Sonoma Partners Microsoft CRM and Salesforce Blog

Day in the Life: Meet Melanie



6:30 AM: Wake up and start the day!

Because we have a casual office environment at Sonoma Partners, getting dressed in the morning often involves the selection of jeans, a v-neck or a blouse (if I'm feeling fancy!), and either sandals or flats.

7:45 am: I'm out the door.

The Chicago office is in a primo location on the western edge of the Loop. I live in the northern part of the city and take the 'L' downtown. I hop off at Washington & Wells and it's a short walk from there to the office.

 8:45 am: COFFEE!


By the time I get into the office, two hours have passed since I woke up and it's time for coffee. After dropping my bag at my desk, the kitchen is my next stop. In the office kitchen we have a Keurig machine and a great variety of coffee. I usually go for a medium roast, but the developers in line ahead of me usually have a dark roast in hand.

After my coffee has finished brewing I grab a breakfast bar or I pour myself a bowl of granola. The kitchen at Sonoma has over 20 different varieties of granola bars, 6 types of granola/cereal and all of the milk options you could ever want; cow's milk, almond milk, soy milk, rice milk, and coconut milk!

9:00 am: E-mail and catching up.

Before I hop into meetings I scan my email and make sure that nothing requires my immediate attention. With co-workers and clients all over the US, a lot can happen between the time I sign-off and 9:00 am Chicago time.

During this time I probably spend a half hour responding to emails, instant messaging with various project team members, and catching up on the posts in our internal news feed.

9:30 am: "Always go into meetings with a positive attitude. Tell yourself you're going to make this the best deal for all parties." - Natalie Massenet

If my meetings don't start at 9:00 am, I'm usually on the phone by 9:30. Typically, I work on 2-3 projects at a time, each of them in different phases, so the content of these meetings varies greatly. 

When my projects are coming close to a milestone my morning calls are with the client. My project team and I will review the progress we've made and will work with the client to make any adjustments.

I also have weekly stand-up calls with my internal teams at Sonoma. With resources working in different locations, these calls are integral to keeping everyone informed and the project on track.

I report my progress on the latest bunch of features in the functional spec, how many configuration items I was able to close last week, and what tricky techy things are holding me back from completing all of my work. I also answer any business process questions our developers and quality assurance analysts may have.

11:00 am: Quality time with my coach.

Every week I take a break from my project and client meetings to sit down with my coach. Coaches at Sonoma are essentially managers, but at Sonoma, the manager relationship is more personal and has a greater focus on mentoring and collaboration, so we call them coaches.

My coach and I will talk about the projects I'm supporting, the type of work I'm doing, and the feedback he's received from my team. If there are any office announcements my coach will share them with me. Sometimes we'll discuss what can be improved internally, and sometimes we won't talk about work at all! Like I said, the coach relationship is supposed to be more personal. Sometimes we'll chat about Chicago sports, running, vacations, family, etc. 

11:30 am: More email.

Life moves fast at Sonoma. Before lunch I'm checking my email, responding to messages, and troubleshooting any build issues that may have come up.


12:00 pm: Lunch club.

Typically I bring my lunch to the office and eat in the kitchen, on busy days at my desk. In some offices this would be a very lonely experience. But in the Chicago office, even if you didn't bring your lunch, you order take-out and join everyone in the kitchen. We have two long tables that seat 10 each and it's not uncommon for both to be full.

12:30 pm: In the thick of the jungle.

After morning meetings when all of the hustle and bustle dies down, I start tackling the tough stuff. If we're in the early stages of a project I'm sitting down after lunch to write a functional spec. Throughout the process I'll drop instant messages to my teammates, get clarification  requirements, look for technical expertise from a developer, or meet with one of our principal consultants to see if a particular design is technically possible. 

If a project is further along, I'm spending time in CRM configuring the system. We have amazing internal tools at Sonoma to help keep features and items organized. With my dual monitors in front of me, I am constantly checking the list of items I have assigned to me on one screen, and actually building them on the other. 

2:00 pm - One more meeting.

Around 2 or 3 in the afternoon I usually have my last formal meeting of the day, whether that be with a client on the West Coast or with one of my Sonoma project teams to review an outstanding issue. After the meeting ends, I take advantage of the brief lull to run to the kitchen and grab a snack. If I am sticking to my diet, I'll opt for some grapes and a handful of almonds or pistachios. If not, I'm reaching for the Twizzlers in the candy drawer or a snack pack of chocolate chip cookies. I never forget the La Croix to wash it all down. 

3:00 pm: Home stretch

After my last meeting of the day I'm back to writing functional specs, fine-tuning other documentation, and knocking out some configuration items. The project manager of one of my projects may call me to see what the status of a particular item is, or I may call our tech lead to work out a solution to a specific business requirement.

Depending on how hectic life is, I may swivel around in my chair and chat with my desk mate about the Blackhawks or how we're both doing in the office fantasy football league.

5:30 or 6:00 pm: I'm outta here!

People start filtering out of the office around 4:30 or 5. I prefer to sleep in a little in the morning and stay a bit later at work so I head out around 5:30 or 6. Then it's straight to the gym or the lakefront trail for a run.

8:00 pm: One last check-in.

Right after dinner I'll check my email one last time. I'll take care of anything that needs an immediate response and then I sign-off for the night. I'M OUT!

