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  • Joe Wichowski 4:24 pm on September 10, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Business, Finance, ,   

    What If You Could “Google” Your Data? 

    What If You Could “Google” Your Data?

    Google Your Data With Power BI From Microsoft

    Well, Now You Can!  

    Join Us In Troy @ Automation Alley To Learn About

    Power BI from Microsoft

     

    Now more than ever, companies are struggling to keep up with the demand for better analytics, and faster / real-time access to data.

    The problem is that the simple data tools we used to use (Excel) are no longer able to stand up to the shear amounts of data required to get “the big picture”.

    The standard model for Excel (load data, massage data, build pivot tables, convert to charts, repeat next month) is broken – too much time is wasted each and every month simply regenerating reports.

    Power BI - Sales By Month
    Enter Power BI from Microsoft.

    Power BI is a collection of Microsoft Excel add-ons that give power users the capability of collating data from many different sources, and build Click-type charts, maps, and other “visual” tables.

    It enables real-time decision making within the toolset most employees are familiar with – without having to wash/rinse/and repeat the process each and every month.

    Power BI - Sales On A Map
    Reply Back NOW To Register!

     

    Join us as we walk you through the Power BI toolset, how it solves “big data” problems, reduces costs, and helps employees get immediate answers to make better business decisions for your organization.

    Who: Financial Execs, Managers, Owners who want better access to data

     

    When: September 30, 2014 (Tuesday) 9am – 11am

     

    Where: Automation Alley (Troy)

    The Boardroom
    2675 Bellingham
    Troy, MI 48083

     

     

     
  • Joe Wichowski 8:19 am on August 12, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Business,   

    The art of “More Choices” with less… 

    31flavors

    As sales people, we often provide our clients with way too many options.  Our product catalogs are full of so many awesome offerings, and we know the customer can benefit from every single one of them.  Our proposals get bigger and bigger, trying to add value to what we are offering.  We want to make a difference, and we want them to have everything they need.

    Studies have shown, however, that this type of behavior can lead to “paralysis by analysis” during the decision making process.  Consider the following scenario:

    A mother and daughter walk up to a corner.  There, they find 2 ice cream stores: one that serves only 3 flavors – vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry; and the other that has 31 flavors to choose from.  Both mother and daughter choose to visit the store with more options – choosing from 31 flavors has to be better, right?

    However, after entering the store, they are overwhelmed with so many choices, that they spend 10 times as long picking out “which flavor” they would like.  In essence, there are so many options, it is difficult for them to decide on what is the “right decision”, so they take longer to make the choice.

    In the above scenario, had the mother and daughter been presented with 2 stores – one with 3 flavors, and another with 3 similar but different flavors, their brain actually would have made their ice cream “choice” well before they even went into the store – they would have had clear vision very early in the decision making process.

    As such, in sales we should strive to offer our clients the choices they want, but not every choice they could use (at least, not now).  By writing smarter proposals, you can help your customers make faster decisions, and be more comfortable in the decision they’ve made.

     
  • Joe Wichowski 8:45 am on August 5, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Business,   

    Give your clients a “Yes” or “Yes” choice… 

    YesOrNo

    Pop quiz – What does the last sales proposal you sent to your customer look like?  Are you just quoting the products that you and your customer discussed?  Or are you going further – building a second proposal, that they didn’t even ask for, providing them with “another way to go”?

    Marketing studies have shown that even when you think you are giving people “1 choice”, you are essentially giving them 2 – They can say “Yes”, or they can say “No”.  The issue lies in the presentation of the options – why not increase (or better) your odds by controlling the story?  Why not try to give them a “Yes” or a “Yes” option?

    Instead of just a single proposal, can you provide your customers with an “A” and a “B” proposal?  Its not enough to include them on the same quotation – they have to be seen as physically separate – they should be able to hold each separately in their hand.

