In the past few months, we’ve been working with government organizations who need to manage data more effectively than before. Here is a sample…
Small Town Government – Online Issue Tracking
Fort Dodge, Iowa (population ~25,000) is like most small towns – they have limited resources, yet they have a lot of issues to be tracked. Adapt Data Solutions was brought in to explain web-based issue tracking to their team and its advantages. Here are a few of the issues that had been tracked manually and needed to be tracked online:
- Water department complaints
- Nuisance reports (weeds in city parks)
- Streets department issues (pothole reports, etc.)
Fort Dodge continues to explore ways to reduce wastes and effectively manage their system.
County government using Adapt Data Solutions & EnterpriseWizard for web-based repair management
Who: Chester County, Pennsylvania Emergency Services
What: Need to track radio system repairs for emergency services
Solution: Hosted version of EnterpriseWizard configured by Adapt Data Solutions
Chester County’s system allows users to create radio network repair requests using a web form. Police, Fire, EMS, etc. can simply login and report an outage or defective radio. Email alerts were configured to notify technicians and management. The online repair tracking system is successfully being used across Chester County to streamline repair issues.
Issue tracking systems for a micro business
It’s fascinating (to me anyway) to watch a small business grow. At first, a company may only have a small handful of employees and face a hundred “issue tracking” problems…
- Which customers are my most profitable?
- Which products or services cause me and my customers the most pain?
- How can I manage support questions, invoicing, tracking billing hours, etc.?
- Are the things I’m not even measuring keeping me from growing my business?
There’s simply a lot of things (issues) to track. QuickBooks is a good start for a one-person company to track financial records. Excel can do in a pinch for a few things. You can scrounge up a simple record tracking system in MS Access to track a few issues. But things can quickly become a mess.
I recently met a man who created an elaborate system of Excel spreadsheets to run a small business. He had over 100! Excel files keeping track of everything from customer payments to inventory to quality issues to shipments to supplier invoices. These Excel files were all interlinked and amazingly just sort of “worked”… for a while. Then, two things happened, the company began to grow (and outgrew Excel as a MRP/CRM system) and the guy who created this system left the company. Ouch!
A Better Way: EnterpriseWizard CRM Issue Tracking Software that Scales and Adapts
Contrast that company with small businesses (SMB) and organizations that start with EnterpriseWizard. Some clear advantages over the “DIY issue tracking” approach used above:
- EnterpriseWizard – CRM and Issue Tracking Software in one! Your SMB may only need a simple issue tracking software system to start. Months later, your needs may change. With EnterpriseWizard, you can add as many issue tracking tables and a full CRM system – all for one cost (the seats used).
- Scales with your business. The poor guys using Excel learned the hard way. Do it yourself (DIY) MRP/CRM systems often fail for many reasons.
- Hosted solutions work great for SMBs who lack IT staff.
- Low cost to start.
- Web based issue tracking. Don’t worry about what Microsoft will be doing in Windows 7 and whether that will mean that you’ll have to upgrade your issue tracking software: with EnterpriseWizard, you can be sure that it will continue to work in your web browser.
Our office is located in Ames, Iowa. We don’t have to go far to find silos. These massive storage bins dot the central Iowa landscape – storing and segregating various crops until they are ready to be used.
Consider the typical organization (whether it is a company or a non-profit). Silos everywhere.
Organizations that have many departments may use several issue trackers ranging from Post-It Notes to elaborate databases. Unfortunately, these are often disconnected systems. For example, folks in the sales department may be able to access their web CRM but not have access to product returns from key clients… that’s data that is locked in some repair tracking software. The quality department might want to create a Quality Dashboard for their Web-based Quality Management System (QMS) but have their efforts thwarted when they realize that customer complaints are stored elsewhere.
A crude diagram of a disconnected organization might look like this:
Some things to note about this disconnected organizational data management model:
- Outdated, out-of-sync databases. Key pieces of data are stored in multiple places. Each department has its own customer contact records for example. When the repair department hears from a customer that his address has changed, the repair tech might update the repair tracking software… but he’s unlikely to update every database in the organization.
