Workbooks will be Tabtastic!
September 16,2010 by jkay • Leave a Comment
We’re always keen to hear from our users with their feedback and a regular request has been for more space on the screen and easier navigation. That’s why we’ve made some changes to the layout of Workbooks forms, which you’ll see in our forthcoming update that is due to be released in the next few weeks. For some reason we started calling the new layout Tabtastic – we hope you like it!
Tabs are to be relocated from the bottom to the top of records. Navigation of screens will be quicker, because instead of having to scroll down to access tabs they’ll be ready and waiting for you at the top of the screen. And if you choose to expand records in a list within a tab there’s a lot more space to see them.
We’ve also made the icon in the top left-hand corner work harder. Clicking on it will give you options to Save & Close, Save, Minimize or Maximise the screen, as well as simply closing it (without saving). Importantly, it means that you’ll be able to manage your open screens easily, even if you’re not on the Main tab.
Making it even easier to try the Workbooks Desktop
September 14,2010 by jkay • Leave a Comment
One of the things setting Workbooks apart is its user interface - the Workbooks Desktop.
We like to showcase this so, just to make things a little easier, you can now try it out just by visiting this link without needing to fill out any forms at all. It's a pretty functional demonstration although any changes you make will be discarded when you log out.
As ever, if you want to try Workbooks for a more in-depth evaluation you can simply signup for a 30 day free trial account.
We hope you like the view!
Blackberry Support Extended
September 10,2010 by jcheney • Leave a Comment
About 5 weeks ago we released some new functionality into Workbooks.
It is called the Email Dropbox and it allows you to store emails in Workbooks by ‘ccing’ or ‘bccing’ a special email address. Workbooks then analyses the message and figures out who sent the email, who the intended recipient was and store it in the right place.
The functionality has been really well received by our users, it makes it much easier to keep Workbooks up to date and can even be used from an iPhone or Blackberry.
Initially we only supported email from Blackberrys using the Enterprise Service (BES) however a lot of our customers also use Blackberry Internet Service (BIS) – so based on popular demand we are extending the functionality to support that this evening, through an update.
So for those of you using Blackberrys on BIS we hope you like the update.
The Importance of Business Process
August 18,2010 by jcheney • Leave a Comment
Many of our customers are now using Workbooks Business Edition to run their entire ‘prospect to cash’ process. This means they are using Workbooks to:
- Manage leads and convert them into opportunities;
- Create quotes and convert quotes into sales orders;
- Manage their fulfilment process with sales orders and then invoice creation.
In many cases our customers have implemented Workbooks Business to either streamline an existing process, or to provide a platform to scale their business. These customers derive real value in having their transaction data sitting alongside their CRM data in one consolidated system.
However the implementation of a system this broad really begins to highlight the importance of consistent business process across an organisation. With many customers, the processes they used prior to implementing Workbooks had ‘evolved’ over time and were designed to be used with the tools available – typically Excel or Word.
So as part of the implementation process we actively encourage people to review their existing process to see if they really are:
- Clearly understood
It is not unusual to find people still performing specific tasks within a process ‘because that’s what we always do’; regardless of the value it may have to the business.
We often find it useful to ask people to consider why the process exists and see if there is a more effective way to meet the requirement, as opposed to replicating the existing process in a new system.
In many cases ‘the right process’ is the one that is easiest to execute, assuming it provides the metrics (for your reports) and controls that you need. This planning doesn’t need to be complex, but it does mean having a common understanding about how your business is run.
A good question to ask is: “Does everyone in the business have a consistent view on how things should be done?” Questions like:
- What are the criteria for converting a lead into an opportunity?
- What are the stages of our sales cycle?
- When should we forecast a deal?
- How do I sign-up a new customer?
- What constitutes a new order, what information do I need to capture?
Work through your key processes and ensure they are relevant to your business today. Frankly this is a good exercise for any business, even if you are not implementing a new business application.
Why it’s not always rosy in the SaaS World.
August 03,2010 by jcheney • Leave a Comment
Right I have a confession to make – I didn’t do a good job of choosing our website CMS (Content Management System) provider.
As a SaaS business, I’m always keen to use SaaS solutions wherever possible, so when our marketing team rebuilt our ‘marketing’ website around 12 months ago I encouraged them to choose a company who offered a SaaS CMS platform.
The functionality of the CMS system we opted for was pretty good, which was important to the marketing team. However we didn’t do a good enough job of vetting their service delivery and operational procedures.
This came home to roost earlier in the week, when we accidently deleted some image files from the CMS platform, which meant the images on some web pages were missing. No big deal you might think, let’s call the provider and ask them to restore the deleted images.
This is when the problems started - the provider (who I won’t name here) was able to restore the images, but couldn’t restore the URL references inside the pages which were automatically deleted when the image files were removed.
So after several frantic hours on the phone it turns out they didn’t have a full back-up of our web pages, they only had a partial backup. So our team was left to spend many hours manually recreating the URLs that had disappeared.
A few missing images on our web page isn’t the end of the world – but it illustrates how reliant you become on the capabilities of your provider.
