story from Auckland and I got a little chuckle:

Whangarei-based software company Orbitcoms has drawn Apple’s ire. Apple is threatening legal action over an Orbitcoms brand-name, which it says is too similar to Apple’s iPod, says Tony Shi, Orbitcoms’ chief executive. Orbitcoms wants to call a software product it developed recently iPop, but Apple has objected to the idea — twice, says Shi.  The software, which works with Microsoft Dynamics CRM, allows users to combine their CRM system with a telephone system, says Shi.

I can just picture these five Kiwis sitting around the room when that call/letter from Apple's $700/hour attorney shows up...

"What's that?!?! Apple is after us?!? WTF?!?!"

Of course I don't think Apple is really trying to stop Microsoft CRM competitors, they're just vociferously protecting their Ipod gravy train by enforcing their trademarks...I'm sure I'd do the same!

Microsoft CRM Dashboard samples

One of the very common requests that we receive is that customers would like to see a "dashboard" of all their Microsoft CRM data. Users want a dashboard so that they can view all sort of different charts and reports on a single page without having to click to a bunch of different places. Makes sense, right?

Well unfortunately Microsoft CRM 3.0 does not include a dashboard generator out-of-the-box. That's the bad news. The good news is that it isn't really too hard to create a great looking dashboard using custom code and the Microsoft CRM SDK. We recently built a few dashboards and I thought people might be interested to see what a some finished products look like.




Webinar sold out!

Well, that didn't last long. Our Microsoft CRM webinar is now officially sold out! If you're interested we are planning to make the event recording available for on demand usage later. I'll post the details when it is available.

Also, we're going to contact Microsoft LiveMeeting to find out if we can host more people at our event...but I doubt we can bump that limit before Tuesday's event.

Denver here we come

I booked my flights today for the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference that starts on July 9th. The cost of flights from Chicago to Denver was ridiculous a few weeks ago, but thankfully they dropped to just plain 'ole outrageous. I am flying into Denver on Sunday night and leaving on Thursday morning. If you're interested in getting together please try and schedule something via the Connect website. While I am eager to network with other Partners, please DON'T try to schedule something if you're just trying to sell me something or if you want to talk about a nebulous partnership without an actual opportunity on the table.

I am expecting (hoping) that the Partner Conference will have lots of exciting news and announcements about the Microsoft CRM Titan release.

On a side note, I noticed that the Partner Conference is entirely sold out. There will be four people from Sonoma Partners in attendance so it should be great fun. I'm looking forward to it!

Sonoma Partners webinar next week on June 26th

Sonoma Partners will be hosting a one hour webinar next Tuesday June 26th, and you're invited! The focus of the session will be a "100 level" introduction to Microsoft CRM with an emphasis on the sales and marketing aspects of the system.

Learn more on our website, and register now!

We won! We won!

I am very proud to announce that Sonoma Partners recently won an award as one of the 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For in Chicago! Here's some information about the award:

What is the "101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For"?
The 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For awards were established to honor those companies in each market that recognize employees as their greatest asset. These are companies that work with imagination and conviction to create organizational value and business results through their policies and Best Practices in human resource management.  The selection, recognition and awarding of the 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For allows businesses to showcase these policies and Best Practices, and demonstrate why each of them is an ideal place for employees to work.

What does this mean? I think means we're a fun place to work at, but we also do a great job taking care of our customers.

If you're interested in joining us, we have immediate openings for the following positions:

  • Sales/Business Development
  • Project Manager/Consultant

Read more about these jobs on our website, and please contact us!

Virtual PC image expiring in 3 weeks!

sands For those of you that use the Microsoft CRM Virtual PC image provided by Microsoft, I want to remind you that the image will expire 3 weeks from today on June 30th! By expire, I mean it will stop working. I heard some rumors that Microsoft is working on a new Virtual PC Image ("VPC") with Office 2007 on it but I don't know a lot of details about it. I assume (hope) that Microsoft will release the new VPC before the original one expires, so I expect we'll see it soon. If not, there will be a lot of sad Microsoft CRM sales people out there on July 1st because they won't have any software to demo.

