CRM software runs my life

Month: September 2006

Busy, busy with my thesis!

There is a simple reason why my blog hasn’t been updated lately, I have been absolutely
snowed under with Uni work. Primarily the work is related to my thesis. You can read
my thesis blog at the Usyd
portfolio website
 or even read
the RSS feed
. The project I am working on is developing a CRM system for a
small/medium business, in this case my employer, Naiman
Clarke
. It is an extremely interesting project for me and I really hope that when
it is completed it sparks some interest inside and outside the University. Essentially
it is a best practice framework for a small or medium enterprise (SME) to implement
a Services Oriented Architecture (SOA), and it uses a Customer Relations Management
(CRM) solution as an example. Lots of acronyms I know, but it takes it a lot further
than your standard implementation and reveals some (I think) unique spins on SOA.
Ah well I will publish it on this site once it is completed, perhaps it will get picked
up and published somewhere… ūüôā

Microsoft is cool?

Microsoft is trying so hard to be cool. It really isn’t fair, why is Apple considered
cool just because they have pretty white cases? How has Apple managed to break the
nerd image that Microsoft is so desperately trying to shake with the mainstream audience?

The Xbox and now the Zune are Microsoft’s best attempts to break the spell so far.
They have recognised the importance of the community and are getting their people
out there spreading the message.
This personification of Microsoft through blogging breaks down the corporate monolith
image and helps evangelise technology. Blogging has been embraced by Microsoft more
than any other company. For example Microsoft flew
a group of influential music bloggers
to Seattle for the launch of the Zune. This
is a clear recognition of the importance of community acceptance and support of their
products.

But it goes further than blogging. Just because your friends are talking about something
does not necesarily mean you will find it cool, you need to get some kind of peer
interaction and build a community around your products. Xbox
gamer profiles
, Windows Live Spaces and
now sharing music wirelessly with your friends (see picture) are all ways of building
communities. This push into people's personal lives is an interesting change for Microsoft,
the Microsoft of the past focused on business efficiency and tools.

In fact even their corporate marketing is changing with their massive push to promote People
Ready
. Personally I respect the fact that their executive
summary
of People Ready doesn’t even include the word technology. It is legitmately
about people and how to put them first when developing a business.

Zune Song Sharing

Some people may regard this influencing of the blogosphere may
be regarded by some as a deceptive form of advertising. This disrespects the community
however, as it essentially says that people are not smart enough to differentiate
marketing from genuine company insights. If you read any kind of business
blogging case
you will notice a number of things.

If you are just regurgitating the company line then you are not going to get read.
Blogging is about pushing the boundaries and attracting attention through strategic
risks. This means breaking the company mould and putting your passion out in the open
(then it is up to the community to make or break you). It takes guts to candidly criticise
yourself, link to your competitors and ask for public comment on your work. Taking
these risks will get you credit with the community. This two way conversation has
benefits for both the company and the blogger, feedback and information flow freely.

In the end blogging is Microsoft's way of building a corporate persona that is open
and people focused. Apple did it a completely different way with people focused products
and by trying to make people forget they are a tech company. In the end neither
Apple or Microsoft is the winner, the community is. Technology is created
to make our lives better (and not just for efficiency and technology's sake).

Note: This is cross-posted from my original post on TechTalkBlogs.

Rack Rebuild

The following photo set shows the progress of the rack rebuild that I performed yesterday.
It starts with the old rack setup and then progresses through each level of the build:

Original rack setup Just the Dell Poweredge server installed Added the tray for the secondary servers and web server. All trays installed including the LCD monitor. Final front shot of the rack install.

It was good fun putting all the new equipment into the rack, but it is very time consuming
especially when everything needs to be adjusted to fit. We had to pull all the vertical
rails as well, so everything had to come out and be rebuilt. It is fun doing it while
the everyone is at work as well, you have to plan the build so you only have one shutdown
during the lunch break! It all ended up working out nicely in the end, everything
is on rails and is easily accessible.

My suggestions for anyone looking to build/rebuild a rack are:

  • Allocate twice as much time as you think you will need

  • Pull as much out as you can

  • Don’t start running cables until you have as much equipment in as possible

  • Get a bag of zip ties

  • Plan everything beforehand

  • Get as many decent screwdrivers and spanners as you can

It is worth it in the end. We now have better air flow, if there is water in the room
the servers will be fine, better accessibility (important especially in emergency
hardware failures) and better physical security.