    What if Option A is the “bare minimum” to get the client started, but Option B offers long term support, training, maintenance, etc?  What if Option A is the base tooling assembly, but Option B provides for long-term stock service capabilities to help the client decrease their costs over the next 3 years?

    By providing an A and a B proposal, the discussion becomes more of a “which one fits you best?” as opposed to a “can we execute on this single proposal or not?” – you’ve changed the conversation.  The customer is now discussing options with you (physically shifting them in their hand, A or B, as you discuss them), neither of which leads to a “No”.

    By controlling the conversation, you can change the game – and your rate of closure – all to the benefit of the client.

     
  • Joe Wichowski 8:44 am on January 14, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Business,   

    Challenge your team to “know” your customers… 

    dale_carnegie

    Dale Carnegie once said:

     “You can make more friends in two months by becoming
    more interested in other people than you can in
    two years by trying to get people interested in you”

    Too often as salesmen, we define ourselves by our ability to make people interested in us – to persuade people into buying.  Instead, take a moment to give your team some specific action items that will not only get them more in tune with their customers, but they just might gather some intelligence to help them close their next deal.

    • Identifying Your Customer’s Customers – Find out who your customer’s “top customers” are.  Are they overweight in one particular segment?  Are they still growing? What are their strategic initiatives for customer growth over the next 12 months?  How might your company be able to help within those initiatives?
    • Competitor Discussion – Have your sales team ask the customer who your top 1 or 2 competitors are.  More often than not, they will actually tell you.  Why do they do business with them versus you? How are they different (good or bad)?  What is the percentage split (them versus us)?  Is there anything our competitors are doing that the customer would like us doing?
    • “If I Could” Discussion – Simply have your sales team ask the customer “If I could do anything for you this year – one thing – besides give you product for free; what would it be?”.   Then collate the list and review for synergies across your customer base.

    Assign these questions to your team.  Have them return a sheet filled in with each of their top-10 customers.  In doing so, you will begin to realize information you never had, and at the same time, draw your customer closer to your sales force.

     
  • Joe Wichowski 10:27 am on December 26, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Business, Operations, , Teams   

    Sometimes its good to be inside the box… 

    smallbox

    Although there are times when thinking “outside the box” can truly help teams innovate, it can become such a repetitious process that you actually end up with the same ideas and initiatives over and over again.

    Sometimes, the trouble with “blue sky” thinking, is that some people have a hard time envisioning “what ifs” without some form of guidelines.  To that, I read a great article on 99u the other day that really can help shake things up. 

    Instead of concentrating on “out of the box” thinking – come up with some interesting constraints for your team.  Don’t give them a blank slate.  Confuse them with “customer requirements” that really forces them to get into the problem.  For example:

    • Instead Of:   “How can we reduce our lead time?”
      Try:                “What if a customer wants us to get them their order today before 10am?
       
      The obvious answer will be “I guess we would drive it over” – but more importantly, how will the order get expedited?  How will it affect today’s production?  How can we improve the expedite of this order?  Force them to walk the whole process through the 10am delivery and see what systems or processes can be updated – even if 10am is not viable, the ideas you generate could easily aide in reducing your overall lead time.
       
    • Instead Of:   “How can I get you to make more sales calls this year?”
      Try:                “What if this year your customers only want to meet with you in the mornings – how can you structure your day to accommodate them?”
       
      Sales guys try to space out their day.  It makes them feel (and look) busy.  To get them more focused on being productive, see if you can help them come up with a 1/2 day plan to help structure their days better.  How can they utilize a geographic map to better plan routes instead of zig-zag driving?  How can they optomize their calendar to get multiple visits in the same areas done in succession?  Can they get started with a customer right at 8am? What about 7am?  Can they sit down in the afternoon and write 5 or 6 quotes in a row?  Walk them through a week, and see how you might be able to better challenge your sales team to be more productive by batching similar work together. 

    By building some arbitrary walls around the problem, you add some confusion to the problem, and really make someone scramble to come up with something more than the normal set of ideas.

