CRM software runs my life

Month: February 2009

"COM 17 is used , please verify" in Cellular Emulator

When starting the Cellular Emulator included in the Windows Mobile 6 SDK I received an error “Com17 is used please verify”. This is a particularly annoying error because it completely prevents the program from even starting. Where is the setting to manually select a COM port?

Anyway I managed to stumble upon a solution on the MSDN forums and I am reposting it here so other people find it a bit more easily:

Disabling modem devices in Device Manager

Disabling modem devices in Device Manager

  1. Open Device Manager and disable any Bluetooth, Modem or other devices that use a COM port (see picture to the right)
  2. Open a new command prompt and execute the following commands:
    “C:\Program Files\Windows Mobile 6 SDK\Tools\Cellular Emulator\InstallXPVCom.exe” UnInstall
    “C:\Program Files\Windows Mobile 6 SDK\Tools\Cellular Emulator\InstallXPVCom.exe” Install
  3. Start the Cellular Emulator
  4. Re-enable any devices you disabled

The best part about this fix is that it is permanent. No need to disable the devices every time you start the Cellular Emulator, it remembers how to make everything work properly. Why couldn’t it do that in the first place?

Gardening continued!

Street view

Originally uploaded by Scott Savage

The garden is slowly coming together! I cemented in the edging (tumbled limestone pavers turned sideways), planted half of the hedges (other half will be planted once the cement is set) and put chip bark over the areas that will soon be garden beds. Unfortunately I can’t move the roses yet because they are still flowering and to minimise the impact it is better to wait until winter when they are dormant. I also glued a piece of cracked marble back onto the step. I am pretty happy with how things are looking so far, it will be good to see everything grow into place. Hopefully it won’t take long until I have to start trimming the hedges into shape.

Sydney Airport Noise

sydneyairport_city_bgSydney Airport (SYD) is one of the oldest continually operating airports in the world. This also means that the city of Sydney has slowly grown around the airport over the years, with many people now living directly under the flight path. This is particularly true for those in the inner west. When buying a home in this area it is important to do some research as to whether you will be affected by the flight paths. The weekend flight paths are often very different from those during the week. The street seems sleepy and quiet during the Saturday Open for Inspection, but during the week you might be able to feel the windows rattle as a 747 thunders in to land. The curfew from 11pm until 6am does help, however airlines are allowed to break the curfew (for a fee) and of course a curfew is not guaranteed to stand forever (especially now that Macquarie Bank owns the airport).

Sydney Airport Noise Contours - Q3 2008

Sydney Airport Noise Contours - Q3 2008

So what can you do? The first website you should visit is the Air Services Australia site, in particular their Noise Exposure Index Reports section. Attachment D is particularly interesting, the report provides noise contour charts that are overlaid on an abstract map of Sydney. The various coloured lines and shading show the regions exposure to aircraft noise. The noise contours for July-September 2008 are shown to the right. The rest of the report is also interesting, as it shows changes in noise and movements over time, notes reasons for some of the changes (i.e. the east west runway currently being closed due to a safety upgrade) and the types of planes.

Some of the councils affected by aircraft noise also have noise exposure reports on their websites (although they are often difficult to find). For example Marrickville Council provides a Australian Noise Exposure Forecast 2023/2024 (ANEF) Map. This provides forecasted noise exposure information to those people looking to live in or around the Marrickville region. This means you can not only see what the noise levels are like currently, but also predict whether you will be affected in the future. With constant delays and indecision still preventing the construction of the second Sydney Airport, it seems wise to plan for aircraft noise being a staple of Sydney for a long time to come.

CRM solutions for a recession

InsideCRM posted a good article on the top 5 reasons why a CRM system increases in importance during a recession (the US is in one, it is only a matter of time before Australia and others admit they are in one too).

Stressed about sales?

Stressed about sales?

For me, the key is working smarter not harder. When unemployment starts creeping up people start getting stressed about their jobs and start burning the midnight oil. Here is how a CRM helps you achieve more without burning yourself out:

  1. You can slice and dice your customer data to target the customer segments that aren’t suffering so much or have fallen through the cracks in the past.
  2. Customer retention is easier as you can track and schedule catch up emails, meetings or calls.
  3. Customer wide cross-sell strategies can be more easily implemented and coordinated.

Many companies have implemented a CRM system because it is easy to demonstrate reduced data entry, documenting customer complaints or managing product inventory. During a recession, companies should be looking at the analytical and other tools that have gathered dust within your CRM during the good years.

So what are some facts that can motivate you? Improving customer retention by 5% can boost profitability by 25% to 95%. Sales force automation and a consistent sales process has been shown to increase sales per representative by 30% over a three year period. Still not enough reasons?

Well what are the top 3 reasons why now is a great time to go through a CRM implementation?

  1. CRM retailers are hurting like everyone else, prices are better than ever.
  2. Excess capacity within the business can be used to scope, build and train on a new system.
  3. Business model change is slowing as new entrants fail to gain VC or other funding. This gives you some breathing space to document your current business model and tighten the screws.

Dirt + Rain = Mud

The backyard blitz work on our front garden is going well, despite the constant drizzle and ambitious nature of the project. At the moment all the grass has been cleared and the garden beds are being built. Tomorrow morning we are heading to Flemington markets to buy some more roses, hedges and hopefully some edging sandstone to complete the project.