- Ambush alert: Critical data is not accessible to all stakeholders. For example, the marketing and sales staff would like to have the best possible “view” of the customer. They may have a crude “sales dashboard” in their CRM… but they need more. Much more. If a regional territory manager doesn’t have a good idea of the quality & support issues that impact his customers, he’s very likely to be ambushed during a customer visit.
EnterpriseWizard is an effective online issue tracking system – designed to help you “connect the dots”. If you need issue tracking software that is flexible, affordable and can be configured in hours rather than months (all via the web), then EnterpriseWizard should be at the top of your list.
We’ve added a new section of the website to show you just what we mean:
Issue Tracking Software: Connect the Dots
Consider what will happen once your repair management software, customer complaint system and online tech support database are all one-in-the-same.
Please take a minute to look it over. Let us help you better understand how to remove some organizational barriers and inefficiencies with great web-based issue tracking software: EnterpriseWizard.
Get rid of the silos in your company today.
Here’s a quick update on what we’ve been pursuing lately at Adapt Data Solutions.
Higher Education CRM
Universities and colleges are facing an interesting challenge. Budgets are being slashed, staff resources are strained (including marketing and IT), and they need “customers” (students) more than ever. Meanwhile, traditional marketing tactics are not working with the next generation of students.
Enter Higher Education CRM. Some colleges and universities, (including Iowa State University here in Ames, Iowa) are now investigating using CRM and Web 2.0 to reach prospective students. With the right web-based CRM software they’ll be able to greatly improve the process of converting prospective high school students into loyal university students.
Web-based Help Desk Software
For those who already understand that a web-based help desk is the way to go… we describe the advantages of EnterpriseWizard over competing online help desk software.
Recently, we’ve been comparing two CRM packages: MS Dynamics CRM 4.0 and EnterpriseWizard. This CRM comparison in this blog has focused on the customization possibilities and the effort required to create a CRM Dashboard to track key metrics.
If you’ve missed these posts, check out:
- Microsoft CRM Dashboards vs EnterpriseWizard CRM
- Flexibility: Microsoft Dynamics CRM vs EnterpriseWizard CRM
I just thought that I’d add some additional fuel to the fire when comparing these CRM software packages.
Change the logo image in Microsoft Dynamics CRM
Let’s say that you would like to change the logo in MS CRM 4.0 from the default:
Scouring the Internet, we find a post on the MSDN site that explains what to do:
We find two possibilities. One is to simply replace the .jpg file in the _imgs directory.
The second is to modify the css file definition.
The proposed changes come with an ominous warning however that an update “might overwrite your files and your logo customization.” These user interface customizations are apparently unsupported in Microsoft Dynamics.
Essentially, this change is “brittle”. That is, you are hardcoding a modification into MS CRM that is likely to break with future upgrades. Nice.
Change the logo image in EnterpriseWizard CRM
Thankfully, there are CRM packages available that allow you to completely customize the look and feel of the user interface without the risk that a future patch will “uncustomize it” for you.
Adapt Data Solutions offers one such CRM and online issue tracking system: EnterpriseWizard. In EnterpriseWizard, you are easily able to modify the look and feel without hacks and the risk of breaking as you upgrade your CRM.
A few questions….
- Does your company need to track supplier quality?
- How do you manage supplier quality data? Paper? Excel spreadsheets? Access?
- What about metrics? Do you have a supplier scorecard? A supplier quality dashboard?
- Do your suppliers respond quickly to quality issues (corrective action reports, audit findings, etc.)? Do you have to nag them in order to get a response?
- How much money is wasted in your company chasing supplier quality issues and generating reports?
Imagine a better way to manage supplier quality issues. Imagine a low cost, online system that allowed your suppliers to login and update corrective action reports. Imagine not having to send repeated “nag notices” to suppliers reminding them to follow up on quality issues. Imagine having a powerful supplier quality dashboard that is easily accessed by the people in your company who need it. Imagine the next time an auditor (ISO, etc.) visits your site and compliments your oversight of supplier quality.
We can help.