The expiring VPC image isn't a critical issue for us at Sonoma Partners because we build our own Microsoft CRM demo VPC's. We build our own demo images for two main reasons:

  1. We want to demo with Office 2007 (on a clean Office install instead of an upgrade from Office 2003).
  2. We want a streamlined and fast VPC image and we don't need all the extra stuff that Microsoft includes on theirs. Our image has just the bare bones installed on it and it is only 6 GB in file size. For comparison, the Microsoft VPC is over 10 GB.

With that said, we'll definitely check out the new VPC from Microsoft when it arrives.

Microsoft CRM blurb on MSNBC/

Saw this nice blurb about Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 on MSNBC/ This is a little unusual because it is one of few non-techie websites to talk about CRM software:

Many CRM programs include modules that can be linked to standard applications businesses use daily. Take Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0, for instance. This program, which is available in versions aimed at small businesses as well as large organizations, interconnects with Microsoft Office and Microsoft Outlook. From within Outlook’s contacts, an employee can access Microsoft CRM sales, marketing and customer service modules in order to make sales decisions and market products.

Today’s CRM software has become highly sophisticated, yet it’s still easy to use. For instance, Microsoft Dynamics CRM can now be connected, through software plug-ins, to a small business’s IP telephony system. When a call comes in, the IP telephony software plug-in automatically links to the Microsoft Dynamics CRM system. A pop-up window of the customer contact record appears on your employee’s IP phone screen, their computer screen or both. Before the second ring, the employee taking the call has access to information about the customer who’s calling, such as orders pending, recent returns, and so on.

By being able to access this information instantly, an employee is able to better answer the customer’s questions, and the customer is less likely to feel frustrated by the encounter and more likely to feel appreciated by your company. And that goes a long way toward keeping customers happy.

In addition to accessing existing information, the employee answering the call can easily add new notes to the customer’s record. That information is then uploaded back into the CRM system, and the next time the customer calls, the employee who answers can pick up where the previous employee left off.

Off-site workers, such as sales personnel in the field, can also have access to the same customer data over your company’s data network. As a result, interconnected CRM software can help you not only improve customer satisfaction but increase employee productivity and reduce costs as well.

SQL Server 2008 and CRM

Today Microsoft released a CTP (Community Technology Preview) download of the next version of their SQL Server product. While it is code-named "Katmai", Microsoft said that the product will go to market next year with the name "SQL Server 2008". I haven't been following Katmai too closely, but I did find this marketing-speak on what's new:

"SQL Server 2008 capabilities deliver on the four key areas of the data platform vision.

  • Mission-Critical Platform – SQL Server 2008 enables IT groups to be more productive by providing a more secure, scalable, and manageable platform. It includes a new policy-based management framework that shifts from managing by scripts to managing by rules. SQL Server 2008 also protects valuable information in existing applications and disconnected devices. In addition, SQL Server 2008 delivers predictable query performance with an optimized platform.
  • Dynamic Development – SQL Server 2008 along with the .NET Framework enables developers to build the next generation of applications. Developers are more productive because they work with business entities instead of tables and columns. They can build applications that enable users to take their data with them and synchronize their data with back-end servers.
  • Beyond Relational Data – SQL Server 2008 enables developers to consume any type of data, from XML to documents, and build applications that incorporate location awareness.
  • Pervasive Business Insight – SQL Server 2008 provides a scalable infrastructure that can manage reports and analysis of any size or complexity while at the same time empowering users because of its close integration with the Microsoft Office System. This enables IT to drive business intelligence throughout the organization. SQL Server 2008 makes great strides in data warehousing, enabling users to consolidate data marts in an enterprise data warehouse. "

I read these bullets three times and I still don't have a real good idea what new features/benefits will be in SQL Server 2008! However, I assume that at a minimum that SQL Server 2008 will perform faster than SQL Server 2005 and it will integrate better with Microsoft Office 2007. Of course those two benefits will make life easier for all you Microsoft CRM customers out there!

I also found out that Dundas Charts will be included in the SQL Server 2008 product too, so it should allow developers to create much sexier looking reports. That is indeed very exciting. Why didn't the marketing geeks just list that tidbit as a bullet point up above? It should have said: "Your reports will look better!"

Now we just have to wait until next year to get our hands on it.