Thoughts from a business technology advocate. Not necessarily coherent.

Author Archive

Now on TSG.com

Just so you know, and are kept up to speed on these things, all my posts about technology will now be on tsg.com/blog. It’s not like you and I have fallen out or anything, but realistically, more people will read it there and clearly I need to feed the narcissism :)  Be grateful: there are a whole heap of other authors on there giving our their opinions.

This site will, in due course, be about me and giving you info about how you can reach me or see what I’m up to.

Thanks for reading to date – and keep checking in here for bits and pieces.

Paul


Plug me in and watch me go

I promise I’m not leaving your for www.dontgetbloggeddownbytechnology.com, but I’m contributing in more than one place you know – we need to have a less exclusive relationship.

So, take a look at another blog post I wrote for TSG:

TSG is entering a team into Trekfest in July.  I am part of that team.  Why?  I’m not exactly sure; I volunteered without thinking about it, and that’s probably a good thing.  Now I have to get some training in to ensure TeamTSG finishes in a great position – not that I’m competitive or anything.

I’ve been using a fitness app on my smartphone to monitor my step rate, my training routes and heart rate.  The data, captured by my smart phone, is synced and stored automatically against my account in the Cloud.  That means I can analyse the data and review my progress later on my laptop.

Read more at: http://dontgetbloggeddownbytechnology.com/2013/04/16/plug-me-in-and-watch-me-go/


Stop, Yammer Time

I recently blogged for TSG’s CTO blog, dontgetbloggeddownbytechnology.com (the puns get even better!)

New applications technology has often struggled to find its real use (particularly business technology).  Usually, there has to be a need/benefit combination to justify the purchase of a licence or subscription so that someone in the IT team can go and make the necessary purchase.

However in business, apps, like so many of their consumer counterparts, are starting to find their way into organisations via the back door.

Take Yammer, recently acquired by Microsoft and who placed it within the Office department.  Yammer now features in the latest service release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft Office 365.

But what is it?  And more importantly how do businesses use it to their benefit?

To continue reading, click here.


G2Crowd.com – New Crowd Sourcing Site

G2 Crowd logo

 

 

 

 

 

It started with an In Mail via LinkedIn from a very nice lady called Molly O’Hare telling me all about their new website, G2Crowd.com.

Saw this discussion in the Sage CRM group, and seems like you have a lot of knowledge to share about CRM. My company is building a site for users to review business technology products and share their experiences with different solutions and vendors. Our idea is that with unbiased feedback from real users, buyers will be more empowered to make the right decisions for their business needs.

Well, I’m a sucker for flattery and the Irish (OK, so Molly is from the US, but was there ever a more Irish name?  Perhaps Niamh O’Mahoney, but this is missing the point) so I took a look at the website to see what it was all about.  Importantly, Molly asked for my feedback on the site, so my intention was to check it out and give my honest opinion.

Connected through LinkedIn

Some people do not like to sign up to everything using their LinkedIn or Facebook profile.  I happen to be one of those people.  I just don’t want people taking a look at stuff I consider personal, or necessarily have access to that type of information.  I want to be in control of that, so to be forced to use LinkedIn without an alternative sign up option irks me.  I understand that responses are probably easier to validate if there is a reputation behind them, and you can leave contributions anonymously if you wish, but in principle, I wish there was an alternative option.

Listed Products

Searching for products to review is a piece of cake: simply click on Products and either search or browse for the product you wish to critique.  Recognising the logo is the intuitive way to identify those products you are able to review.  Helpfully, there are banners where there are incentives to review, such as being the first to review, or a reward for doing so.  My favourite here is the the Reviews Wanted option.  This makes it simple to just navigate to a product that the site wants to increase (or start) reviews for, and allows you to start doing so straight away.

Gamification

Why does my dictionary not yet recognise this word?  It’s becoming de rigeur for all websites, (even some applications,) to gamify their content to encourage usage.  I love it as a concept and, truthfully, it motivated me to conduct more reviews for the site.  There are various points awarded for certain types of action:

Attributed Review +15 points
Anonymous Review +10 points
Validated Review +20 points
Features Review +5 points
Peer marks you as helpful +3 points
Peer marks you as unhelpful -1 point
Rating +1 point
Comment +2 points
Refer a Friend +15 points

There are more points – just check the website for details.  Clearly you should get a greater number of points for actually reviewing a product than merely rating it; after all, someone has made the effort to add their thoughts and ideas to the site.  I also agree that a validated review (where you can upload a screenshot to prove you use the system) should carry more.  However, I could make up a load of reviews based on what I find on the net, so for me, the validated reviews should carry greater weight and be rewarded with more points.  Similarly, it is easy to just rate products based on a loose opinion.  I have certain views about SAP because I work for a company that does not provide it and may consider it ‘the enemy’ (incidentally, they don’t necessarily, I’m arguing the point).