     
  • Joe Wichowski 9:41 pm on June 11, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Business, ,   

    Top 5 Ways Sharepoint Can Reduce Email Overload In Your Company 

    Sharepoint 2010

    Come on, admit it.  You know nothing about Microsoft’s flagship “groupware” and Lotus Notes alternative – Sharepoint 2010.  The sad truth is, you probably have Sharepoint in your company.  Its just that no one is using it effectively.

    Sharepoint is often seen simply as a “document library” – a place to store and retrieve files.  What a waste.  One of the most impressive values of Lotus Notes was that it empowered users build simple forms and worklows to track business functions.  From customer service requests, to engineering tasks, to contract generation and approval – it allowed for a central repository of “work”.  There was no “inbox overload” in Lotus Notes – everything a company did had a unique database to store and track the work.  And Sharepoint offers companies the same – a single place to hold all work items within every department of the company.  They can be tracked, measured, evaluated for effectiveness, audited to eliminate waste.  All of which has the net effect of reducing intra-company email.  And yet, the vast majority of Sharepoint installations go no farther that allowing users to search online for files.

    So why is Sharepoint treated so different?  It offers our customers the same value as Lotus Notes – high-availability and security, scalability, and searchable meta-data indexes.  Its the perfect centralized work portal for any company.  Here’s the top 5 ways in which we’ve helped our customers reduce their intra-company email, and centralize all of their company work so that no one will ever “drop the ball”.

    1. Customer Service Requests – So often we see our customers emailing back-and-forth, discussing some form of question from a customer.  However, when we ask them “how many” they’ve fielded in the last 30 days, or “how long” on average does it take to address them, they don’t know.  The data is locked – missing inside of their various Inboxes.Instead, treat a Sharepoint issues list just like a Customer Service log.  For every phone call or email that comes in from a customer, it gets centrally logged.  If Q&A is needed amongst departments and co-workers, it is done directly from within the task itself.  Sharepoint has many “alert” type functions already built-in.  Track who a work order is currently assigned to, which have been “stuck open”, and how effective has customer support been.  These types of metrics can go a long way towards delivering and documenting exceptional customer service.  Instead of pushing product, push your value.
      .
    2. Collaborative Proposals – Often companies need to develop a custom offering for their customers that requires the input of more than one person within the company.  Maybe its a “special” one-off product, or some custom engineering that will be required in order to meet the customer’s specific needs.  This often requires extensive collaboration across many phases – including fact gathering, brainstorming, solution development, cost analysis, value prop, proposal creation, and so on.  Normally all of this communication would take place via spreadsheets and emails.  However, by creating a centralized portal, with each proposal tracked and documented all along the way, you can ensure proposals are finalized with utmost urgency, and that no single person can hold up the process.
      .
    3. Company Wiki – It seems every company these days has that one employee who believes “everything” is important.  “That’s why they invented the FYI!” they say.  Tell them NO MORE!  Instead of sending an email to people who really don’t care, a Company Wiki can serve as a place that these valuable pieces of information can be stored, but not simply emailed around to people who don’t need to see them.  Company policies, How-to manuals, Customer information, HR forms – it should all go in there.  Add on Sharepoint’s great searching capabilities, and anyone with a need can find any piece of information they need.  And more importantly – only when they need it.
      .
    4. Vacation Request & Time-off Schedule  – I can’t count the number of times that I find customers who send Calendar invites out to various departments informing them of an upcoming vacation.  What’s worse is that by simply “accepting” these appointments, the recipient is unknowingly blocking out their Busytime for the exact same date/time.Instead, a simple Vacation Request form should be created.  It can utilize built-in workflow inside Sharepoint to get routed (and approved) to the appropriate manager.  Then, a Calendar listview can be created.  This will allow anyone who wishes to “sync” the calendar into Outlook, thus automatically giving them visibility inside the Vacation schedule (without it clogging up their busytime).
      .
    5. IT / Helpdesk Requests – Doing IT work can be hard.  Its even harder when people constantly send you email informing you something “won’t work”.  Without structure, it’s possible that 3 to 5 emails go back-and-forth before the IT resource has a clue on what the business user is talking about.  What a waste. A customer of mine developed a saying – “No Work Order – No Work!”.  It is a mantra that has served them well.  Every request must first be logged by a user, and the Work Order form is comprehensive enough so that IT can tell what the issue is simply by reading it.  Requests are then addressed in FIFO order based on priority and perceived downtime.  The process has done more than decrease email coming into the IT department – it has also elevated the level-of-service, since IT now has 100% visibility across the organization.
      .

