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Single Sign On – OneLogin

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Adoption Drivers

With a goal of becoming a billion dollar in revenue company by 2017, DISYS continues to grow rapidly and expand globally. After implementing several cloud-based enterprise applications such as SalesForce, Office 365 and BMC Remedyforce, the company was looking for an identity management solution that was scalable and could accommodate the addition of new systems.

“There was one that SalesForce offered, and some other pretty crude upload/download methods that were not automatic,” said Hachwi, the IT infrastructure manager responsible for desktop, network and voice services, as well as systems architecture. Hachwi’s team looked to Netflix for guidance. “We’re trying to really mirror how Netflix enterprise IT operates and push new applications and infrastructure to the cloud,” said Hachwi. “We don’t want to maintain a large internal infrastructure with a large team just to manage hardware. DISYS is continuing to grow, and we need to get the infrastructure in place to support that growth quickly. IT can’t waste time and valuable resources procuring, configuring and maintaining hardware and network infrastructure. ”

BYOD Policy for Dispersed Workforce a Must

With 650 employees and roughly 4,000 consultants working at client sites, it was important to provide access to corporate applications via the web. Additionally, as DISYS expands internationally, supporting consultants will require secure, reliable access to the corporate network and all necessary business applications, regardless of the user’s location or access device.

Having consultants spread out geographically presents a unique challenge, since deploying and managing laptops to all of them would be way too costly and time-consuming, let alone present a huge security risk. “Our focus should be maintaining our systems, the data, and access to the data, while our consultants manage the hardware,” said Hachwi.

Keeping Infrastructure Simple

DISYS already had a datacenter in place, with plenty of expansion capability and compute and storage resources. “We had the datacenter because we run PeopleSoft, and we want to keep that in-house,” said Hachwi. “But as we added more applications into the mix to resell as services to our clients, we wanted to keep the infrastructure simple and easy to scale quickly.”

Maintaining the infrastructure to support additional applications such as Office 365 and others would have been too big of a burden. “We would have had to spin up two or three more servers, maintain firewall rules, manage updates, and support everything internally.” said Hachwi.

Rapid, Secure Access, Without Rework

It was important to have access to the apps, because Hachwi’s team needed to show their clients they were using them and demonstrate best practices. “It’s our responsibility to provide access to the apps in a timely manner,” he said.

Although Hachwi’s team considered deploying Okta, the platform didn’t offer the integration capabilities that they found with OneLogin.

Why OneLogin?

SOLUTION

OneLogin provides the fastest path to identity management in the cloud with an on-demand solution consisting of single sign-on, multi-factor authentication, directory integration, user provisioning and a catalog with thousands of pre-integrated applications. !

Fast, Painless Deployment

Deploying OneLogin was quick and painless. “All the directory integration was already done,” said Hachwi. “I think it took us 30 minutes total. Using AD-FS would have had a much larger impact, and it would have affected our disaster recovery setup strategy, as well. We would have to set up and maintain those servers, as well as back them up. OneLogin eliminated all that hassle and made it really easy.” !

Rapid Integration with Web Apps

OneLogin provides access control by connecting to Active Directory or LDAP servers directly; no firewall changes are necessary. Up-front integration work already built-in to the platform provides near instant connectivity to business-critical cloud applications, without rework. Users enjoy one-click access to all web apps from a browser or mobile device. Additionally, strong authentication policies such as PKI certificates, OneLogin’s free Mobile OTP or third-party authentication vendors ensure secure access. !

“OneLogin fits really well into our infrastructure, with easy setup and configuration, and the ability to customize rules and user roles,” said Hachwi. “It makes application deployment simple and streamlined for our team to manage and gives our dispersed employees and contractors secure application access at the click of a mouse.”

RESULTS

Fast toolset integration helps DISYS stay on top of its projects. “When you start growing so quickly, things can start breaking, and you have to keep up,” he said. “OneLogin helps us because we don’t have to spend time and effort on application deployment.”

Hachwi said the Office 365 roll out is the best example. “Using ADFS integration would have taken us a minimum of a week getting everybody set up and tested, and then the maintenance to keep it going would have really taxed my team. OneLogin boiled all that down to 30 minutes. It can’t get any simpler than that.”

As Hachwi’s team adds new toolsets, OneLogin will be the enabling technology moving forward. For example, the team was able to get BMC RemedyForce up and running on top of SalesForce in just days, because the integration was already in place.

“Our goal is to enable our users and to deploy solutions as quick as possible,” he said. “When we consider adding another tool, we look at the integration into OneLogin as part of the decision process.”

DISYS Uses OneLogin to Give 4000+ Employees and Consultants Secure Access to Office 365 and other Web Apps on Any Device

DISYS Uses OneLogin to Give 4000+ Employees and Consultants Secure Access to Office 365 and other Web Apps on Any Device

Collin Hachwi, IT infrastructure manager at Digital Intelligence Systems (DISYS), supports the company’s team of more than 650 employees and 4,000 independent consultants around the globe—many of whom are remote workers who use their own desktops, laptops, tablets or smartphones to conduct business. DISYS, a global managed staffing and services company, utilizes cloud-based enterprise applications such as SalesForce to streamline many of its business processes, but when it came time to add new applications into the mix, Hachwi knew the company needed to consider a strong identity management solution that was scalable to accommodate the addition of new applications and users. “Using ADFS integration would have taken us a minimum of a week getting everybody set up and tested, and then the maintenance to keep it going would have really taxed my team. OneLogin boiled all that down to 30 minutes. It can’t get any simpler than that.”

Collin Hachwi

IT Infrastructure Manager

Retail Big Data

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Bernard Marr

Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Leading Business and Data Expert

Big Data and Shopping: How Analytics is Changing Retail

Drones zooming through the skies to deliver us packages that we haven’t even ordered yet – a (somewhat clichéd, already) vision of how technology, Big Data and analytics will impact the retail landscape in the near future.

But flights of fantasy aside, the way we buy and sell is evolving rapidly. Both online and offline, retailers which are embracing a data-first strategy towards understanding their customers, matching them to products and parting them from their cash are reaping dividends.

Although we are not quite (yet) at the stage where drone delivery and mind-reading predictive dispatch are mainstream, things have moved on greatly from early Big Data retail experiments, such as Target’s infamous attempts to work out who was pregnant. Today, retailers are constantly finding innovative ways to draw insights from the ever-increasing amount of structured and unstructured information available about their customers’ behavior.

I have done a lot of work with leading retailers over the past 12 months and thought it would be a good to take a look at some of the cutting edge applications of analytics in the world of shopping – offline as well as online. Major bricks ‘n’ mortar chains have fought hard to keep up with, and in some ways better, the advances in technology driven by the online retail boom. And many have found that their model offers specific opportunities to monitor and understand customer behavior which their online competitors just can’t match.

