Monday, August 28, 2006

Google Apps for Your Domain

Microsoft and Google are on a collision course. Who benefits? All of us users benefit, that's who!

Just a few moments ago, Google announced a package of web-based productivity applications (called Google Apps for Your Domain) that appears to target Microsoft Office, although it's difficult right now to see how the apples and oranges really compare.

Right now, the productivity applications are for small business; enterprises will not find much here that they can use yet. The only existing edition is called the Standard Edition and consists of GMail, Google Talk, Google Calendar and Google Page Creator. Writely and Google Spreadsheets - the word processing and spreadsheet Google apps - are not included at this time (nor is there any mention of something to compare with PowerPoint).

What's in this for IT? Hosted applications promise to reduce time IT staff spend supporting users with configuration and installation issues. IT won't have to maintain email, messaging, web sites, calendars, etc.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Blog Editors: Choose One

Finally, there's some excitement for PC users in selecting a blog editor.

If you've been reading my personal or corporate blogs, then you may have noticed a reference to Qumana at the bottom of many posts. Despite its shortcomings, I still use this editor for the majority of my posts. Prior to using Qumana, I tended to use Blogger for Word. Neither editor allowed me to upload images reliably to the host for my blogs,

But in the past week, there have been two new tools worth considering.

The first is courtesy of a browser called Flock, which I have recently made my default Internet browser. This browser is based on the popular Firefox, but has some features which make it an attractive alternative to both Firefox and Internet Explorer. One of those features in the built-in blog editor which can be accessed as easily as pressing Ctrl-B on the keyboard or selecting Tools | Blog.

The second is a recent entry from Microsoft called Microsoft Live Writer. It is more fully featured that the Flock entry, although Blogger's API doesn't download the template to the editor as I hoped it would. This is a Blogger issue, not a Live Writer issue.

Two features that will win some fans for Microsoft's entry are the add a map feature and the ability to add your own plugins.

My recommendation? Get started blogging by downloading Microsoft Live Writer.

CRM: A Flawed Model?

CIO claims that up to 70% of customer relationship management projects (CRM) fail.

So, why is it that I receive regular calls from vendors trying to get Pano Cap to consider investing in another CRM package? Those calls are fairly simple to field since we already have a CRM module which is well integrated with our ERP (enterprise resource planning) software from IQMS - Enterprise IQ.

One of the major reasons why companies fail with CRM projects is because they don't implement it correctly. As some of us have experienced in consulting other companies in the region, very often software projects do little more than automate broken or incomplete manual procedures .Obviously, if a company has not carefully reviewed its policies and procedures in regards to the customer experience, automating the process only means that the company can make the same mistakes faster than ever before.

The same business problems that drive companies to adopt a CRM project are the problems that must be resolved before a CRM project is conceived. Sure, CRM software has technology features that excite the imagination. But instead of letting technology features drive the process, companies need to concentrate on the business problems they face in the marketplace. Once the problems are identified, a corporate strategy must be formulated and implemented in the existing manual processes before considering automation.

Let me say it again, "CRM is not about technology. It is about business processes that promote positive customer relationships."

Ouch! IT Managers don't often have to confess that information technology is not about the technology; it's about business objectives and appropriate strategy.

Currently, CRM is a flawed model. CRM technology solutions are about building repositories of information about transactions with customers. But ask any of your sales persons and he/she will tell you that creating positive customer experiences isn't about how much information you have recorded about the customer and your interactions with that customer. Positive customer experiences are all about building trust, being dependable, keeping promises, admitting mistakes and immediately fixing them, and honest and regular communication. Personally, I don't know any software that can deliver those features.