INETA Champs- go vote for a feature upgrade!

INETA Champs are people who give to their professional communities.  It is not technology based, it is really to say thanks for the giving back that so many do.  I was named a Champ earlier this year and am not exaggerating when I say it was as much of an honor as my MVP was.  I have nominated some folks and am proud to watch them receive the honor and continue to grow.

The Champs site has in place a system to track your community activities.  You can put in here all those little things you already do for your groups.  Newsletters.  Sponsorships.  All those things.  Once per quarter winners are announced.

Now, what do I want from you???  It’s easy.  I have requested a new feature and need community votes to get it to the top of the list and implemented.  What’s my new feature?  I want to offer an Excel export of your community activities to help facilitate MVP reporting for current and future MVPs.  You don’t want to have to track all these activities in a zillion different places, so let’s get this feature implemented.

Go to the Champs site, link below.  On the left side of the home page, click the Red Feedback button.  Then VOTE for it.


Champs Site

Looking forward to xRMVirtual meeting tomorrow

Yea yea, you assume I look forward to EVERY meeting and while true, this one especially.  We've got Microsoft CRM Online team members Eric Boocock and Jon White presenting on Online vs. Onsite, you really can develop on both.

When you are starting a new CRM implementation, one of the first decisions you need to make is the WHERE?  Onsite, like my office?  Onsite, like your office?  Online with Microsoft?  This decision is by far one of the most important ones as well.  So it is vital to understand the differences of these choices.  While Online does have some limitations, they have been exaggerated and Eric and Jon will address those head-on.  When you are delving into xRM territory, this decision is also very critial, probably more so than for a "standard" CRM instance.  So again, very important.

You don't have to be a member to join the meeting, but you should really think about joining, we're a pretty good group to hang with, if I do say so myself.  Yes, it will be recorded so if you can't make it, watch it later.

Tomorrow, 9am PST, lasts about an hour, might go over if lots of questions, which I personally hope for!

Meeting Link

Updated Dynamics CRM Statement of Direction is now out

Link below to CRM team blog announcement.  My take and summary (totally and completely MY opinions based on my quick read, take it for what you will).  Kudos to the team for continuing to publish these.  Thanks.

The Good:

  • pages and pages of Accelerator info, 8 pages and some dozen individual accelerators- this really shows the integration capabilities and teamwork between internal and external CRM teams and they can offer some pretty cool tools too
  • V.Next info- woohoo, more details emerging about the next version to drop in 2010.  More than 20 new sets of improvements are named and will certainly whet the appetite of any CRM enthusiast
  • Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 support- as these trickle into the marketplace CRM will be supported and I can tell you from my personal experience, it has been darn near seamless for my CRM going from Vista to Win7.
  • xRM has a whole page :-)

The Not So Good:

  • many of the accelerators are not yet released and have vague release dates, yes I know there is lots in play here, but wish it could be a more regular release of these.  Tease us, then make us wait?  Now please.
  • xRM does not yet have its own SKU.  At some point it will fully grow up and become a full-fledge respected platform.  It has the capabilities NOW, it just needs the backup from a company perspective, so come on Microsoft, SKU it already, k?  I can forward to you all the ideas I have and have received about how best to package it, just ask.
  • comparison of Online and On Premise is a little deceiving.  Yes, it is essentially the same, the same code base, etc. For better than some 90% (or more) of implementations, there IS no difference.  But, with that said, there are SOME differences and in the same document talking about xRM, these differences might matter.  CRM Online is really a rich application platform (I use it myself for a few difference platform implementations), but at the end of the day, there are at least a handful of differences.  Maybe those will disappear in V.Next?

The document is available on both Partner Source and Customer Source.  If you don’t have access through one of those resources and are interested, let me know, I’ll get a copy to you.


Microsoft Dynamics CRM Team Blog : Updated Microsoft Dynamics CRM Statement of Direction is now available!

How Can Your User Group Use Dynamics CRM?

It is no secret that I am a fan of Microsoft Dynamics CRM.  Not only is it a cool little (ha!) tool, when you merge into the xRM realm the possibilities are pretty much endless.  It IS a platform.  Plain and simple.  I can give you some cool examples of extending CRM and how cool it can be and you will likely say, “Really, that’s CRM under there?”

HOWEVER, I understand that CRM for the sake of CRM is just fine too.  Out of the box it is one heck of a powerful tool that can help the most disorganized among us look darn good and like we really have our stuff together.  And the reality is, we really can be organized, but for small bursts of time and CRM takes that moment and adds the sustainability that we need for the long haul.