Contests are provided to encourage users of the site to offer up more reviews and contribute to discussions.  I decided that I would go for the CRM Contributor contest as this is clearly the area I know most about.  It soon seemed to me that it would be very difficult to win the top prize of an iPad Mini for being in the top 5 contributor charts for this category (only points gained within this category would count towards the contest).  Plus, I was concerned that the only way you could get to be a top 5 contributor was to be an industry specialist, which seemed contrary to the type of person I thought G2 Crowd were after to review products (i.e. independently).  I contacted Matt Gorniak, Co-Founder of G2 Crowd, who then helped explain their ideas on how this would be possible.  Essentially, striking up a dialogue with other users was a good way to gain points.  This I did.  It was certainly true that my score improved.  However, and the types of comments I saw from other ‘competitors’ seemed to demonstrate this, there ensues a very broken dialogue consisting of questions that sometimes pose little relevance to the original review, or are just ‘I agree’.  Each one of these gains valuable points. Sure, there is the option to mark comments as unhelpful, but I suspect no one wished to do that whilst the top 5 were clearly moving further away from the other competitors.  In essence, the nature of the reward I think encouraged certain behaviours.

Disclosure: I was lucky enough to stay in the Top 5 and am grateful to have received my iPad Mini as a result.  Each review I made was based on my real experiences with the product and a number of my reviews were validated with proof of my usage.  Did I ever add a comment to get the points?  Yes, I did.  Did everyone else?  Definitely.

Interestingly, since winning my prize, the criteria for winning an iPad Mini has been raised and this seems sensible to me.  As with all ‘beta’ sites (as that it what it still states on the website) tweaks will be made to ensure the site runs smoothly and, of course, the more users there are, the easier it will become to gain valid reviews from a broader range of people.

Summary

I enjoyed participating in the site and intend to continue to do so.  There are other crowd-sourcing sites around, and there are similarities and differences between them all.  Gamification is here to stay so the awarding of points is a suitable incentive.  Prizes need to be awarded for quality as well as quantity.  What is very encouraging is the interaction with the site’s founders and administrators.  They seem to me to be genuinely interested in feedback, so why not give it a go – you must have an opinion.  Obviously I’d like you to use my referral code so I get the points!

http://www.g2crowd.com/login?referral_code=2514

 

 


Review: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Customization & Configuration (MB2-866) Certification Guide by Neil Benson

This book is one of a series by Packt Publishing that covers various elements of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 product. For anyone working with this application, you will know the importance of gaining the approved accreditations required to make you credible (and potentially more valuable to both your employer and your CRM team). This text by Neil Benson, a well respected Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Person) in the CRM community, aims to provide the reader with everything he/she needs to pass the Customization & Configuration (MB2-866) exam.

It doesn’t disappoint. Chapters are logical and flow well in terms of one’s learning, taking you through the simpler topics first allowing you to build up your skill level and experience as you go. Where there is more than one option to choose from in terms of method or approach, Benson provides details of these without passing judgement on which you should choose – that’s up to you the consultant to decide. Anyone who has ever read a Microsoft learning manual will be familiar with the format, even though this is not a Microsoft publication. This ensures that you can essentially skip the part where it defines how to read the book – you know it already. Screen shots and best practices are discussed and there are plenty of tests or tasks to practice before taking the exam. An important aide to anyone taking it.

Here’s a disclosure: I know Neil and have known him for a number of years within the CRM community.  He is extremely knowledgeable about CRM and this knowledge really does come through in the text.  If you also know Neil, you will appreciate he has a great sense of humour; of I had one criticism of the book, it would be that I feel this doesn’t come across strongly enough – text books can often be dull and, whilst this one is certainly not dull, getting more of Neil’s personality within the book would add to it and make it an even lighter read.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Customization & Configuration (MB2-866) Certification Guide by Neil Benson can be purchased here.

The page on the Packt Publishing site can be accessed here.


Script Error or Missing Ribbons

There have been a number of reported script errors or missing ribbons on the Case, Product, or Service Appointment entities recently.

Microsoft  has identified that this issue occurs because Form Assistant is enabled but not expanded by default for entities. Here are the steps to resolve this issue:

  1. Open the form within System Customization
  2. Click the Form Properties button.
  3. Click the Display tab.
  4. Check if the Enable Form Assistant field option is selected but Expanded by Default is not selected

MSCRM Script Error

If the options appear as shown above, try enabling the Expanded by Default option and publish customizations.  If the Form Assistant is not needed, it can also be disabled as another workaround.