Big Data analytics is now being applied at every stage of the retail process – working out what the popular products will be by predicting trends, forecasting where the demand will be for those products, optimizing pricing for a competitive edge, identifying the customers likely to be interested in them and working out the best way to approach them, taking their money and finally working out what to sell them next.

Predicting Trends

Today, retailers have a wide range of tools available to them in order to work out what will be this season’s “must have” items, whether that be children’s toys or designer dresses. Trend forecasting algorithms comb social media posts and web browsing habits to work out what’s causing a buzz, and ad-buying data is analysed to see what marketing departments will be pushing. Brands and marketers engage in “sentiment analysis”, using sophisticated machine learning-based algorithms to determine the context when a product is discussed, and this data can be used to accurately predict what the top selling products in a category are likely to be.

Forecasting demand 

Once there’s an understanding of what products people will be buying, then retailers work on understanding where the demand will be. This involves gathering demographic data and economic indicators to build a picture of spending habits across the targeted market. Russian retailers, for example, have found that the demand for books increases exponentially as the weather gets colder. So retailers such as Ozon.ru increase the amount of book recommendations which appear in their customers’ feeds as the temperature drops in their local areas.

Optimizing pricing 

Giant retailers such as Walmart spend millions on their real time merchandising systems – in fact Walmart is currently in the process of building the “world’s largest private cloud” to track, as they happen, millions of transactions every day. Algorithms track demand, inventory levels and competitor activity and automatically respond to market changes in real time, allowing action to be taken based on insights in a matter of minutes.

Big Data also plays a part in helping to determine when prices should be dropped – known as “mark down optimization”. Prior to the age of analytics most retailers would just reduce prices at the end of a buying season for a particular product line, when demand has almost gone. However analytics has shown that a more gradual reduction in price, from the moment demand starts to sag, generally leads to increased revenues. Experiments by US retailer Stage Stores found that this approach, backed by a predictive approach to determine the rise and fall of demand for a product, beat a traditional “end of season sale” approach 90% of the time.

Identifying customers

Deciding which customers are likely to want a particular product, and the best way to go about putting it in front of them, is key here. To this end retailers rely heavily on recommendation engine technology online, and data collected through transactional records and loyalty programs off and online. Although Amazon may not yet be ready to ship products directly to our doors before we order them, it is already pushing them in the general direction. Demand is forecast for individual geographic areas based on the demographics they have on their customers in those areas. This means that when they do receive the orders they can be fulfilled more quickly and efficiently. Data on how individual customers interact and make contact with retailers is used to decide which is the best way to get their attention with a particular product or promotion – be it email, SMS or a mobile alert from an NFC transmitter when they walk or drive by a store.

Attracting the right kind of customers to your bricks ‘n’ mortar stores is key – too, as US department store giant Macy’s recently realized. Due to their analytics showing up a dearth of the vital “millennials” demographic group, it recently opened its One Below basement at its flagship New York store, offering “selfie walls” and while-you-wait customized 3D-printed smartphone cases. The idea is to attract young customers to the store who will hopefully go on to have an enduring lifetime value to the business.

Taking the money

Analytics has revealed that a great number of customer visits to online stores fail to convert at the last minute, when the customer has the item in their shopping basket but doesn’t go on to confirm the purchase. Theorizing that this was because customers often can’t find their credit or debit cards to confirm the details, Swedish e-commerce platform Klarna moves its clients (such as Vista Print Spotify, and 45,000 online stores) onto an invoicing model, where customers can pay after the product is delivered. Sophisticated fraud prevention analytics are used to make sure that the system can’t be manipulated by those with devious intent.

Pushing out the little guy?

So, with all this reliance on technology and resource-heavy analytics, is all of this just another hurdle for the little guy, in the face of competition from multinational retailing giants? Well, not necessarily. As is the case with Klarna mentioned above, a growing number of middle men are specializing in providing Big Data “as a service” infrastructure. This allows smaller businesses and independent operators to take advantage of many of the same data-driven approaches to sales and marketing, without the need for implementing expensive hardware solutions and hiring in $100k-plus per year data scientists. Targeted advertising platforms of the type pushed by Google and Facebook offer businesses of all sizes the chance to benefit from Big Data-driven segmented marketing strategies. And a growing number of startups are offering social analytics to help anyone work out where their customers are waiting for them on social media.

Retailers – large and small – have been reaping the benefits of analyzing structured data for years, but are only just starting to get to grips with unstructured data. There is undoubtedly still a great deal of untapped potential in social media, customer feedback comments, video footage, recorded telephone conversations and locational GPS data. Great benefits will come to those who put it to best work, and in my opinion the best solutions will more likely come from innovative thinking and approaches to analytics, rather than those who simply try to collect as much data as possible and then see what it does.

Data insight becomes a key competitive weapon in 2016

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Less than 30 percent of enterprise architects connect analytics to business outcomes well. Look for more firms to double down on insights in 2016.

Three of four enterprise architects strive to make their firms data driven. But well-meaning technology managers only deal with part of the problem: How to use technology to glean deeper, faster insight from more data — and more cheaply. But consider that only 29% of architects say their firms are good at connecting analytics results to business outcome. This is a huge gap! And the problem is the ‘data driven’ mentality that never fights its way out of technology and to what firms care about — outcomes.

In 2016, customer-obsessed leaders will leapfrog their competition, and we will see a shift as firms seek to grow revenue and transform customer experiences. Insight will become a key competitive weapon, as firms move beyond big data and solve problems with data driven thinking.

Shift #1 — Data and analytics energy will continue to drive incremental improvement

In 2016, the energy around data-driven investments will continue to elevate the importance of data and create incremental improvement in business performance. In 2016, Forrester predicts:

  • Chief data officers will gain power, prestige and presence…for now. But the long term viability of the role is unclear. Certain types of businesses, like digital natives, won’t benefit from appointing a CDO.
  • Machine learning will reduce the insight killer — time. Machine learning will replace manual data wrangling and data governance dirty work. The freeing up of time will accelerate data strategies.
  • Firms will try to sell their data; some will succeed, most will sputter. In 2016, an increasing number of firms will look to drive value and revenue from their data exhaust. Despite the promise, most companies will struggle to master the intricacies of protecting personal information and the appropriate business models.

Shift #2 — Data science and real-time analytics will collapse the insights time-to-market.