Then I have to re-lay all the turf that I dug up around the back. With another day or rain promised (in fact a whole week) it should continue to be a very messy process.

Best Usability Mockup Tools

In my current role I am really  noticing the huge rewards delivered through extensive prototyping and usability testing. The ability to better capture and illustrate user feedback (internally and externally) as well as accelerate application development cannot be undervalued. As they say a picture tells a thousand words, but in this case a functional picture replaces a thousand words in a requirements document with ease. Requirements documents still have their place, but not as a basis for user comment or even developer guidelines. So what programs do I recommend?

Balsamic screenshot

Balsamic screenshot

The first is Balsamiq, a great little tool that you can use to replace those back of the envelope sketches at 1am in the morning. It is very rough and intended for initial prototypes only, but I find this is well suited for situations where your stakeholders can’t see the concepts for the details. I like it because it lets me see if the ideas that click beautifully in my head actually translate to something workable in real life. Above all though it is quick. Don’t expect to do full working prototypes, but you can expect to have a full Web 2.0 application roughly laid out within an hour. Once you have the concept nailed down however then it is time to move on to some other tools. Think of it as throwing a couple of A4 sheets on a table and spending an hour scribbling, without the rubber shavings and sloping misshapen tables. It is great to be able to pin it to your wall to make sure you keep focusing on the key deliverables of the application, rather than getting carried away with the details of day to day execution.

Axure Screenshot

Axure Screenshot

My favourite tool however is Axure. This tool is great because like Balsamiq it lets you build a working website really quickly, but it then lets you “colour between the lines” and flesh out an almost fully functional prototype. Out of the box Axure is a great program, with all the basic web elements you would expect. They are all easy to edit, move, layout and link. Generating HTML prototypes is also extremely easy, a one click step once you have specified an output directory.

To really unlock the power of Axure however you need to use some community resources. This top 10 Axure resources link is a great starting point. A Clean Design’s templates (number 3 in the top 10) is my personal favourite, it has almost every Web 2.0 element you can think of. The ones that are missing (i.e. Accordian, flyout menus) are covered by the official Axure design library (which is also a good example of HTML generated in Axure).

In conclusion these two tools are the staples of my usability and prototyping work. They are so powerful that one starts wondering, how long until I no longer need to send these off to a coder to develop and deploy my solution?

Telstra CEO Departs?

Sol Trujillo Money Cartoon

Sol Trujillo Money Cartoon

The latest buzz around Telstra is that they have engaged a recruiter to start the hunt for a new CEO. This rumour comes hot on the heels of his two amigos, Greg Winn and Phil Burgess, returning to the US. Sol has now been CEO of Telstra since way back in 2005 and quickly became known for his ‘no compromise’ stance towards Government regulation.

The evidence that this policy has backfired on Telstra is now building, with Optus now looking to be in the box seat to grab the National Broadband Network contract by the end of March. It is quite likely that the contract will be awarded in conjunction with at least one other party, ironically most likely a group of ex-Telstra employees. That has to hurt a bit, especially for people within Telstra who were opposed to Sol’s strategies.

So what happens next? Well if, as expected, Telstra misses out on the NBN contract then I think Sol would be more than willing to use that as an exit strategy. Would this signal a change in direction for Telstra, or would the new CEO have even more incentive to fight the process every step of the way? I would like to think that they could take a more positive approach and focus on delivering the best wireless solution possible and keep competition in the market strong. I guess this would entirely depend on the Government and how they see the NBN tender winners leveraging Telstra’s existing infrastructure. I hope they have the lawyers and strategy in place, otherwise this could get very messy.

Bushfire Photos

Burning Trees BushfireThe bushfires in Australia have been simply unbelievable this year. They always flare up over summer, but after a few cooler summers they have come back harsher than ever. So far 108 people have died in Victoria, which is a staggering number. It is difficult to understand the fear people must feel when the fire is moving so quickly that it can overtake them while they are fleeing in a car. If you would like to make a donation there are details here.

For everyone in Australia that lives near bushland, I really recommend you get serious about data backup. Every time these events occur nearly every person affected talks about the photos and memories they have lost. This is preventable. Get yourself a photo scanner (or pay someone to scan them for you) , get a Flickr account, and start uploading! The added benefits include you can actually share these photos with family and friends, and they won’t ever fade or be damaged. I even think it should be added to the “Fire Ready” plan put out by the Rural Fire Services. The less you have to carry and think about in an emergency the better.

Gen Y Views

Generation YThere are a ton of Gen Y related articles being written these days, it seems everyone is trying to grapple with this ‘problem’. I read an article today on the MyCareer website which I thought was more perceptive than most, probably because it actually had quotes that I could relate to. The key quotes for me were:

(Gen Y) have always had security, shelter, money and they are
expecting the same things in their work,” he says.

“You find gen Y is choosing employers based on the types of training and development programs in place, but more importantly on the types of leaders that are in an organisation.

I guess my take on it is that although we take some things for granted (you only have to look at the unemployment figures to understand that), what really makes us tick is a clear development path. Keep challenging, training and giving responsibility and we will provide larger and faster ROI than you have seen before.

I guess the downside is that this progression has the ability to corrupt as well, and spoilt brat syndrome scares the pants off some employers. Clearly some writers have had bad experiences, but I would like to think that this was the exception rather than the norm. So don’t spoil your Gen Y with salary and cute projects, give them real challenges and keep up the communication and respect. Is that so complicated? 🙂

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