If you would like to streamline your supplier quality management system take a few minutes and read this brief PDF on creating a simple web-based supplier quality portal. In just a few days, Adapt Data Solutions can help you use EnterpriseWizard to more effectively manage quality in your supply chain.
The best charts in the world aren’t useful if they are never used.
Over the years, companies began to shift from being “gut instinct driven” to “data driven”. With this phenomenon came charts. Lots of charts. More data = more charts.
Good charts are good. Great charts are great. Bad charts waste money – they take time to create, they may lead the organization to making bad decisions,… poorly defined charts are just plain bad news.
That’s exactly the reason over the past few years, folks from moved away from endless amounts of charts of unknown value to selecting a few really good charts and placing them on a management dashboard.
MS CRM 4.0 Custom Dashboard Creation
The Microsoft team has posted to their blog the steps required to add a dashboard to the Microsoft Dynamics CRM using the Windows Presentation Foundation. Unless you are a certified MS CRM guru (collecting big $$$ to implement this stuff), you probably won’t bother. The process requires Visual Studio, XAML markups, and lots of custom code that will likely break when a new rev of MS CRM is available. Ug.
CRM and Issue Tracking Dashboards in EnterpriseWizard
OK, the Microsoft CRM solution is not for the faint of heart. Sure, you can build a CRM dashboard with it – but, really, would you?
In EnterpriseWizard, dashboards are much easier to create and maintain. Let’s go through the process:
Step 1: Create some CRM and Issue tracking charts
Let’s say that we want a 4 part dashboard that appears once users login to the CRM and Issue Tracking system. In this case, our system is a CRM and Tech Support portal for a fortune 100 client. This customer wants custom dashboard to track:
- Number of tech support issues reopened by customers segmented by the assigned support staff
- Sales quote funnel status showing Quotes Prepared; Sent to Customer; Signed and Accepted
- Customer support cases segmented by Issue and Priority
- A Google Widget – (what’s wrong with a little fun on a CRM & issue tracker dashboard?)
So, we create our charts using EnterpriseWizard. No custom code involved – just walk through the wizard to define the data to be presented.
Simply walk through the steps to create your charts. For the first, we want to add a technical support chart to the dashboard. So, open your Support Cases chart wizard, choose “New“, name your chart, choose your output (Graphical, Excel, etc.) then hit Next. On the next screen, pick “Standard Chart” and then hit Next again to choose your chart type (in this case, we want a column bar chart).
Select your data fields to be presented, setup filtering (if necessary) to restrict the data presented on your chart (for example, only show records from the past 3 months), formatting (3D, legend info, …) and so on. Keep walking through each step of the chart setup wizard to create your tech support chart. You’ll be done creating your chart in a few minutes. Really.
Step 2: Setup your CRM – Issue Tracker Dashboard
OK, now that you’ve created some great charts, it’s time to place them on your dashboard. Just click on the Home link in the left panel.
Your dashboard will appear. Next, edit your dashboard. Then add some charts and a widget to the dashboard by simply clicking New and using the wizard to choose the appropriate table (Support Cases) and the charts associated with that table.
Once you’ve added some widgets to your dashboard, simply select the widgets you would like to display. Then choose the Layout tab to place them on the dashboard using the drag and drop dashboard layout editor.
You can see that the dashboard layout editor allows you to choose the number of rows, columns and placement of each widget. No custom code. Adding a Google widget to the dashboard is just as easy.
Finally, Click Finish and enjoy your custom CRM/issue tracking dashboard. Note: your dashboard can be configured to refresh as often as you wish and includes the ability to easily “drill down” into the data (click the chart to pull up an Excel spreadsheet to dive into the Quotes Sent to Customer data for example).
When choosing a CRM package, customers often overlook the effort required to make changes down the road. After all, a customer is rarely satisfied with the default “out of the box” functionality of their package – so CRM functionality change is inevitable. But what effort is required to make that change?
Changing Microsoft Dynamics CRM to meet your needs
Recently, I stumbled upon a blog about the Microsoft Dynamics CRM. In it, a consultant was describing what he had to do in order to solve a frequent request of his clients… Here is a snippet:
A typical customer request is for email created from a Case to default to send to the Responsible Contact instead of its default behavior which is to send it to the Customer.