In an environment where many companies are claiming to be SaaS providers it really is worth taking the time out to check their capabilities. So I’ve put together a quick checklist which you might want to use when speaking to SaaS providers. We will use it when choosing our next provider! Infrastructure
- Where is their infrastructure located?
- How physically secure is the infrastructure?
- How is resilience achieved?
- What type of protection have they against theft, fire or flood?
- Power – what happens if there is a power cut, do they have UPS, Generator or Alternative Power Supply?
- What happens if there is a major disaster and the site is physically destroyed (Think Bunsfield or Plane Crash)?
- How quickly can they recover? How would they source new hardware, do they have a hot or cold standby site?
- What is their back-up procedure?
- How often do they test their restore process?
- When was the last time they restored a customer's data?
- How do they monitor their infrastructure?
- What is their Information Security Policy?
- Are they working towards or have they achieved ISO27001?
- Do they have third-parties conduct penetration tests (white hacking) and if so how often?
10 tips to help with a successful CRM Implementation
July 22,2010 by jkay • Leave a Comment
One of the most important parts of any CRM project is the initial implementation, the process before your team 'go-live' with the final system - it's the part of the project where you get to think how best to structure your data and processes in the new system, what you need to get out of it and what you can do differently.
I work with our customers to help them through this process and to lend my expertise when it is needed, both from a general CRM perspective and a Workbooks perspective. Here are my top 10 tips for planning a successful implementation:
- Don't underestimate how much time it will take to migrate existing data - whether you use a spreadsheet, database, post-it notes, or a combination of all three, you are bound to have some data you want to move to your new CRM system. Now is a great time to go through and cleanse your data, remove duplicates, tidy up addresses/people that have left or just take stock of what you have.
- Make sure key staff are involved - your staff will be one of your most useful assets and have a wealth of information that can be pulled into the system, they will make your implementation a success or failure, and it's good to keep them in the loop as you design your new system.
- Use this as a chance to rethink how you do things - with a new CRM system you have the chance to think about how you work and streamline your processes. Do you do things that are long winded/cumbersome? Now is the time to fix them, but be aware of point 4 below.
- Try not to prescribe people's process - this ties in with point 2. Just because you need a management report that provides certain data, don't force staff into long winded processes/ways of doing things that make their job more difficult. 95% of the time, your staff will know how to do their jobs and be able to help you design ways of recording and storing information so that you all get the most benefits from the system without making their lives unnecessarily difficult.
- Training - schedule in time for training, and make sure people aren't being disturbed. A few minutes interruption during training can cost you hours or even days later on if they don't pick up some key ways of working with your new system.
- Transition/Migration - try and plan the migration of data and transition to the system at a quite period in your business. If this isn't possible try and make sure that you have some people available to help answer questions from within your organisation, or roll out the new system in a number of smaller, more manageable chunks.
- Don't get bogged down in detail, you can refine as you go - yes it's important to make sure you capture the key information you need in your new system, but don't get too hung up about every single option in every single picklist, everywhere in the system. It's easy to make changes and update options as you go. It will make the process easier and you'll be able to build your CRM system as your business grows.
- Don't skimp, time is money, let the experts do it - it's often a false economy to implement your own CRM system. As experts we know lots of the common pitfalls and can implement ideas and processes in hours that may take you days. Is it really worth the time you will spend away from your business to save a few pounds? You're the experts in your business, we know CRM, it's a good combination to make an implementation successful.
- Don't rush, make sure it's right - taking point 7 into account, it's important not to rush an implementation through. If you've only got a week before your year end, are your really going to make a successful go of a project with everything else you have on? Push it back a few weeks, work out how to make sure you can do everything properly and the rewards will be huge.
- Accept there will be some resistance - there are always some people who don't like change, disagree with processes or the way things are happening (you've probably already met a few if you got this far!). We always suggest you have 2 'champions' to head up a successful implementation who can be a 'go-to' between key departments in your organisation and are responsible for the 'bigger picture' in your project.
- K.I.S.S. - as an added bonus: if in doubt, 'Keep It Simple Stupid'. Do you have 2 ways you could do something? Always work with the simpler of the two. It's much easier to add a bit of detail rather than trying to take away from an overly complicated process.
Follow these simple ideas and you should be well on the way to a successful implementation. Remember, if in doubt you can always give us a call.
Workbooks Summer Release - ships in 2 weeks.
July 12,2010 by Product Management • Leave a Comment
As a SaaS business we are releasing new versions of our software every 3-4 months. Having completed our weekly QA meeting today, I’m pleased to announce we have set a release date of Friday the 23rd of July for Workbooks CRM and Workbooks Business.
This release (in common with nearly all our releases) has several significant new areas of functionality, plus lots of minor improvements based on feedback from our customers and prospects.
The new areas of functionality include:
This allows our customers to automatically store emails sent from any email client in Workbooks. It's pretty simple to use, you just need to add a special address on the ‘cc’ or ‘bcc’ line of the email you are sending, and it will be automatically sent to Workbooks and stored against the relevant records. Alternatively, if you have received an email from a client and you want to store it in Workbooks, you just need to forward it to the drop box address. We are also developing a specific 'plug-in' for Microsoft Outlook which will also synchronise addresses and diary entries; this will be released later in the year. I really like the drop box functionality because it’s simple to use, and importantly it works from any email client. It’s especially useful for me as I’m increasingly using my iPad as my email client of choice.