The trending of data science and real-time data capture and analytics will continue to close the gaps between data, insight and action. In 2016, Forrester predicts:

  • A third of firms will pursue data science through outsourcing and technology. Firms will turn to insights services, algorithm markets, and self-service advanced analytics tools, and cognitive computing capabilities to help fill data science gaps.
  • Streaming ingestion and analytics will become a must-have for digital winners. The window for turning data into action is narrowing. The next 12 months will be about distributed, open source streaming alternatives built on open source projects like Kafka and Spark.
  • Algorithm markets will start to get attention. Firms will recognize that many algorithms can be acquired rather than developed. Just add data. For example, services like Algorithmia, Algo Market, Data Xu, Precision Hawk, Alogrithms.org, Algorithms.io, Kaggle, and galleries from AzureML’s and Big ML will gain traction.

Shift #3 — Connecting insight to action will only be a little less difficult.

Closing the gap between insight and action is the big unfilled hole we found in 2015. In 2016, that gap will be hard to close for all but the most advanced leaders. However, by the end of 2016, energy around big data will be substantially redirected towards insights execution. In 2016, Forrester predicts:

  • Half of all IT-led big data hub investments will stagnate or be redirected. Business satisfaction with analytics output fell by 20% between 2014 and 2015. Next year, impatient business leaders will shut down or redirect big data investments that fail to deliver a measurable impact on winning, serving, and retaining customers.
  • Only a few elite teams will take the leap from BI to Systems of Insight. Only a few teams are taking baby steps toward agile BI, and Forrester expects that less than a third of these will be ready to take the next leap — Systems Of Insight.
  • Data brokers and insights innovators will collide in the insights services market. Technology vendors, data brokers, and marketing data management platforms (DMPs) all recognize the opportunity to sell insights, not data, as a service. But, they are rushing to meet the demand with entirely different strategies. Expect chaos in 2016.

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Data Loader Service: Preview Feature for Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online (Part 1 of 2)

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Data Loader Service: Preview Feature for Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online (Part 1 of 2)

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Customers are facing challenges with data migration scenario, where each customer/partner has to write custom code or use 3rd party tools to import large volume of data. To help alleviate this pain point, Microsoft Dynamics team has developed a cloud Data Loader service for Dynamics CRM Online. The key benefit of this service is the ability to move your data between flat files and CRM Online, and cut down on implementation costs. We’re pleased to announce preview of this service that will empower organizations to better manage their data import/export processes. The preview supports only import operation, and the export will come in the next update of the feature.

This new Data Loader is available as a preview to North American based Dynamics CRM Online organizations. It supports CRM 2015 Online Update1 and the upcoming release.

Important

Microsoft doesn’t provide support for this preview feature. A preview feature is a feature that is not complete, but is made available before it’s officially in a release so customers can get early access and provide feedback. Microsoft Dynamics CRM Technical support won’t be able to help you with issues or questions. Preview features aren’t meant for production use and are subject to a separate supplemental terms of use for preview features.

In this post, I will be sharing the following high level topics for the Data Loader.

Key Benefits

Getting Started

Preview features

Known Limitations

Send us feedback

Key Benefits

  • Quick and easy to configure import of data
  • Eliminate writing custom code against CRM SDK for importing data and thus cutting down on the implementation time and cost
  • Supports bulk loading of data
  • It’s available at no cost

Getting started

The Data Loader preview is enabled by default for all CRM administrators. Use the following steps to access the service:

  1. Navigate to link https://lcs.dynamics.com/DataLoader/Index.
  2. Click on Sign in and enter your CRM administrator credentials.

NOTE: This CRM admin also needs to be a Service or Global admin in AAD (Azure active directory).

This will log you in the service, and you are ready to use.

For detailed walk through of how to use this service – refer to the blog post Data Loader Service: How to Use (Part 2 of 2).

Preview features

  • All data uploaded is encrypted
  • Support for update and creates
  • Support for flat files with any delimiter
  • Edit and re-use data mappings
  • Excel app for fixing invalid data in the staging db and iterate over the data
  • Parallel processing to support bulk loads
  • Import of multiple entities in one data project
  • Handles auto detection of insert order and relationships
  • Imports historical data like closed activities, older Created date
  • Achieve high throughput

Preview limitations

  • Only supported for North America geography
  • No support for email attachments
  • No Web API support for accessing the tool
  • Limited to flats files as source data format
  • Scheduling Jobs not supported
  • Dynamics CRM On-Premises is not supported

Send us your feedback

We are making this preview available so that you can try it and let us know what you think. Your feedback will help us prioritize work to include the capabilities you need most. We ask that you give us your questions, suggestions and report problems from right inside of the Data Loader user experience, it’s the Smiley feature as shown below.

Cheers,

CRM Product Team

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MS OneNote and Office Mix integrate with all major Learning Management Systems

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Today, OneNote and Office Mix team up to talk about the work we are doing to integrate with all major Learning Management Systems (LMS) and the benefits this brings educators.

We have three key announcements:

  • OneNote and Office Mix are both officially certified to the IMS Global Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) standard.
  • OneNote Class Notebook LTI is now in General Availability release.
  • OneNote now automatically adds all students enrolled in the LMS course to the course’s OneNote Class Notebook.

LMS integration with LTI

In June, both Office Mix and OneNote Class Notebook announced LTI support. This means that both apps are easily integrated with all major LMS—including Canvas, Engrade, Blackboard, Haiku, Moodle, Brightspace, EDUonGo, edX, EdCast and Schoology.

OneNote Class Notebook allows teachers to launch the OneNote Class Notebook app from their LMS course page, walk through the notebook creation process, and add the created notebook to their course—all without leaving their learning environment. We’ve seen OneNote Class Notebooks created with many LMS systems, including Canvas, Schoology, Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Haiku and Moodle. Our customers have also been excited about the new integration.

Here’s what a customer who has been using Canvas with OneNote Class Notebooks had to say:

“OneNote Class Notebooks are one of the few tools that have had a substantial impact on the way we teach. One of the others was Canvas. To have these working seamlessly together is outstanding. It is an order of magnitude easier to build a OneNote Class Notebook through Canvas than it was a year ago. We have teachers spinning up a canvas course and building notebooks for clubs, advisory, athletic teams and a variety of scenarios we didn’t anticipate.”
 —Jonathan Briggs, director of technology at the Eastside Preparatory School.

Office Mix adds functionality to PowerPoint that enables educators and students to record audio or video of themselves presenting, ink on their slides as they present them, insert quizzes, polls, online videos and more. Office Mix also enables users to do full screen capture and record anything on their PCs. Via the LTI connection, educators can embed interactive mixes created by themselves or by the community within their LMS as content or assignments. Office Mix seamlessly authenticates students, and their grades are automatically passed back to the LMS grade book.