Server Upgrade

Tonight I performed a tower-to-rack conversion of the Naiman Clarke primary server, a new Dell Poweredge 2900. You may ask why we didn’t just get the rack mountable 2950 version to start with? Well that IS what we ordered, however Dell got a little confused along the way. Anyway they made it up to us with some good discounts and a free rack conversion and rails kit.

Tonight I simply changed the face of the server and moved the control panel so it will be correctly oriented when the server is rack mounted. This was a bit of a process however and required the removal of all drives and bays as well as around 60 Torx screws. You can see these lying around on the floor while I am in the process of reassembling the machine. I also took a few photos of the internals just out of interest. There are some pretty big and noisy fans in there! I thought Woodcrest chips were meant to be power efficient and quiet?

Hover over the pictures for a description:

Dell Poweredge 2900 High Shot Dell Poweredge 2900 CPU Close Up
Dell Poweredge 2900 Peripheral Bay Dell Poweredge 2900 HDD Replacement

The Rise of CRM

Long’s post about¬†talking to customers sparked my interest due to my current thesis work surrounding¬†CRM packages. It raises a very interesting question, and that is do these companies¬†genuinely not care or are they not capable of caring?

Company communication facesA company can only ‘appear’ to be capable of caring if it has invested in systems¬†that ensure each customer interaction is responded to in the best possible way (for¬†both the customer and the company). This requires a lot of business strategy planning¬†and scripting, often using inputs such as customer surveys, psychologists, marketing¬†managers and front line staff. Getting to know your customer clearly takes a lot of¬†time and effort.

All this planning work is in vain however without a successful implementation. Big companies for many years have invested heavily (millions of $) in packages from SAP and Oracle.

It is only now that small and medium enterprises (SME’s) are investing in this area.¬†This shift has mainly occurred due to 2 things, an increase in customer service quality¬†expectations and a decrease in the implementation cost of CRM software.

To give you an idea of what CRM software is capable of I would suggest watching this demo video. It is tucked away on the Microsoft Dynamics website, but it gives an excellent overview of how a CRM system works.

Microsoft and a number of other providers are making a large scale push into the smaller end of the market. By smaller I definitely mean employee numbers, not value. In Australia the SME market actually represents 92% of businesses and 80% of total business value. As far as developing areas of IT go this is a huge one, and it brings with it a whole load of business analyst, software customisation/integration and many other job opportunities
with it.

The exciting part for me however is not that I will have a career path, but that IT¬†is being recognised as a business driver and competitive advantage rather than a necessarily¬†evil to support a business. The TLA‘s¬†of CRM, SFA,¬†ERP and¬†logistics areas are leading the way in this area. One day will the CIO always
have a seat at the board table? Will IT staff be recognised and valued as revenue generators and as holders of crucial business knowledge? Sooner or later, time will tell.

RiverFire 2006

Sorry for not posting earlier, I had some problems with dasBlog! (or rather FreeTextBox). Anyway they are resolved now (thanks to a helpful
post
).

The photos below are from RiverFire 2006, a fireworks show that is run every year in Brisbane in Australia. The photo on the left shows the Story Bridge lit up with fireworks and the picture on the right shows a F-111 Aardvark doing a fuel burn across the night sky.

You can see some more great pictures at this official photo site, they make some pretty nice desktop backgrounds.

Download Office 2007 Icons

After much demand I decided to place the extracted icons on this website. They are available in a zip file and are mostly in 48×48 ico files (there are a couple that were only available in 32×32). You can now pretend to have Office 2007 B2TR on your computer! Pity there isn’t an easy way to update your splash screens… ūüôā

Enjoy!

Office 2007 Icons.zip (170.81 KB)

Vista goes RC1

Well this was a bit of a surprise to myself and I think most other people! RC1 has
come just a couple of weeks (barely) after the August CTP and is a later build number
than expected (5600 instead of the 5536 most people expected). I am downloading the
x86 version right now and will post a review once I have upgraded, hopefully they
will have included the nforce RAID drivers this time.

It will be released to MSDN and TechNet subscribers soon too, but Connect users
are getting it first which is nice! You can see some screenshots of the RC1 on Paul
Thurrott’s SuperSite
. Here is a bit of a preview of the new default wallpaper,
it seems Microsoft is continuing to rotate through the wallpapers trying to keep everyone
guessing!

 

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