Ok, how does this apply to user groups?  User groups are, in their simplest definition, a group of (organized) professionals with a common purpose.  See there’s that word, organized.  Here we go…

Members=Contacts.  Contacts are a system entity (comes out of the box as a very robust way to handle PEOPLE records).  Used in their default form, you can easily manage your membership in the out of the box Contact entity.  If you want to get a little fancy, you can have a form on your group’s website for people to join, then it can automagically (via a workflow) plop them right into a contact record.

With these Member records (forgot to tell you that if it makes more sense in your world to call them Members and not Contacts, CRM allows you to change the label on this system entity to say Members instead) you can manage your newsletters and meeting notices.  Send your emails to the whole list at once, or just one, or a subset, your call whatever you need.  CRM can manage your subscribe/unsubscribe records automatically also.

Now that we’ve used a handful of out of the box features, I’ll cover a couple of customizations you can add that will make your user group CRM more useful (seriously, someone new to CRM can add these in less than an hour, promise).

You can add a custom entity, let’s call it Events.  Use it to hold details about regular monthly meetings.  You can add your own gajillion custom attributes (CRM talk for input fields) so if you want to have every detail from location to sponsor to swag, you are covered.  Make an attribute for each whatever you want to track.  You can organize these attributes on the custom form any which way you’d like.  Make custom views to quickly see the most important details to YOUR group.  If your group leader likes to view attributes A,B and C in the summary but your treasurer likes to view B,D and E, no problem custom views are quick and easy too.  These events can house some attachments too, so your slide deck from the meeting, yup, right there in perpetuity for all to see.

Now add another custom entity called Speakers.  You add attributes for name, bio, blog, photo, etc.  You can then create a relationship to events.  Now you can track which events have which speaker.

Having a code camp?  No problem, you’re already set up.  Nest your events.  Each session is an event with a speaker.  Make a parent event to hold all of the children, the sessions.

Ok, you have Members and you have Events, now you add a relationship between them and can track registrations and attendance.  Now you can make custom marketing lists for each event and follow-up with reminders and thank you’s.  And you can decide your marketing plan and make a custom workflow that will send the reminders to registered attendees.  It can send the thank you automatically after the event.

A real quick mention needs to be made about reporting.  With these Members and Events, registration, attendance, etc you can quickly (5 minutes or less) make a custom report.  You can show your sponsors how many attendees they can reach.  Your planning team can find out the turnover rate of registrations vs attendance.  You need to report it, CRM can report on pretty much whatever data you throw into it.

A brief mention to extending out of CRM, you’ve got all your events held in CRM and need them on your website.  You shouldn’t have to re-enter them all into another system.  With a small bit of effort you can get the data out of CRM and into your site.  If you don’t think you want to try it on your own, give me a shout, I can point you to some tools and people that can point you in the right direction.

Want to try it out?  Get a 30 day free trial of CRMOnline or if you are a MS partner, chances are you have some free seats of CRM already, give it a shot.

Professional Appearance of Women?

This morning reading my Time Magazine (the old fashioned tree-killing version, a link to the digital one below) I found 3 pages devoted to Michelle Obama’s HAIR.  Yup.  So it got me thinking.

How much does a woman’s appearance matter in her professional world?  Think for a second.  You meet a man in a professional setting, office, conference, meeting, etc.  As long as he doesn’t smell awful, you wait to let his talking (or in some cases reputation) decide for you his level of intelligence.  In my professional world, there are few suits, so seriously even the rumpled guys can be a genius and we tend to give them the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.

Now for us women in technology out there… we have a fine line to walk.  Look too good then people assume there is nothing in the noggin or we want to use our looks to get more attention than our brains deserve.  Look sloppy, then not taken seriously either.  To wear make-up or not wear make-up, then how much to wear.  Does my butt look huge in this skirt/pants/jeans?  Um, is that cleavage showing?  What is the view from a man’s height looking DOWN into the shirt?  Should I wear heels and kill myself all day so I am the same height as the guys, they look me in the eye.  What if those shoes make me taller then the guys, will they shy away, intentionally or not?

Lucky for us there are more and more brainy chicks out there.  More and more high profile women around, worthy of our attention based on their smarts and accomplishments, not just their curves and smiles (the collective, men and women in the professional world).  To say there is not a double standard is either arrogant or ignorant, or a bit of both.  People may not INTEND it that way, but it certainly exists.  It is getting better, thanks in large part to the women before us and around us that don’t let that get in their way of success and admit (and sometimes cave) to the society expectations of us, visually speaking.

For the record, my appearance is based 90% for me and my comfort (both literally and comfort in whatever environment I happen to be in) and 10% for you.  I realize that you (the collective) will judge me based on my appearance, so you get a little head start before my brain kicks in and influences your opinion of me.  Then you either love me or hate me, listen to me or ignore me.


Photos: Michelle Obama's Hair - Photo Essays - TIME