    Sharepoint is an extremely powerful workflow tool, if set up and utilized properly.  It can be a game changer in the way your company operates – ensuring 360 degree visibility across all work being done by all departments.  And hey – it just might decrease you Inbox by about 100 emails tomorrow!

     
  • Joe Wichowski 3:49 pm on April 5, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Business, , ,   

    Save a couple $grand$ on email every year… 

    For the past several months, we’ve been converting some of our customers over to Office365.  In fact, we’ve been able to prove savings of $2k to $5k per year for each customer (over 3 years), depending on the number of users converted.  This product is a serious cost-savings tool.  And now, Microsoft is making it easier than ever to switch.

    Until June, Microsoft’s Big Easy 8 sale is going on.  This means you can get a E1 plan (Exchange, Sharepoint, and Windows Live meetings) for just $8 per user, per month (less than $100 per year per user!).  Or, if you also could benefit from upgrading all users to Microsoft Office 2010, then get the E3 plan at just $20 per user, per month.  This means that for price of Office 2010 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access) you get hosted Exchange and Sharepoint for free!  Microsoft will even give you some additional cash back to use for future training like our Outlook Productivity training for Sales and Operations staff.

    We’ve been using Office365 here for about a year.  We switched from Lotus Notes.  For us its a no brainer – we no longer are in the “support” business for our email, and can just get after the business of helping our customers.  We’ve even done it in such a way that we still leverage our Lotus Notes applications as-is – only our email is switched to Office365.  And its been rock-solid reliable, just like Lotus Notes was for us.  (Why did we switch from Lotus?  Simple – momentum.  Most of our customers switched to Exchange/Outlook, so we needed to better support and train them.  The best way to do that is to use what they use.  Sad for Lotus – their job is marketing, our job is helping customers.)

    If you haven’t checked out Office365, or haven’t seen a demo, click on our link here to start a free trial.  It will basically set you up with a 25 user E3 account so you can see how easy it is to use its online collaboration features (Sharepoint) for your team.  You can even setup temporary email accounts to test the email features as well.

    Or, if you would like someone to just walk you through it, please do not hesitate to give me a call or shoot me an email.

     
  • Joe Wichowski 8:19 am on February 21, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Business, , , Training   

    Get more value from Microsoft Outlook… 

    Meet Chuck:

    He’s your “average employee” – struggling to navigate today’s wild-wild-west of daily information, and simply get his work done.  His problem?  He hasn’t been taught how to do that.  He’s been given Microsoft Outlook to be more productive, but unfortunately has only gotten as far as sending emails and booking meetings (lots and lots of meetings!)

    Fortunately, we can help.  We have recently developed a class for sales, service, and support teams that helps them immediately become more productive.  The class is delivered in both On-Site or Video/Webinar format – so we can help companies in any location, not just in Michigan.  It is designed to help teams organize their world, get more done, and spend more time “working” – instead of searching for information and drowning in Inbox Overload.