IMS certification

We are also delighted to announce that both apps are officially IMS Global Certified. OneNote Class Notebook is compliant to version 1.0 of the standard, and Office Mix complies to version 1.1. Microsoft is a member of IMS Global Learning Consortium and we are committed to supporting open standards and interoperability.

OneNote Class Notebook LTI now in General Availability release

The OneNote team would also like to share that the OneNote Class Notebook LTI app is now in General Availability release. All of our existing Preview customers will be able to continue using OneNote Class Notebook LTI as normal. All app configurations will remain in place, and course notebooks will be linked as before.

Enrolled students are automatically added to the OneNote Class Notebook

Along with our general release, OneNote is now able to provide a new feature that will save teachers valuable time and effort. LMS integration allows students who are enrolled in a course to add themselves to the OneNote Class Notebook simply by clicking the LTI link. Teachers no longer have to type the names of all of their students during notebook creation. By simply leaving the default option to “Automatically add my students when they access this notebook from the LMS link,” they can be confident that all enrolled students (and only enrolled students) are able to access the notebook. As well as saving time and hassle, this gives teachers much more flexibility—if a student is added to the LMS course roster later in the semester, the teacher does not have to add them separately to the notebook too.

“Our teachers were hoping to be able to create Class Notebooks without typing in student names and keep the Notebooks tightly integrated with our LMS. By combining the power of Class Notebooks with the robust LMS features they are accustomed to using, our students are given one access point for all of their work. This is exactly the integration we have been hoping to achieve!”
—Rebecca Keene, One-to-One program specialist for the Kent school district

To learn more about OneNote Class Notebook and Office Mix LTI, please visit www.onenote.com/lti and mix.office.com/lti.

—The OneNote and Office Mix teams

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SOAP or REST

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Understanding SOAP and REST Basics And Differences

Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) and REpresentational State Transfer (REST) are two answers to the same question: how to access Web services. The choice initially may seem easy, but at times it can be surprisingly difficult.

SOAP is a standards-based Web services access protocol that has been around for a while and enjoys all of the benefits of long-term use. Originally developed by Microsoft, SOAP really isn’t as simple as the acronym would suggest.

SOAP and REST Basics soapUIREST is the newcomer to the block. It seeks to fix the problems with SOAP and provide a truly simple method of accessing Web services. However, sometimes SOAP is actually easier to use; sometimes REST has problems of its own. Both techniques have issues to consider when deciding which protocol to use.

Before I go any further, it’s important to clarify that while both SOAP and REST share similarities over the HTTP protocol, SOAP is a more rigid set of messaging patterns than REST. The rules in SOAP are important because without these rules, you can’t achieve any level of standardization. REST as an architecture style does not require processing and is naturally more flexible. Both SOAP and REST rely on well-established rules that everyone has agreed to abide by in the interest of exchanging information.

A Quick Overview of SOAP

SOAP relies exclusively on XML to provide messaging services. Microsoft originally developed SOAP to take the place of older technologies that don’t work well on the Internet such as the Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM) and Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA). These technologies fail because they rely on binary messaging; the XML messaging that SOAP employs works better over the Internet.

After an initial release, Microsoft submitted SOAP to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) where it was standardized. SOAP is designed to support expansion, so it has all sorts of other acronyms and abbreviations associated with it, such as WS-Addressing, WS-Policy, WS-Security, WS-Federation, WS-ReliableMessaging, WS-Coordination, WS-AtomicTransaction, and WS-RemotePortlets. In fact, you can find a whole laundry list of these standards on Web Services Standards.

The point is that SOAP is highly extensible, but you only use the pieces you need for a particular task. For example, when using a public Web service that’s freely available to everyone, you really don’t have much need for WS-Security.

The XML used to make requests and receive responses in SOAP can become extremely complex. In some programming languages, you need to build those requests manually, which becomes problematic because SOAP is intolerant of errors. However, other languages can use shortcuts that SOAP provides; that can help you reduce the effort required to create the request and to parse the response. In fact, when working with .NET languages, you never even see the XML.

Part of the magic is the Web Services Description Language (WSDL). This is another file that’s associated with SOAP. It provides a definition of how the Web service works, so that when you create a reference to it, the IDE can completely automate the process. So, the difficulty of using SOAP depends to a large degree on the language you use.

One of the most important SOAP features is built-in error handling. If there’s a problem with your request, the response contains error information that you can use to fix the problem. Given that you might not own the Web service, this particular feature is extremely important; otherwise you would be left guessing as to why things didn’t work. The error reporting even provides standardized codes so that it’s possible to automate some error handling tasks in your code.

An interesting SOAP feature is that you don’t necessarily have to use it with the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) transport. There’s an actual specification for using SOAP over Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) and there isn’t any reason you can’t use it over other transports. In fact, developers in some languages, such as Python and PHP, are doing just that.

A Quick Overview of REST

Many developers found SOAP cumbersome and hard to use. For example, working with SOAP in JavaScript means writing a ton of code to perform extremely simple tasks because you must create the required XML structure absolutely every time.

REST provides a lighter weight alternative. Instead of using XML to make a request, REST relies on a simple URL in many cases. In some situations you must provide additional information in special ways, but most Web services using REST rely exclusively on obtaining the needed information using the URL approach. REST can use four different HTTP 1.1 verbs (GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE) to perform tasks.

Unlike SOAP, REST doesn’t have to use XML to provide the response. You can find REST-based Web services that output the data in Command Separated Value (CSV), JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) and Really Simple Syndication (RSS). The point is that you can obtain the output you need in a form that’s easy to parse within the language you need for your application.

As an example of working with REST, you could create a URL for Weather Underground. The API’s documentation page shows an example URL of http://api.wunderground.com/api/Your_Key/conditions/q/CA/San_Francisco.json. The information you receive in return is a JSON formatted document containing the weather for San Francisco. You can use your browser to interact with the Web service, which makes it a lot easier to create the right URL and verify the output you need to parse with your application.

Deciding Between SOAP and REST

Before you spend hours fretting over the choice between SOAP and REST, consider that some Web services support one and some the other. Unless you plan to create your own Web service, the decision of which protocol to use may already be made for you. Extremely few Web services, such as Amazon, support both. The focus of your decision often centers on which Web service best meets your needs, rather than which protocol to use.

