Thoughts from a business technology advocate. Not necessarily coherent.

Posts tagged “Sage CRM

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

 

 


New Year’s Resolutions – Update

Not that anyone is remotely interested, but for my own motivation if nothing else, here’s where I’m at with the whole New Year’s Resolution thing:

  1. Switch off from work more when I’m not at it – Trying very hard, but current workloads don’t seem to permit
  2. Do more cultural things with the kids – Win! 2012 is the year of the day out so far
  3. See an orchestra perform – Pending
  4. Go to the Olympics - Tickets booked
  5. Motivate my team more – I think I’m doing okay here, but I’m not the best judge
  6. Use my iPad more for business – This is going well since Microsoft released the OneNote app
  7. Tweet more about technology on my BizPaul account, less about banal stuff on my other account – Not finding time for this
  8. Learn more about CRM on tablet devices (Sage CRM for Tablet, CWR Mobility etc.) – About to start trial on company system
  9. Blog more frequently – Epic fail it seems.  Let’s face it, this post is an excuse to say that I blogged more
  10. Exercise more frequently – I seem to have forgotten about this one completely
  11. Eat cheese less frequently – Sort of, but it’s too tempting on a Sunday evening

New Year’s Resolutions

I never make new year’s resolutions.  However, for some reason, I seem to have developed a mental list of things to do/achieve in 2012.  So, what the hell, I’ll list them here.

In no particular order:

  1. Switch off from work more when I’m not at it
  2. Do more cultural things with the kids
  3. See an orchestra perform
  4. Go to the Olympics
  5. Motivate my team more
  6. Use my iPad more for business
  7. Tweet more about technology on my BizPaul account, less about banal stuff on my other account
  8. Learn more about CRM on tablet devices (Sage CRM for Tablet, CWR Mobility etc.)
  9. Blog more frequently
  10. Exercise more frequently
  11. Eat cheese less frequently

Do you have any new year’s resolutions?  How many of them do you think you will likely stick to?


CRM Mobility Options

Tablet

It seems everyone in the office (alright, not everyone) is talking about mobility options for CRM.  Why?  To me it seems the latest craze in the ever changing CRM world and I don’t think it’s completely founded on need.

Having worked in the CRM world for ten years now, I’ve seen fads come and go, and the need for mobile solutions for CRM has also come and gone.  I remember, particularly, how much people wanted CRM on PDAs, as they were then referred to.  It failed because the screens were too small, the connection wasn’t available and the core CRM products just tried to push the same desktop experience to the mobile device.

Is this any different now?

The screens are no longer small.  Tablets are all the rage but they do genuinely allow you to at least look at information in a readable font size.  Net connection on the device is also much better, although 3G coverage required to get a truly mobile experience is dicey in the UK at best.  Because memory is so cheap (and small), storage capabilities have allowed offline capabilities.  And you can now create a unique mobile experience cutting the unwanted view/screens/fields etc. to minimise data transfer.

There are several products we’ve been looking at at Concentrix TSG lately: CWR Mobility, Resco, TenDigits, SageCRM iPhone Client to name a few.  Over the coming weeks and months, I’ll write a quick review of each as I get to use them.

I accept that mobile CRM is more likely than ever to come to a useful fruition; I use my iPad all the time, albeit not for business.  What is most interesting to me is whether the usability of the individual products dictate the device on which they should be used, or whether the opposite is true; that an MD’s insistence on using his iPad ensures total exclusivity.


Why Beta Programs are a Good Idea

I was searching through WordPress, Twitter and LinkedIn the other day (as you do) – you know the sort of thing, see someone whose name you know, click on their profile, click through to their blog, find a link, click on that, find out who wrote it, click on their profile (and so on) – and I came across this blog post by Robert Pope.  Now Robert is well known within CRM circles in the UK; indeed, he won Sales Person of the year at last year’s Sage Visions conference, so I was somewhat surprised to read his rather negative views about what was wrong with the Sage business partner and software development model.

Now, I must point out that Robert wishes Sage well, and there are no hard feelings (please read the post so you get his views), but it got me thinking about a topic I feel passionately about: beta testing.

I’ve worked in the business partner channel for Sage, Microsoft and FrontRange (amongst others) for ten years now, so in my humble opinion, I have the right to comment on how software versions are released to partners and the user community as a whole.  Sure, I’ve  not engaged with every software vendor out there, so let’s not get hung up about that; I know I won’t have experienced everything; instead, let’s concentrate on my experiences.

When companies who sell a product that is authored by someone else, they do so with a certain level of trust that the vendor will do everything it can to release a decent product that works and, where there are faults, listens to the feedback and moves swiftly to take corrective action.  They do this in the knowledge that such practice is in the interests of all parties.  They also expect the vendor to give them a preview of any new release so they can talk about it in advance of the launch and build up trade – again in the interests of all parties.

The best way to ensure that any partner can sell a product is to know and understand it.  They can only do this by learning and ‘playing’ with that product.  They cannot do it by reading the release notes or attending presentations.

I’ve been staggered, over the years, that some software vendors do not have a beta program to assist their channel in selling their product.  Indeed, when challenged, some have been so viciferous against the idea that it has left me wondering who they are writing the software for.  Having a beta program allows so many more users of a package to feed back to the authors at a critical time in a release’s life (pre-birth).  I work with a team of developers – they think differently to users.  Users are needed to test/break software, to pose challenges to the perceived processes within an application.  I simply cannot understand why anyone would not want to allow a controlled rollout to trusted people (i.e. channel partners).

Let’s take some practical examples.  Microsoft’s release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 has been, again, in my opinion, a fine example of how it can work.  The beta was released months before the scheduled release date.  There were many caveats about liability/reliability etc. It was very clear that it was unsupported.  But it allowed my team of consultants to gain vital information and practice new functionality which, in turn, ensured we could consult intelligently and, come release date, implement systems straight away.

A second example is Sage CRM 7.1.  A select number of business partners were asked for some specific feedback on their beta within a set period of time (of course, feedback is welcomed at any time) so that Sage could then make any necessary amendments in time for launch.  More controlled than Microsoft’s approach, particularly in terms of time, but nonetheless, it generated a feeling of inclusion and gave us an opportunity to understand what was coming.

Conversely, any vendor (and there are some) that refuses to start a beta program for its product will find everyone playing catch up whilst putting customers off installing from day one.  Such an approach makes business partners reluctant to recommend the product initially, which is surely counter-productive to the momentum the vendor would like to see.

To summarise, beta programs work, they generate good will and help to sell your product.  If you don’t want to take advantage of these benefits, that’s your perogative, but I guarantee your software will be at the back of the queue when considering the options open to the business partners and their customers.


Sage CRM 7.1 Exchange Integration

This has been a long time coming and a feature that my Sage CRM clients have been asking for for years. It’s great to see a company like Sage listen to their user base and produce something that the end users need. Here’s a little video about Exchange integration and Sage CRM 7.1:

One of the great things about Sage is how close (certainly in the UK and Republic of Ireland) you are as an end user to those who develop the product. This cannot be said of all software vendors, but perhaps this is different depending on your location and the size of the vendor itself. Another way Sage have demonstrated their willingness to listen is with their Ideas Hub on the Sage CRM Ecosystem. A great idea!


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 349 other followers