 A day in the life by the numbers:


Are you a Salesforce Consultant or Microsoft Dynamics CRM Consultant looking for a new gig? Take a look at our current openings and contact us about a future at Sonoma Partners.

Topics: Careers at Sonoma

Video: Control Tower by Sonoma Partners

Are you experiencing end user adoption problems within your CRM system? Perhaps you have built out a great CRM system with all the bells and whistles, but you're finding that your people still aren't using it. When companies try to solve their end user adoption problems, they oftentimes have difficulty understanding the scope of the problem.

Most of the time, you can't quantify how many people use your CRM system on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, nor can you identify what types of records they are using and what they do with those records.

Control tower 2

System Administrators are left to track down rumors about what people are doing in the system and without the information, that quantifiable data, you can't make changes to improve the system to improve end user adoption.

That's where we come in. We've built Control Tower, a cloud-based app that measures end user adoption on a day-by-day basis and helps you answer three important questions:

  1. Who is using your CRM system?
  2. How are people using your CRM system?
  3. What are people working on within your CRM system?

 Watch the demo now to learn more about Control Tower.


Have a question about Control Tower? We're here and happy to help you get the answers you're looking for.

Topics: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015

Just Say No to Homegrown CRM Systems

When we sit down to meet with prospects in the manufacturing and distribution verticals, we frequently encounter organizations looking to move off their existing homegrown CRM system. What these individuals are looking for is a consolidated system that can scale with their growing business and be easily managed by several members of their team. These seem like simple enough requests (they are when using Microsoft Dynamics CRM or Salesforce), but can be a nightmare to tackle in a homegrown CRM system.

Why do homegrown CRM systems even exist? 

Homegrown CRM systems are largely created as a result of the IT team raising their hand and volunteering their services to "quickly spin up a CRM". We've seen homegrown systems that are 20 years old and for the most part, are thrown together versions of Outlook. Oftentimes, the original architect behind the homegrown CRM system is no longer at the company; leaving present employees with nothing but duct tape, spit, and prayers to change or update the system. 

If you're ready to migrate off of your homegrown CRM system but don't know which platform to choose (we know this can be a confusing process), let us help you work through a CRM vendor selection

If you’re a manufacturer or distributor looking to become more efficient, but are still running a homegrown CRM…keep reading.

A formal CRM system will pay for itself.

If you think purchasing a formal CRM system and engaging with an implementation partner comes with a big price tag, just wait until you see the bill after years of trying to make your homegrown system scale.

Homegrown CRM systems do not scale, and the more you try to make them, the more money it’s going to cost you.

In our experience, we’ve discovered that manufacturing and distribution companies can recoup the cost of a formal CRM system and contract with an implementation partner in 3-4 new hires. We estimate that every time a manufacturer or distributor puts a new sales rep in the field, they spend about $50k-$60k to get them ramped up and running. An investment in an established CRM platform will save you time and money and pay for itself in a handful of hires.

Support is good. You want support.

Another reason you should just say ‘no’ to homegrown CRM systems is because they don’t come with support. Since they belong to you, exist on-prem, and can only be updated by existing employees, you have no one to turn to when things go wrong or need to be updated.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Salesforce release regular updates 2-3 times a year… and you don’t have to do a thing.

With all these regular updates come add-ons and free stuff; like authentication, mobile access, reporting, dashboards, automation, page reports, workflows, notifications, and the list goes on and on. You would have to spend millions of dollars to integrate these products with a homegrown CRM system, or you could have them out of the box with your purchase. It’s up to you.

Homegrown systems aren’t user-friendly.

In other words, a lot of homegrown CRM systems are ugly. If you’re trying to get your people to use your CRM (and hello, that’s the whole point) good luck getting your team to regularly use a system that’s as painful to look at as it is to use. 

Let’s work together. We’re here to help you successfully implement a CRM system that can scale with your business, provide real value to your employees, and replace your existing homegrown system, once and for all. 

Topics: CRM Best Practices CRM for Manufacturing

Sonoma Partners Named the Microsoft Dynamics CRM US Service Industries FY15 Partner of the Year

Last month, Microsoft proudly announced the United States Microsoft Dynamics Partner Award winners during the US Microsoft Dynamics Annual Conference. 

“The US Partner Awards gives Microsoft Dynamics the opportunity to recognize its top partners at a global event.  We are honored to acknowledge the extraordinary contributions and success driven by our Microsoft partners serving a strategic group of customers and driving strong business impact throughout the past fiscal year.” said Marietta Davis, Vice President, US Dynamics.

Sonoma Partners was recognized with the Microsoft Dynamics CRM US Service Industries
FY15 Partner of the Year Award. The company was honored among the top Microsoft partners for demonstrating sales excellence in innovation and implementation of customer solutions based on Microsoft technology.  


Awards were presented in multiple categories, with winners chosen based on their Microsoft Fiscal Year 2015 industry and product sales performance in the United States. Sonoma Partners was recognized for providing outstanding solutions and services, as well as demonstrating excellent engagement in the in the Professional Services Industry.

“Sonoma Partners is seen as an industry leader in the area of Service Industries. They have built their organization by embracing the need to have unique specializations for success.” said Lindsay Zwart, US Partner Lead – Microsoft Dynamics.

Microsoft Dynamics Day 3 Awards-0062

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Our Microsoft Dynamics CRM Sales Team accepting our award in Nashville, Tennessee. 

Upgrading to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015
Topics: Microsoft Dynamics CRM