Soap Vs Rest

SOAP is definitely the heavyweight choice for Web service access. It provides the following advantages when compared to REST:

  • Language, platform, and transport independent (REST requires use of HTTP)
  • Works well in distributed enterprise environments (REST assumes direct point-to-point communication)
  • Standardized
  • Provides significant pre-build extensibility in the form of the WS* standards
  • Built-in error handling
  • Automation when used with certain language products

REST is easier to use for the most part and is more flexible. It has the following advantages when compared to SOAP:

  • No expensive tools require to interact with the Web service
  • Smaller learning curve
  • Efficient (SOAP uses XML for all messages, REST can use smaller message formats)
  • Fast (no extensive processing required)
  • Closer to other Web technologies in design philosophy

Locating Free Web Services

The best way to discover whether SOAP or REST works best for you is to try a number of free Web services. Rolling your own Web service can be a painful process, so it’s much better to make use of someone else’s hard work. In addition, as you work with these free Web services you may discover that they fulfill a need in your organization, and you can save your organization both time and money by using them. Here are some to check out:

One common concern about using a free Web service is the perception that it could somehow damage your system or network. Web services typically send you text, not scripts, code, or binary data, so the risks are actually quite small.

Of course, there’s also the concern that Web services will disappear overnight. In most cases, these Web services are exceptionally stable and it’s unlikely that any of them will disappear anytime soon. I’ve been using some of them now for five years without any problem. However, stick with Web services from organizations with a large Internet presence. Research the Web service before you begin using it.

Working with the Geocoder Web Service

To make it easier to understand how SOAP and REST compare, I decided to provide examples of both using the same free Web service, geocoder.us (thank you to Mark Yuabov for suggesting it). This simple Web service accepts an address as input and spits out a longitude and latitude as output. You could probably mix it with the Google Maps API example I present in “Using the Google Maps API to Add Cool Stuff to Your Applications.”

Viewing a Simple REST Example

Sometimes, simple is best. In this case, REST is about as simple as it gets because all you need is an URL. Open your browser—it doesn’t matter which one—and type http://rpc.geocoder.us/service/csv?address=1600+Pennsylvania+Ave,+Washington+DC in the address field. Press Enter. You’ll see the output in your browser in CSV format:

GeoCoder REST example

You see the latitude, followed by the longitude, followed by the address you provided. This simple test works for most addresses in most major cities (it doesn’t work too well for rural addresses, but hey, what do you expect for free?). The idea is that you obtain the latitude and longitude needed for use with other Web services. By combining Web services together with a little glue code, you can create really interesting applications that do amazing things in an incredibly short time with little effort on your part. Everyone else is doing the heavy lifting.

Explaining a Simple SOAP Example

SOAP, by its very nature, requires a little more setup, but I think you’ll be amazed at how simple it is to use.

Begin this example by creating Windows Forms application using Visual Studio. The sample code uses C#, but the same technique works fine with other .NET languages (you’ll need to modify the code to fit). Add labels, textboxes, and buttons as shown here (the Latitude and Longitude fields are read-only).

GeoCoder SOAP example

Here’s where the automation comes into play. Right click References in Solution Explorer and choose Add Service Reference from the context menu. You’ll see the Add Service Reference dialog box. Type the following address into the address field: http://rpc.geocoder.us/dist/eg/clients/GeoCoder.wsdl and click Go. Type GeocoderService in the namespace field. Your dialog box should look like the one shown here.

GeoCoder Web service

Click OK. Visual Studio adds the code needed to work with Geocoder in the background.

At this point, you’re ready to use the Web service. All you need to do is to add some code to the Get Position button as shown here.

private void btnGetPosition_Click(object sender, EventArgs e)
{
   // Create the client.
   GeocoderService.GeoCode_PortTypeClient Client =
      new GeocoderService.GeoCode_PortTypeClient();

   // Make the call.
   GeocoderService.GeocoderResult[] Result =
      Client.geocode(txtAddress.Text);

   // Check for an error result.
   if (Result != null)
   {
      // Display the results on screen.
      txtLatitude.Text = Result[0].lat.ToString();
      txtLongitude.Text = Result[0].@long.ToString();
   }
   else
   {
      // Display an error result.
      txtLatitude.Text = "Error";
      txtLongitude.Text = "Error";
   }
}

The code begins by creating a client. This is a common step for any Web service you use with Visual Studio (or other environments that support SOAP natively). To see another version of the same step, check out the PHP example.

After you create the client, you use it to call one of the methods supported by the Web service. In this case, you call geocode() and pass the address you want to work with. The result of the call is stored in a GeocoderResult variable named Result. A single address could possibly end up providing multiple positions if you aren’t specific enough, so this information is passed back as an array.

Let’s assume that no errors occur (resulting in a null return value). The example assumes that you provided great information, so it places the information found in the first Result entry into the Latitude and Longitude output. So, this example isn’t really that complicated compared with REST, but as you can see, even a simple example is more work.

The Bottom Line: When To Use SOAP Or REST

Some people try to say that one process is better than the other, but this statement is incorrect. Each protocol has definite advantages and equally problematic disadvantages. You need to select between SOAP and REST based on the programming language you use, the environment in which you use it, and the requirements of the application. Sometimes SOAP is a better choice and other times REST is a better choice. In order to avoid problems later, you really do need to chart the advantages and disadvantages of a particular solution in your specific situation.

There’s one absolute you should get from this article. Don’t reinvent the wheel. It’s amazing to see companies spend big bucks to create Web services that already exist (and do a better job than the Web service the company creates). Look for free alternatives whenever possible. In many cases, the choice of Web service also determines your choice of protocol.

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How to Build Your Brand into a Knowledge Centre

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Retaining relevancy and remaining useful are two key requirements for brands to achieve when operating in a disruptive digital landscape where there is a need to earn the attention of existing customers and prospects.

For brands to  provide a product or service that’s truly unique and remarkable, the answer to this question is a lot closer to home. Turn your brand into a Knowledge Centre

Searchmetrics, a technology provider for enterprise SEO and content marketing analysis, have released their 2015 ranking factors, highlighting the key considerations to impact a brands search and content marketing strategies. Click here for your copy

This post will highlight some of the key findings from the report that brands can use to help steer their own digital strategy.

So what is a knowledge centre?

It’s about your whole organisation buying into this philosophy, focusing on turning the brand into a “go-to destination for information, content and advice built as an oasis of trusted, authoritative content that existing customers and prospects would be delighted by”

We have seen a steady growth in brands embracing this vision, none more so than National Geographic and its innovative use of Instagram – working and collaborating with its followers, journalists and photographers to promote great content and using their global platform to its full potential as a trusted and authoritative destination.

Searchmetrics Report 2015

Here are some of the key findings of the 2015 Searchmetrics report and what brands should consider to help support implementing a vision of becoming a Digital Knowledge Centre.