    If your team or company may benefit from some low-cost Outlook training, please give us a call.  It’s a quick-win, with topics such as:

    Organizing your world 

    • Email & Calendar – Setting & Using Categories to track open items for Customers and Projects
    • Email – Organize Sent email (not just Inbox) before it goes out
    • Email – Creating Cool Rules to cut rough Inbox Overload
    • Email – Creating Search Folders to build action lists
    • Email – Setting up your Favorites for quicker access
    • Calendar – Adding all tasks as “Time” for better productivity
    • Email – Junk Filtering for less non-value-add email

    Working with people

    • Email – Tracking and Managing incoming and outgoing follow-up
    • Email & Calendar – Exchanging calendars with external customers and internal teams
    • Calendar – Working with multiple calendars, and creating and sharing Team calendars
    • Email – Polling users with Yes/No tracking, Approve/Deny, and other Voting

    Other Magic

    • Email – Multiple signatures for condensed Reply/Forward, new prospects, and more
    • Email – QuickParts – Creating, managing email templates for sales, service
    • Email – Making custom QuickSteps to automate repetitive actions
    • Email – Emailing your vCard, making a QR Code, and other quick tips
    • Email – Quickly adding screen prints to emails
     
  • Joe Wichowski 8:29 am on February 2, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Business, , ,   

    Eliminate the dreaded “reply-all” from your company… 

    We’ve all hate getting them – the dreaded “reply all” emails.  Too often, employees and co-workers continually use and abuse this button, to the extent that email is now “broken” in many companies throughout the business world.  Its sad really.  One little button can essentially ruin a function that was created to actually save people time.  Now however, it is one of the bigger time-wasters in our daily lives.

    It’s the equivalent to spam in the business to business world – only you can’t opt-out.  You can fight back, however, and set up your life to better manage these CC’s (and BCC’s) and get back to the world of the important and urgent.

    The goal of this post is to:

    • Make people “think” before hitting the reply-all button.  Should it go to a shorter distribution list, or does everyone really need to know this?
    • Punish those (a little bit) with an immediate confirmation “Thank you” back to the sender.  So, if they reply-all to 20 people, they will get 20 emails back saying “thanks!”
    • Explore the use of Social tools within the enterprise to try to curb the reliance on Email for non-critical / non-actionable information within the company.

    Setup a Rule

    The thing about email systems that most people forget is – you can make rules.  Rules are great – they automate the movement of emails and information as its sent to you.  It can be moved and replied to.  So, if you make a rule to move CC, BCC, and “Reply-All” emails

    To set this up in Microsoft Outlook, go into your rules.  You will need to add  separate rules for this.  This is due to the fact that the “reply” rule is a Server-side rule , and the “Move” rule is an Outlook (Client) rule, and Outlook will not let you build a rule that combines both.  But it still works fine with 2.

    Hi!

    Thanks for including me in your “Reply All” or “CC” email. I like to read these emails once a week (usually Friday afternoons), but sometimes it can take even longer based on my schedule.

    If there is something “actionable” that needs my immediate attention, please copy that piece out and resend it back to me (directly). Otherwise, I will read your email when I get a chance.

    Have a great day!
    _____________________
    Joe Wichowski
    Traction Consulting Group

    The same thing can be done in Lotus Notes as well.  However, you will also need to make an Email Agent (since the Lotus Notes rule system does not have an “auto-reply” capability).  But it still works pretty much the same – 1 rule to “move” the email, and 1 agent to “reply” to the originator.

    So, with this rule setup within your company, the next time someone CC’s 20 people, they will in fact get 20 emails back – right now – saying “Thanks! But I won’t be reading this anytime soon”.  If it is truly important, it will be up to the sender to re-send the information if it truly needs to be acted on.  However, more than likely they will just address the new email to those who need to see it (the remaining 18 people will be spared).  AND, the benefit for you is – you didn’t even see the email.  Its waiting for you in your “FYI” folder – when YOU are ready to read it.

    Implement Social Tools

    The thing about Reply-All’s and CC’s is that those emails are the pieces of information in the company that could truly benefit from Social tools.  If you this in terms of Facebook; what does Facebook really do for you?  It keeps you updated on your friends; it lets you see what they are working on; it lets you know their discoveries; it lets you know their challenges.  But the biggest thing Facebook does for you is – it lets you do all of this on your own time, when you are ready for it.