More information you can find on the following KB article: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2807519


New Year’s Resolutions – 2012 Review & 2013 Goals

Last year, I posted about what I would try to do in 2012.  Importantly, I stated that these were not ‘resolutions’ but goals to be achieved during the year.  Suddenly I had eleven goals which looked very much like resolutions.  Semantics, perhaps, but the question is: did I actually achieve any of them?  Let’s look.

In no particular order:

  1. Switch off from work more when I’m not at it - Successful most of the time.  I had a particularly stressful period where it felt like I did nothing but work
  2. Do more cultural things with the kids – Visited a museum once or twice, but wish I had done more
  3. See an orchestra perform - Fail
  4. Go to the Olympics - Big time success here.  Not only did I go to the Olympics, but I went to the 100m Men’s Final!
  5. Motivate my team more - I suppose I can’t really answer that, but I tried
  6. Use my iPad more for business – Generally, yes, but since playing with a Surface some weeks ago, have struggled to love my iPad
  7. Tweet more about technology on my BizPaul account, less about banal stuff on my other account  – Yes, definitely achieved this one.  Thanks to everyone who retweeted or linked to the blog.
  8. Learn more about CRM on tablet devices (Sage CRM for Tablet, CWR Mobility etc.) - Can’t say this went anywhere in 2012.  It will be interesting to see what happens in 2013 with Microsoft’s offering, whenever it arrives!
  9. Blog more frequently – Nope, overall, I suppose it was okay, but no posts since October is pretty poor
  10. Exercise more frequently - Epic fail
  11. Eat cheese less frequently - Would have been fine until Christmas when I ate my own body weight in the stuff

So, what do I do now?  About 50% success rate on last year’s goal.  I can’t be happy with that.  Let’s get more realistic for 2013.  Here’s what I hope to be able to achieve:

  1. Learn a different technology, just to beginners standard.  It is likely I will choose either Microsoft SharePoint or Microsoft NAV, although I could be persuaded to try something different.
  2. Use LinkedIn more as a social media tool
  3. Get a Klout score of 60+ (I know it doesn’t really matter, but why not try?)
  4. Pass an exam of some kind
  5. Read The CRM Field Guide in full
  6. Read more fiction
  7. Make weekends for the children

I genuinely don’t know whether these are realistic or not, but what 2012 has taught me most is this: I love what I do for a living.  I couldn’t be happier playing with new technology and discovering how business solutions can be developed to fix real problems, but I do that so I can provide my wonderful family with a great life and, if it all went horribly wrong in the tech world, I’d still have that wonderful family.


2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,200 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


iOS6: Why I don’t like it so much

 


So much has been said about iOS6 and how bad the maps are.  I dislike the maps too and, to get a really detailed analysis on why it’s so rubbish, read this article by a mapping expert.  However, I’m no Apple expert, but as a user who likes to think of himself as reasonably tech-savvy, and someone who embraces technological change, I just find the introduction of iOS6 a bit, well, irritating.

I should state that I updated an iPhone 4 from iOS5.1 to iOS6.  I’m sorry I’m not one of those people who camp out at an Apple store, hoping to get a free Starbucks Latte whilst I wait for the next product release, but I use my phone all the time for a variety of things and, as Apple have allowed the phone be updated, the iOS6 experience can equally apply to me.

Upgrade Process
This was insanely easy once I’d removed a few hundred photographs taking up the necessary space required for the upgrade.

Introduction of the Passbook
I love the idea of this, but with only Lufthansa offering the service, it’s a bit of a let down.  They should have just waited until you can actually use it.

App Store
I can cope with the redesign.  I actually prefer to enter a password the first time I select something to be updated.  It stops those little people with little trigger-happy fingers updating my apps without me knowing (I realise my child control mechanism is my issue to resolve; I’m just saying the old way of doing things suited my situation).

Data on 3G
For some reason, I can no longer collect email or connect to the internet via 3G.  Various people have suggested contacting my network provider, but why should I have to?

Responsiveness
It seems sluggish to me.  Perhaps I have too much on my iPhone already, although I’ve seen many friends with many more apps on theirs.  Maybe I don’t have enough space.  It could be that the model is too old – but in that case, why not withhold it from older models?

I think I’m going to roll back to iOS5.1 if I don’t see an improvement soon.  There are little things I do like – for example, I like the way the title bar(?) changes colour to match the relevant app.  And I genuinely love the Do Not Disturb feature.  I just don’t feel there’s enough for me to be an advocate of the OS and it’s made a pleasurable experience less pleasurable.


BYOD – Post by Microsoft

I was pointed to this post by Microsoft’s TechNet on the BYOD ‘trend’ as they put it.  It gives some stats on how organisations feel about it.

http://blogs.technet.com/b/security/archive/2012/08/02/byod-organizations-question-risk-vs-benefit.aspx


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