The key themes from the 2015 Searchmetrics report in supporting your digital brand are around content, engagement and mobile fast becoming the go-to channel. I have focused on some of the key elements and what this means for brands to take insights and apply these recommendations for your brand from the Searchmetrics report:

1) Existence of Description and Header (H1) tag

The report found that meta descriptions were found in all of the URLs analysed. This helps optimize the search engine results page and provides clear signposting on the content of the page to help drive click through. There has been an increase in pages including an H1 tag compared to the previous year.

What this means for Brands

Audit your pages to ensure you have populated meta descriptions for every page of your site and that it’s tailored to the content of the page with a call to action. Find which of your pages include/do not include header tags and descriptions and look to optimise these on page sections related to the content of the page.

 

2) Keyword in Domain

There has been a decline in the number of websites achieving top 30 rankings with the keyword within their domain name, only 6% of exact match keyword domain are within the top 30 rankings, down 3% from 2014.

What this means for Brands

Brands should not be concerned in having to bid for exact match domains should they want to achieve high rankings for a specific search term or phrase. Rather, they should look to focus on building out their content opportunities within the sector they operate and measure how their brand name becomes associated with such content groups.

Suggested metrics to measure and monitor this performance is the Moz Site Explorer in assessing your domain authority as well as completing more extensive keyword research to accelerate content areas for your audience

 

3) Search volume of domain name 

There has been a rapid growth in the search volume attributed to searching for domain names, thus the “stronger” the domain name, the more recognized they are to rank of the first page of Google.

What this means for brands

The majority of the URLs that were analysed within this report are part of successful domains that are generating large volumes of organic search through multiple landing pages.

Building your domain authority around you brand should be central to help deliver more search results for non-brand searches and be associated to the brand. Brands should consider building out their content marketing efforts to drive content hubs and drive optimization for these content areas through search

 

 4) Ratio of homepages

There has been a downward trend in homepages ranking in the 1st position than in 2014. All top 30  results decreased in this regard, the top position decreased the least. Conversely, there has been a rapid growth in landing and internal pages gaining better search ranking visibility.

What this means for Brands

With the recent focus by brands to invest in content marketing and the strategy to develop content hubs and evergreen content to service search demand, this is paying dividends for brands to identify themselves as knowledge centres in maximising and serving best user experience to direct users to the these most relevant content pages

 

5) Number of images 

There has been an increase in images found within the landing pages analysed which rank in the top 30 search results

What this means for Brands

Provides an opportunity to utilise your library of images within your organization to make use across your site and help to add value and points of difference to your page content. Analyse the content you have already created and look to create galleries of images if it’s relevant to the content

 

6) Video Integration 

There has been a decrease in the number of websites ranking with integrated videos on the page of their site compared to the previous year. However 8 out of 10 videos in the top US search engine ranking positions are from YouTube

What this means for brands

YouTube continues to be the channel of choice for your video strategy and is an opportunity for brands to re-purpose their content for video to help drive time on site and reduce bounce rate.

It’s also a good tactic to consider in driving engagement for your brand through social sharing. Ensure you understand your metrics as to the channels used of choice and then understand how video could be consumed by the more popular channels e.g. mobile v Desktop – helps to increase time on site

 

7) Click through rate (CTR)

CTR provides a  measurement on what % of users click on a certain result in each position in the SERPS. CTR averages for the top rankings within the findings emphasise the point that the higher the search result, the more they are clicked on.

What this means for brands

Focus on providing the best user experience for all your landing pages to maximize the opportunity to enhance your CTR. According to Searchmetrics “landing pages with good SERP snippets that have an above average CTR can expect higher rankings”.

 

8) Facebook/Twitter Total 

The number of likes and shares increased across the pages analysed within the search results positions. Webpages at position 1 have twice as many Facebook signals than pages ranking second. For twitter, the number of tweets and retweets on websites that rank in the top 30 showed a high, slightly decreasing correlation compared to last year.

What this means for brands

Ensure you are integrating your social media strategy and share buttons across desktop and mobile web to drive user engagement of content as well as channels to help amplify your content to social channels. This also provides an opportunity to associate your content with new audiences engaging with your content through social

 

9) Mobile

The percentage of mobile traffic continues to increase. Google were recently quoted as saying that “more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Japan”. Due to this, Google launched a mobile update earlier in 2015 assigning the “mobile friendly” tag to sites that had optimized their experience for mobile

What this means for brands

Start to measuring how effective you are engaging and driving reach through your mobile channel and audit gaps and opportunities in how to engage with your audience or how this channel delivers what objectives to your digital strategy.

Focusing on your analytics to provide you with some quantitative insights into how users interact with your brand via mobile. I wrote a blog post on creating a mobile strategy here with some ideas on insights that you can be collecting.

 

Conclusion

There are three key requirements brands should be considering to help underpin a Knowledge centre vision, and these are intrinsic in incorporating within the digital marketing mix, these are:

  • Authority – Is your search strategy delivering your brands voice of authority? Are you informing and delighting your audience by telling a great brand narrative through the content you’re delivering and that is found through search?
  • OVP – Do you have an online value proposition at the heart of your digital strategy? Take the time to analyse your competitors as well as benchmark your search proposition against other brands operating in different sectors to understand how they have differentiated themselves from their competitors
  • Are you building a narrative – Fine tune your digital narrative that can be communicated through your online content. Engage in conversations through social media channels with your audience and reach out and build direct relationships with your customers and audience giving your brand a personality and a human element to your proposition and online reputation.

 

Brands should consider auditing opportunities through keyword research and engaging with their audience as well as auditing opportunities within their organisations to identify content hubs

Although social signals are not impacting search rankings, they are providing a channel to help drive social sharing of content by users.

Brands should consider monitoring social engagement of the content that is being created to understand better what social channels as well as the “type of content” resonate better with their audiences so to help fine tune where budgets need to be invested.

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A Nudge to Innovation

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Change initiatives can be mentally and physically taxing because it is more challenging to be in a “mindful” state of learning something new than in a “mindless” state of doing the familiar. Physical or cognitive “nudges” help — not by forcing adoption of new ideas, but by creatively eliminating obstacles so that it happens naturally.

 

In 2011, Pelle G. Hansen and his students from Roskilde University came up with a litter-reducing nudge that they tested in Copenhagen. The team handed out 1000 candies to pedestrians. All the nearby streets, including garbage cans, ashtrays, and bike baskets were examined for the distinctive empty wrappers, and the wrappers discovered there were counted. Then the process was repeated, but in the second trial, a trail of green footsteps leading to nearby bins was stenciled on the ground. This led to a 46% decrease in the number of wrappers that were thrown on the ground. “The green footsteps certainly caught people’s attention,” says Hansen. “I think they create an atmosphere where the public feel more conscious about litter . . . and perhaps there is also a subconscious inclination to follow the feet.” Hansen’s remarks echo findings from a recent trial at an office block in Amsterdam that was designed to encourage visitors to take the stairs rather than power-hungry elevators. Beginning at the lobby entrance, members of Dutch environmental NGO Hivos laid a series of bright red strips along the floor leading up the stairs. During the 24-hour sample period that followed, the frequency of people entering the building who opted to take the stairs leapt by 70%.

