Month: February 2012

Dynamics CRM for Hotel Reservation & Hospitality Management

During past few days I was thinking whether CRM implementation could be possible for hotel reservation and hospitality management, because tourism is one of the profitable industries especially in Asia. I googled and saw some considerable amount of investment on CRM as a Hotel Reservation Management used for improving Hospitality Relationships.
According to my understanding MS Dynamics CRM 2011 will be an ideal platform for building such a system with all the features and enhancements in the context of RM. In this industry it can also be used to do Marketing Campaigns, Event Organizing and Management, etc.
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Can Agile practice used for managing CRM Projects?

Well I think yes. Agile practices can be used manage CRM projects. I’m not talking about out of the box CRM solutions, but long running enterprise level projects. First let’s take a quick look at what Agile practice is.

By definition it is a software development method which is incremental and iterative where the end user requirements and the software solution evolve through the process of development with well organized self motivated and highly capable teams. There are different methodologies in Agile, such as Extreme Programming or XP, Scrum, etc. I have experience on both these methods. My intension on this article it not to provide detail discussion on these but how we could use these to manage CRM projects.

As a development platform, CRM has a greater flexibility and we can do many things with it. In the context of XRM, it says “One platform many applications”. So we need to be very careful here, that client may get overwhelmed with the features offered in CRM.

First and foremost thing before we think of using Agile, we must ensure that both parties, i.e. the end user and of course the development team understands what Agile is. It is not just reading couple of blogs or books. But what I feel is some if we are planning to introduce Agile, the relevant parties should be given training by an Agile Expert.

For example if your team is used to do planned or waterfall development, then they should be taken out from the mind set of the waterfall model. They must be trained to think in terms of Agile. If you miss this part then you’ll be in big trouble, because the Agile process will not succeed if the team is thinking in waterfall model, they will try to implement the water fall model in the short two to four weeks sprints.
In technical terms the team has to be well equipped with all the necessary knowledge to complete the sprint. Also one thing to mention, if a team member says a task can be completed, let’s say in 8 hours, then it shouldn’t take more than that. It could be 10 hours, but if it is taking more than that there is either some technical issues that needs some expert involvement or issues with team members performance. (more…)

Mind Maps to rescue

As a tech lead I have different work items assigned to me daily. These work items ranging from fixing different issues on the current on going project, team concerns, bug tracking, keep a track of user stories, research and development work etc.
When I start my work for the day its really difficult to keep track of these things. I used to keep check lists, but didn’t worked out 100%. Because these check lists tend get lost when you continue to work on them during the week, i.e. if I couldn’t complete these work items during the day, then sometimes I tend to forget these check list items.
Later on I used sticky notes on windows 7 to keep track of my day to day work. Also I have tried out Microsoft Outlook tasks, which of course did helped me to keep track of work by setting the reminders. But on the other hand I found its boring.
In the recent past on of my peer tech leads, Viranga was using a Mind Mapping tool to track his all day today work. So I also began to look into it, he was using a mind mapping tool called ThinkBuzan (http://www.thinkbuzan.com/intl/). I did explore the tool a little bit. It also made me to look for similar tools other than this as there is some cost involved in this.
So I came accross Xmind (http://www.xmind.net/) which has a free software download with limited features. But the features that I explored so far were adequate for my day to day planning. Following is a simple mind map that I have created to keep track of my work on daily basis.
One of the cool features that I found was this is graphical, rather than MS Outlook, which makes me to keep this diagram open on my desk top until all the tasks in the map is complete. Also it has features to record the progress of the work items graphically.
This particular toll became very handy on managing my day to day work. Following is an example of a minda map.

Why you need a CRM Solution

Following are some tips to consider before choosing a CRM solution. That is when you are planning to go for a CRM solution you must consider these or include them in your check list.

1. Leads or prospects providing their details to you via the web site and not hearing back from you. There could be many registrations, but you can’t keep track of them or follow them up. This is one reason that you should think of selecting a CRM solution, because in CRM you have a better opportunity to keep a track of these new businesses.
2. If you are keep on getting messages and complaints from your customers, that their queries or issues are not getting resolved quickly. I’m sure no business owner wants end up with unhappy customers, because the customers are the most valuable part of your business and to better serve them you need give priority for their queries. CRM is an ideal tool to handle these queries and issues.
3. If your sales team does not have any visibility over their activities, will lead your sales campaigns in disaster. You don’t want to end up with campaigns with 0 results. With CRM your sales team has the ability to organize and manage your sale campaigns more productively and with positive results.
4. If your existing sales processes and business processes are not properly managed then as managers you will have difficulties in improving these processes. With CRM you have a greater view and control over these processes, especially with sales and services.
5. If all the customer details are scattered everywhere in several databases or may be in spread sheets, it will be quite hard for you employees to keep a track of these legacy data. Your employees will have to spend more time on colleting related data from here and there and putting them together. CRM is there for you to properly organize data to one single source where your team can quickly access them.
6. If your management and the sales team have a lesser visibility over the sales pipeline, I think CRM provides all the necessary reporting capabilities to gather these information to better improve your business.

These are some tips, but there could be many reasons why you should go for CRM solutions. This new technology, the CRM platform is out there for you to mold into your needs. But I strongly advice, before your investment its really important that you should identify why you need CRM.

Learning Share Point 2010 is Fun

I have started learning Share Point as it was one of the things that I wanted to do for a long time. So I downloaded the Share Point 2010 foundation and installed it. In the meantime I have also started following up training on Plural-Site for Share Point 2010. I have to tell you all the training videos that I followed so far are excellent, and believe me, I have managed to gain wide range of knowledge during past few days.
Also it made me push to do some R&D projects with the knowledge that I have, basically out of the box functionality. One interesting thing with Share Point 2010, that I came across was the data model. I was expecting to see tables on the database. That was one misunderstanding I made. But further looking into this, as I’m so determine to learn this new piece of technology, I found out that the data model of Share Point is different from CRM. For example on one occasion I have created couple of lists and expecting to see a table on the relevant database, as when we create an entity on CRM on the database underneath we get two entities base and the extension base. After diving deeper into this I understood that even though the list are the primary mechanism of storing data, those lists doesn’t represent a table on the database. It is more like set of inter related Excel worksheets. (more…)

Using SSIS for Dynamics CRM 2011

One of the CRM 2011 projects that I’m currently working on required several documents to be imported on daily basis. These documents were required by the payments processes and some other membership related processes.
So we have been given the opportunity to use SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) to load these files to CRM for processing. But the problem came with how we could load the data to CRM. To overcome this barrier, CozyRoc SSIS tools became very handy (Many thanks to our lead architect Huw Edmunds for introducing this). For more information visit http://www.cozyroc.com/
So my self did lots of R&D on these tools to get it work with CRM as there is very little documentation support over these, but we got great deal of application support from CozyRock.

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