    So twist that around, and apply that to the business world.  Reply-Alls and CC’d are an attempt by employees and co-workers to keep you updated; let you see what they’re working on (or did); let you know their findings and resolutions; let you know where they are stuck.  It’s essentially the same goals.  But when it comes to your Inbox, it does not give you the choice of reviewing it when you are ready.  Instead, it often hinders productivity.

    To resolve that, a tool like Chatter or Lotus Live can help migrate these conversations within a context that matters – a social engagement tool that keeps people well-informed, while preserving the Inbox for immediate and urgent things.

    A Note On Customer Etiquette

    Often, my customers will “reply-all” to me.  I don’t mind.  But I don’t “reply back” to them either.  I usually build 2 sets of “reply” rules – one to reply to my internal staff, and the other to simply move the CC or Reply-All email into a separate “Customer FYI” folder.  I usually quickly scan those headers once a day, to see if anything really demands my attention.

    Bottom line for me – Customers always come first, but work needs to get done.  I think by creating the proper set of rules within your email system, and engaging in a social tool, will put your company on the healthy path to better productivity.

    If you would like to discuss your productivity challenges, and get some insight into Social tools that may help your organization, please don’t hesitate to give me a call.

     
  • Joe Wichowski 12:39 pm on January 3, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Business, ,   

    Twitter, Facebook, Intellectual Property – Who Owns YOUR Data? 

    Recently in The New York Times, it was reported that Noah Kravitz was being sued for taking his 17,000 Twitter contacts “with him” once he left his employer.  This raises an interesting question – if a company has a signed non-compete and an intellectual property privacy clause, is it possible that they could still “lose” their IP on Facebook and Twitter because they don’t personally “own” the account?

    Certainly, PhoneDog will have its hand full. It appears they let this go on for some 8 months. Unless they have some “cease and desist” emails they can dig up, they will have to explain why it took them so long to actually care about it.

    On the other hand, this leads to the more important issue – as companies leverage free Cloud tools to reach out to customers in new ways, are they selling their IP claims short? In the end, will this only come back to bite them when their employees leave for a competitor?

    It is our belief that companies should keep all Twitter and Facebook accounts of the company as “house accounts”, only giving access those marketing people who need to connect in that manner. Also, the email addresses linked to these accounts should be reachable by IT. This way, as an employee leaves, IT can simply “request a new password”, with the request able to be fetched within the companies email system directly.

    Going further, specifically stating Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and so on in your non-complete can help eliminate the “gray area” that currently surrounds these types of lists. What do we do when a sales guy “connects” via LinedIn to all of his sales contacts? What happens when a salesforce leverages Google+ Hangouts for monthly video conferences with customers? Who owns that data?

    Leveraging these new social connections can definately help you market and sell more.  In fact, if you are not doing it, then you are already way behind the curve.  But this doesn’t mean we should lose our IP.  Until the courts rule in July, we just don’t know who truly “owns” the information.  Stay tuned…

    (If you are looking for alternatives – we use WordPress for our own private blogging/twitter-like stuff.  We own it, we control it, and if someone leaves the company, we retain it.  For social/facebook type features, have a look at Salesfore.com Chatter.  Its easy to set up, its free, and it allows you to make “private” groups to engage and discuss issues and services with clients.)

     
  • Joe Wichowski 9:10 am on January 2, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Business, , , ,   

    TCG – The year ahead… 

    Happy New Year!  On behalf of all of us here at Traction Consulting Group, we hope your holiday was awesome, and you are ready to get-after-it in the new year!  As a primer to some of the innovations we have set for our customers in 2012, here are some of the exciting things we are working on:

    1. BizBoard – Our streamlined web-enabled metrics system is ready to engage your management team. With it, teams will be able to combine metrics from ERP, CRM, Spreadsheets, and other database applications – all into a single dashboarding solution. In addition, each metric will have an associated “Action List”. So not only will the metrics help you better understand your company, but they will also prove as a central hub of activity to improve where there is work to be done. This solution works from any web browser, including iPads and other tablets.
    2. BizBoard Mobile – We don’t want your iPhone or Android to be left out.  To that, we have created BizBoard Mobile, specifically formatted for phones with web browsers, to better react to just-in-time information while on-the-go.  Alerts are set up to push to users on a daily or hourly basis.  For example: customers and orders requiring follow-up, salesmen not performing to goals, opportunity not closing, and more.  Users can then interact with these alerts, and track them over time, giving them mobile tools to quickly react to changing business data.
    3. Traction LMS– As part of our ongoing focus of Mentoring & Training as an extension of the Development & Support services we perform for our customers, Traction has created a Learning Management System (LMS) to help customers gain traction within their educational initiatives.  No longer will your employees struggle to find policies, procedures, instruction, and expectations.  With our LMS, teams will find a one-stop-shop for everything – Instructions and procedures, policies, how-to’s, tips and tricks, videos, and more.
    4. Traction Alerts – Don’t hunt for information – have the information find you.  Our alerts/reporting system for Salesforce.com, Microsoft CRM, and SugarCRM delivers just-in-time information directly to a user’s inbox.  So instead of salesmen “searching” CRM for information, the information is pro-actively delivered to them.  We have many generic reports, like:  This week’s customers & activities, Customers you haven’t visited in a while, This week’s birthdays, and Opportunity Follow-up; but we can also customize these or add any additional as needs arise.  We also include these services free-of-charge with our Managed CRM Service Agreement.
    5. Traction Intelligence – For Microsoft CRM Online and Salesforce.com customers, it is often best to have a “local copy” of the information in order to do extended reporting, analysis, and data integration.  Traction Intelligence provides you with exactly that – a copy of your Online information, directly in a local database your resources can quickly reach.  You can choose your database – our data pumping system does the rest.

    Thanks again for all your support in 2011, and we look forward to continuing our rock-solid quality, service, and value for you in 2012.

     
  • Joe Wichowski 9:22 am on December 9, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Business,   

    The Importance Of Centralized Workflow 

    I read an article on Yahoo News about the French tech company Atos – they are “stopping email” within their company, because the CEO believes only 10% is useful (and up to 18% is just spam).  After doing the math, I can’t help but wonder if I am right about what the other “144 useless messages” are.

    We often find email-overusage in companies that do not leverage proactive systems and workflow.  People are programmed to use what you give them.  15 years ago you probably gave them email, and at the time they were sooooooo happy – the end to the voicemail madness!  However, in the last 15 years, what additional tools have you given them to organize their lives?  We are asking employees to do more and more, but aren’t necessarily giving them the tools to accomplish all of this additional responsibility.

    When a client of ours explains to us that they have “email overload”, we often pitch a 2-step approach:

    1. Build proactive automation within their CRM system.  By pushing key information directly to users, in a just-in-time fashion, users are less likely to “ask” the status of issues, and will not arbitrarily “FYI” everyone on simple mundane issues and tasks.  Use metrics to measure everything, and when they fall “out of scope”, only then send an alert of an email.
    2. Build a centralized Workflow Portal to capture “everything else”.  This would be a spot to capture any work activities executed by cross-functional teams – collaborative proposals, new marketing or product initiatives, cost reduction projects, and so on.  These are the places where the “Social Enterprise” should live.  Don’t just set up a Wiki, put the Wiki directly within the scope of the project or initiative.

    To me, email is not the problem.  The true issue lies in the fact that team’s need a specific place to put information, and process for collaboration.  If none exists, they will leverage the tools they already have – email and meetings.  In my opinion, simply shutting off email at Atos will not solve the problem.  Instead, users will spend much of their day going desk to desk (or conference call to conference call) “CC’ing” information as they have done before.

     
  • Joe Wichowski 8:07 am on December 6, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Business, , ,   

    The Azure pricing mystery… what about attachments??? 