The work environment can present a multitude of hurdles to new ideas. Some are obvious and people complain about them, but others are more subtle and often perceived as a normal part of doing business. Whether obvious or subtle, these hurdles can make the change process more difficult for those whom you are trying to convince.

Innovation efforts can be mentally and physically taxing because it is more time-consuming to be in the “mindful” state of learning something new than in the “mindless” state of doing the familiar. This can encourage skeptics to focus on the barriers as an excuse for not becoming involved.

A basic idea from ergonomics is that physical and cognitive “nudges” can help individuals think about and use something more easily. Innovative organizations apply this logic by designing and spreading affordances that make it easier for people to change. Many times a problem can be solved not by forcing others to adopt a new behavior, but by creatively eliminating the obstacles in the environment so the desired behavior happens naturally.

Changing the environment can be like drawing new painted lines that show how to drive down a highway. As Robert Cialdini, psychologist and author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, points out, “Our brains are designed to go into autopilot once we’ve established a routine that works for us.”

Change the environment in a way that will encourage people to adopt the new idea. Find out what is standing in the way. It may be hard for individuals to know and clearly articulate why they are struggling to make the change. Ask questions, listen carefully, and ask more questions. Look around — see what others are doing. Think about how the innovation could alter their daily routine and make things more difficult for them.

Look for barriers. Are they physical — that is, will the innovation create hurdles in the working environment? Are they systemic — that is, will the innovation require complications in the flow of work and how jobs are done? Are they something else? In his book To Sell Is Human, Dan Pink refers to this process as giving people an off-ramp.

Once you discover a stumbling block, ask for help to find ways to get past it. It can be difficult to uncover a creative solution. You need diverse input. Innovators may be a big help, but involve everyone who may be a good problem-solver. Find useful techniques and best practices that might spark ideas. You may want to present a variety of options for overcoming difficulties, but be aware that offering alternatives can sometimes confuse or burden people with too many options and work against you.

Make small changes instead of throwing out current approaches and completely replacing them with something new. Consider ways to piggyback on the way your organization is already working successfully. Let these little experiments help you help others move in the right direction. Iterate through the learning cycle — sustain momentum as you just do it, take a baby step, provide time for reflection, and celebrate small successes. These experiments should be part of your concrete action plan.

If your experiments are successful and you uncover ways to make life better for people, you can sell the new idea as a way to an easier path. Often people make long lists or increase process and monitoring to reach their goals. All of these efforts increase cognitive load; think instead of a change as a subtraction exercise. Remove tasks to make the environment simpler. The innovation should be a way to free up time and resources to improve lives instead of a heavier burden on already busy people.

Given that many obstacles in the environment can be too large for you to tackle, look for the low-hanging fruit. Move slowly and deliberately to avoid overwhelming everyone and defeating your efforts. Share successes and invite mentors who can help those who are still struggling.

Keep a sustained momentum. Occasionally an experiment will work instantly and sometimes it will fail, but the results always provide a learning opportunity. After a success, it may be tempting to relax and feel that your work is done. As the innovation spreads across the organization, however, new roadblocks are likely to appear — so you must always look for ways to make things easier for the new adopters. Continue to learn about the people and about your organization.

Building an environment that is more supportive of the new idea can help make the transition process quicker, easier and potentially even cheaper for everyone, including you. However, this approach is just one tool for paving a path toward change. By itself, it doesn’t usually result in complex change. The effect of creating an easier path can be short term so, when the novelty wears off, take baby steps by tackling another obstacle that is standing in the way of success.

 


by Linda Rising and Mary Lynn Manns , August 19, 2015

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When is a Sales Lead an Opportunity ?

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Exactly when do we qualify a lead to an opportunity? I mean when they need a proposal, ask more questions about our product, when they desire to keep in contact, when someone asks for catalogue, when we feel they may become a customer? I want a standard way.”

This is sort of like asking, “What is the meaning of life?” Depends on who you ask – right? With Microsoft Dynamics CRM’s inherent flexibility, there is no reason to get hung up on a “standard” way to segment the arc of the sales process, nor should there be. One of my favorite Microsoft Dynamics CRM characteristics is the way it can be configured to adapt to your unique business processes, procedures, philosophies, etc. Continue reading “When is a Sales Lead an Opportunity ?”

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Lotus Notes (are you stuck in ?)

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How many SME’s still use Lotus Notes. Probably quite a few as they are convinced (generally by the Lotus Developer 🙁 ) that they cant move without massive business interruption. Well, I can get you off Lotus Notes and onto Outlook, and move your line of business applications into more transportable platforms..

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Your Office in the Cloud

Home Page, O365, Uncategorized

Office 365

brings together the power of the familiar Office applications with business class email (powered by Exchange Online), document sharing (powered by SharePoint Online), and instant messaging and video conferencing (powered by Skype for Business Online).

Everything works seamlessly together to give you the best productivity experience across your devices – from PCs to smartphones to tablets. Because it is a cloud-based service hosted by Microsoft, you always get the latest technology without the need to upgrade your servers and it comes with virus/malware protection, automatic backup, and 99.9% uptime guarantee with a financially-backed service level agreement.

Office

Latest version of Office desktop applications licensed as a subscription
Per user licensing across 5 devices including PC, Mac, iPad/iPhone and Android Tablet
Stream any Office application on a PC while away from your devices
Deploy Office on desktops quickly and effortlessly with click-to-run technology

Exchange Online

Hosted business class email and shared calendar
50 GB of storage space per user
Robust anti-spam and anti-malware
Set and manage mobile access and policies

SharePoint Online

Document sharing and management in the cloud
Share documents with customers or partners with controlled access
Save to the cloud and sync with your devices for offline access using OneDrive for Business
Shared team emails and documents with Site Mailboxes

Skype for business Online

IM, presence, voice, and HD video conferencing
Real-time note taking and document sharing
Conduct Lync meetings with customers and partners
Connect with Skype contacts using presence, IM, and voice

Yammer

Set up a group in seconds for any team, project or interest
Reach across the company to find the experts you need
Share Microsoft Office documents, PDFs, images and videos
Stay on top of relevant conversations, files and projects happening across the company

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20 Features of Office 365 That May Surprise You

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20 features here

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Office 365 Phone System

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Microsoft is adding telephony into O365. Could this mean the end of the traditional phone system. Will make life so much easier for organisations to move to always available access to all staff. Improving access to specialists wherever they are could change the game for some support companies. Read about the futire of Unified Communications here Network_Evolution_June_final.