Sounds reasonable enough right? You’d like to make some seemingly minor change to your CRM package from the default (sending email to the customer) to your desired operation (sending email to the responsible contact – perhaps your sales manager or a customer support person). Ok, let’s see what this consultant has to say about the MS Dynamics approach:
This is actually something very easy to change.
Well – that’s good to hear. I certainly want a CRM package that will easily adapt to my needs.
Please Note: This is an unsupported modification, and any patch could overwrite this.
This doesn’t look good. You mean that every time I upgrade my CRM version I have to worry whether this functionality will revert back to the Microsoft CRM defaults? Ug… Let’s read on…
C:\Program Files\Microsoft Dynamics CRM Server\CRMWeb\_static\CS\cases
It contains a function called locAddActTo that fills the To: activity party variables that are sent in the QueryString to the activity like the URL below.
What we care about are the partyid, partytype and partyname arguments.
You can read the rest of his post (or many similar posts on his site) with the required code changes for this and other “easy” modifications to enable you to make simple changes in MS Dynamics CRM.
Unless you have a 12th degree blackbelt MS Dynamics CRM guru on staff, you’ll be spending a great deal on consulting in order to make a simple change like this.
Changing EnterpriseWizard CRM to meet your needs
Within EnterpriseWizard, there are several ways you can configure your CRM to automatically email your staff based on a new case… no custom code required. Let’s take a look at one possible method using the EnterpriseWizard Rules system.
Step 1: Create the new rule.
Login as an administrator and open the Rules system under Setup. Click New.
Step 2: Walk through the rule wizard. Name your rule, pick your table.
Simply walk through the Rule wizard to create a rule to do exactly as you’d like. In the first tab, name your new rule and select the appropriate table. Let’s say we’d like our CRM to automatically email a sales manager when a new Lead is created. Select the Leads table.
Step 3: Define the type (frequency) of the rule.
Apply this rule:
- When a Lead is created/edited/deleted
- At selected time intervals
- When some summary condition based on multiple criteria has/hasn’t been met
In our case, let’s choose the first option… when a Lead is created/edited/deleted
Step 4: Further define the rule type using the Condition tab.
Choose exactly when this should occur.
Step 5: Schedule (if necessary) when this should occur.
In this step, you can decide if you would like to have this rule run at all times or be restricted.
Step 6: Create the email action to occur for this rule
On the final rule tab, click on the Create Email Action button. If you would like to have your CRM perform multiple actions based on these conditions – simply create and select additional actions within the rule.
For example, if you would like to setup your CRM to email your sales manager when a new Lead is created and you’d like to automatically update a value in your Campaigns table such that your marketing department can monitor the effectiveness of their campaigns – just add that action to your rule.
Once the action has been created, you need to select an email template to be associated with that action. If one does not already exist, create one as shown below.
You can choose to have your CRM email the sales department manager, a list of people or perhaps an entire team. The possibilities are endless.
Flexible CRM? Advantage=EnterpriseWizard
The choice is obvious. Choosing a flexible package is critical to the success of your CRM deployment. EnterpriseWizard is vastly superior to competing packages such as Microsoft Dynamics when it comes to flexibility without having to make expensive/custom coded changes.
Even if you are uncomfortable making the changes described above on your own platform, a CRM consultant like Adapt Data Solutions can help you through changing your system at a fraction of the time/cost/risk because of the underlying adaptable framework found in EnterpriseWizard.
EnterpriseWizard recently announced that it offer Entellium’s clients a free upgrade to EnterpriseWizard including data migration. On the surface, this offer is a chance for EnterpriseWizard to grab some additional marketshare from Entellium.
Entellium’s recent downfall was well publicized. Now that Intuit is picking up the pieces of the company, customers have to be wondering if they will be able to make good on the promises of the former management (arrested by the FBI).
Many small to mid-sized businesses really need a such a solution. They don’t want to bother with installing and maintaining CRM packages, making changes, etc. However, they also need to be able to trust their hosted (Software-as-a-Service) solution vendor… a lesson learned the hard way by Entellium’s customers.