    As a follow-up to my initial Azure post, I wanted to show that if you have an ASP.NET app that also has attachments (for example – PDFs archived against a PO work order tracking system), it really doesn’t affect monthly pricing that much.  For example, lets suppose we add attachments into our previous calculation.

    If we allow for attachments of 500kb, and each user either attaches (or downloads & reads) 5 attachments per hour, the total gigs transferred per month grows by about 50%.

    In addition, you also have to “store” those attachments in Azure.  If we assume storing about 50 new attachments per day, that comes out to about 6gigs of space per year (or 12 gigs over 2 years).

    But when we look at Azure pricing for the additional bandwidth and storage space, we see that it really only adds another $10/month.  Not a significant cost by any means.

    For Force.com, its also not an issue.  Their $50/user/month charge includes 612mb/user (or a little over 6gigs for our 10-user example).  So, essentially, the storage of attachments are “included” within the Force.com price (Force.com gives you a minimum of 11gigs storage space, so that should essentially cover our example 2-year analysis).

     
  • Kurt Higley 12:43 pm on December 5, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Business   

    Life without email? 

    I just read this article “Staff to be banned from sending emails“.

    Could you change the way you work and stop sending internal email within your company?

    Some things come to consider:

      1. Attachments. Some instant messaging applications allow attachments, but is that the best practice?
      2. Mobile access. Not all instant messaging applications have a mobile solution.
      3. Historical. Can the chat transcripts be saved? Are there any legal ramifications or requirements(i.e., HIPAA).
      4. Mail-enabled applications. Are these considered email?

     

    It’s a start, but email is going to be here for a while longer.
    Food for thought.

     
  • Joe Wichowski 11:37 am on December 3, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Business, , ,   

    The Azure pricing mystery… 

    Microsoft has had their Azure online PAAS offering available for a while now.  And while it does promise some awesome capability (mainly, zero-hardware scaling), some of our customer’s can’t help but get confused every time they try to determine “how much” their app will cost per month before they go-live.  Many believe it will be too expensive.

    The compute and storage pieces are easy enough to calculate.  But it is the bandwidth that scares them.  Often “older” applications were not necessarily built to be lean.  Taking advantage of newer frameworks like ASP.NET MVC can help, but that often requires a complete re-write of the application – usually not a cheap option.

    Most of our traditional ASP.NET workflow-based web apps come in at about 100kb per page (including images).   If 10 users hammer at it most of the day, their monthly bandwidth would come to about 10gigs.  You can scale this out by adding another 1gig per user per month.  Here is my spreadsheet calculation:

    So, for a 10-user app, you are probably in the ballpark of $280/month (Medium instance, 6gigs database, 10gigs per month bandwidth).  That comes to $28/user/month.  Not bad really, when you consider the fact that with Azure you do not need to pay for a hardware/technician to patch and maintain your infrastructure (Microsoft does it for you automatically), nor do you have to pay for the server hardware itself, any Windows Server licenses, or the SQL Server licensing.

    What other options are there?  You can also go for Force.com – which allows you to build your own Salesforce.com-type applications.  But there, you will have to essentially rebuild your app from scratch, as there aren’t any “converters” available to port code from ASP.NET over to APEX (the Force.com language).  Also, there comparable sever is $50/user/month – a bit pricier, but perhaps the better option if you are going to rebuild your app.  Force.com is fairly easy enough for anyone to develop a basic workflow app.  With ASP.NET, you are probably looking at hiring someone since it is a traditional programming model.

    Is there value in Azure?  I’m telling my customer’s yes – if they have existing ASP.NET applications, and no longer want the complexity of having to maintain servers internally within their organization.  Azure offers a great “first step into the cloud”.

    What if your ASP.NET app has an extensive amount of attachments? Not much different really. Your monthly pricing will go up, but the major cost with Azure is in the instance and the SQL database – not the file storage or the additional bandwidth. But to clarify, I will re-do my calculation to detail that in a follow-up post.

     
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