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How Long is an implementation of CRM

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…good question, bet you know the answer, ‘it all depends’ and that is the answer most people don’t want to hear.

Business need answers, so expressing this in a way that means something to the business is important for buy in…start small with CRM. What does that look like. Well we used to refer to it as piloting, but this seems to have given way to full scale Analysis of what the business does. In some instances this starts with As-Is process mapping. Why?, businesses that want CRM know they need better systems, so why measure where they are not working well. Take a few Procesess that the business understands but finds that they are all procedures..ie dependant on people, and use these to pilot CRM.

A good choice for these is ask for a copy of an order or invoice, if it comes in paper, chances are there is an improvement to be made. If it comes as a pdf , that’s better but if the location of that PDF is a network drive, chances are there is an improvement to be made.

Ok I can hear the call, so how should it come to me?…well CRM would allow you, yes you the person asking for the order or invoice, to go to the customer account in question and show you the orders / invoices that customer has in 3 clicks.

Using these as pilot areas the answer will be easier to scope and will enable phasing into CRM rather than massive work ahead of an implementation that causes business disruption.

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Simple Features & Customer Relationship

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CRM makes it easy to attach documents to a record, capture time/date information on interactions and search records, among many other small, simple features that allow clear information on a client’s record.

  • A well designed and implemented CRM focuses on the CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP – This is the “leg up” many business have on competition, consistently treating their customers better than the average business.  One element to this strategy is accessible client information and consistent process, both of which can be innate features in CRM.
  • Quick Access Anywhere – I hate business cards, I also hate not recording enough information when entering a contact into my smartphone.  CRM gives mobile access to retrieve and enter data, so a salesperson can have the right information in the right place from the start.
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Process Consistency

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CRM should be representative of your sales process. When that process is clearly documented in CRM, it allows for it to be clearly understood and strictly followed

  • Quantification – A business owner once told me he had no idea how many monthly leads they got from the internet (before they had CRM) this was crazy to me, “if you don’t know how many you’re getting, how do you know how well you’re doing?”. Automation means quantification and numbers will always tell a story that can shape your business’ direction.
  • Organisation – I can’t tell you how many sales peoples offices I have been in where they have a spreadsheet with client contact info in rows, and those were the organized ones!  CRM gives a system of organisation to a person who may or may not be organised- a benefit to any salesperson.
  • Effective targeted marketing – Some companies use email, other post cards, others phone blitzing, regardless how you market, CRM will benefit the individuals marketing efforts by being able to target clients or client groups and cater more specific marketing materials for those clients using tools such as Advanced Find “I want to send this email to all the clients in CRM that have been entered in the past 3 months, live in this area and have over turnover in excess of £5,000,000.”.
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Sales person memory upgrade

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We are all human and have our human limitations. Notes, Views and Interaction logs in CRM can reduce those limitations and can make a sales person smarter and more detailed in their approach with a client.

  • Make consistent reliable follow up – Whether a person or the organization decides to automate follow up, the benefits run deep by creating interval reminders in CRM making it less likely for a customer to be forgotten.
  • Ensure that people don’t slip through the cracks of your organizations processes – When processes are left to humans, things tend to get forgotten or left out, tally these potential sale omissions up from a entire sales force and you have likely left a hefty sum of cash on the table.
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Why can’t I !! (you may need CRM)

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OK! so you’re the Chief Executive and you keep hitting the wall of ‘why cant I’ , you know you need systems to give you information needed to fulfil the obligations you have with your customers, you know you need systems to enable the business to operate, lets not get into efficiencies here, you probably know which systems you want (Microsoft CRM right 🙂 ) and that 0ffice 365 thingy (not sure what it is but its all over the place right now, and I have en early version of office, am I missing out?) but all you hear is how much it costs to implement and the disruption it causes and the fact that Consultants want to re-engineer your business to justify the costs of implementing CRM.

Now don’t get me wrong, you do need a Microsoft Partner to help with this, as they have the access to all the support and updates and specialist knowledge etc. but, and this is where I come in, they are a business, sure they get kudos for ‘another successful implementation’ but the costs never stop, and everything they do is a day rate. I operate for the organisation, not the partner. I ensure that you get what you need , not what they think you need.

Also you don’t have the skills in house to do this easily, as your focus is on what you do , not the technology support you need.

I can work alone for you if you don’t have IT departments, I can work with your IT departments showing them and letting them learn, and when its finished I a can walk away leaving you fit for business, until you decide you need me again.

How does that sound, you can pay me as a contractor or an employee, it makes very little difference to me, its generally easier for both as a contractor but don’t let that put you off.

Want to talk, email me, no fancy forms here, just click on the email pdbenfield@me.com or call me 07900180490

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The cloud conundrum: Where to Start

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Business owners hear it all the time (including from me): “Take advantage of the cloud!” But businesses have several cloud options to choose from. Continue reading “The cloud conundrum: Where to Start”

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You don’t have to be a “good communicator” to be good at communication

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Not all communication is the same. When we talk about communication on projects let’s be clear what we mean.

I wonder sometimes if project managers shy away from communication because it is perceived as something that is about being out-going, chatty with lots of small talk. Of course, these are great skills but do not in themselves enable successful project communication.

For me, communication in a project context is a planned activity with the aim of helping the project to hit its milestones and deliver its benefits. Often it seems communication is only discussed in terms of interpersonal communication or leadership communication. Discussion around these forms of communication can also sometimes seem a bit too conceptual and frankly intimidating. They matter of course, but I would argue if the focus is just on these we are missing the bigger picture and project managers may withdraw from communicating completely because it all just seems a bit too difficult.

A planned approach to communication will encompass these anyway. The great advantage of looking at project communication from a planned perspective and with tangible outcomes is that interpersonal and leadership communication are given a clear objective. When you know why you are doing something, it becomes a heck of a lot easier.

A good communication strategy and plan will identify the stakeholders to be engaged with, to what end and set out who will do that engagement. A good project communication lead will identify the best person to lead on engagement with a particular stakeholder and this may or may not be the project manager. The sponsor may be best placed, or maybe someone else on the project who has an existing relationship with a stakeholder or detailed knowledge of a particular area.

So let’s start talking about project communication as a planned activity with clear outcomes.

Ann Pilkington on 21 July, 2015 – 13:27: Ann is the author of Communicating Projects published by Gower and a chapter author in Exploring Internal Communication published by Gower.