Bulletins (also known as MOTD - Message of the day, not Match of the Day!)
This functionality allows us to communicate with users more effectively. It allows us to ‘pop-up’ useful information for first-time users and also to publish ‘hints & tips’ on a regular basis inside Workbooks, rather than people having to visit our knowledge base.
Summary Tab We've also added a ‘Summary Tab’ to the majority of records. In the case of People and Organisations this gives a consolidated view of all the Notes, Activities, Emails, Opportunities, Cases and Documents they have been involved in.
It’s a really simple way of quickly getting a picture of what a Person or Organisation has been up to.
As I mentioned, the new release goes live in a couple of weeks but we are always looking for customers to join our beta program, so if you're interested email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Need your numbers now?
June 28,2010 by rawnet • Leave a Comment
In my ‘previous life’ as a Management Accountant, it was my job to supply the management team with the monthly management accounts together with operational and sales statistics and analysis. The monthly accounts although important were generally disregarded in favour of the more detailed performance reports on which managers were being judged and from which decisions can be based.
Sales and marketing managers unsurprisingly were interested in the reported sales performance for their areas of responsibility. The analysis would generally be a mixture of financial breakdowns as well as volume based data and when combined with budgets were all used to generate performance indicators to show how well the organisation was doing.
All of this information was all generated by the accounts department from processing transactions into an accounting system which was only accessible by the accounts people. Generally there was at least a week’s delay, often two, after each accounting period was over before these reports were available. In larger companies it is not uncommon for a period of 3 weeks to be required to get the monthly accounts published.
In a fast moving environment, waiting weeks for sales information arising from the beginning of a month can be at the very least frustrating. Understanding and monitoring performance in this way can result in decisions not being made as quickly as they could be, to correct or exploit any emerging trends. Accounting systems are necessary to provide control and statutory reporting but because of their very nature are not generally the right tool to generate analysis reports in a timely manner. Reports from accounting systems also can be very prescriptive and largely depend on the chart of accounts structure, and if new reports are required this will normally involve a considerable amount of work to make them available.
At Workbooks we take the view that the full sales process including the generation of orders and invoices i.e. ‘prospect to cash’ should all be part of the CRM system and reports and dashboards should be updated in real time. We have therefore designed our service in this way so that Sales, and for users of Supplier Orders or Schemes, Gross Margin information, can be viewed simply by logging in to the service and their dashboard and read the graphs and charts change as transactions are processed live. Sales numbers can be sliced and diced and based on whatever makes sense to the organisation, i.e. by product, market sector, geography or combinations of these, and not by what was determined many years ago when the accounting system was set up.
There are many benefits of integrating the Sales order process inside the CRM, which will, or have already been, covered by other blog entries, the point I am trying to make is simply that we understand that you need your numbers now!
The Problem with Scheduled Downtime
June 16,2010 by jkay • Leave a Comment
One of the things which surprises me about IT systems, whether SaaS or not, is the amount of time that upgrades take as systems grow, their often inconvenient timing, and the impact the resulting downtime can have.
Whilst not as damaging as the unscheduled variety, scheduled downtime still has an impact: with international travel it's not uncommon for your colleagues in distant timezones to need to access and update your data, at what are otherwise unsocial hours. Or, if your system is based in another continent an "out of hours" upgrade can happen at the most inconvenient time (for our UK users, the good news is that we are UK-based so the timing of our scheduled outages is less likely to be a problem). But, regardless of where our users are, we want to reduce the duration and minimise the impact of our scheduled outages.
So we do all we can to reduce scheduled downtime. We have always kept the frequency of system updates to a minimum and considered their timing carefully - for example by adopting a quarterly cycle for major releases - but now we're taking advantage of Workbooks' architecture to do things a little differently.
One reason why upgrades are time-consuming is because they involve changes to how data is stored and organised, and the more data that you have to modify at the same time the slower things will get. At Workbooks we've taken a different approach from our competitors as to how we store customer data: for security and scalability that data is completely segmented into separate databases for each customer. Amongst other advantages this means we can process upgrades one customer at a time and prioritise the processing of updates for customers who attempt to access the system in the minutes just after the upgrade has been initiated. Because many customers don't actually access their data at night over the weekend this means that we can reduce scheduled downtime for those that do. We can also run more of the upgrade in parallel further reducing its duration.
I'm pleased that we'll be using this new scheme for all future upgrades, starting with our next major release.
Don't make me think!
June 03,2010 by rawnet • Leave a Comment
It has been some time since I read ‘Don’t make me think’ by Steve Krug, which is a book about human-computer interaction and web usability, and although he was primarily discussing commercial websites, a lot of what he says is also true in relation to business software applications.
Making business applications intuitive and easy to understand can be as important as the functionality the system is attempting to provide. The benefits expected to be accrued from the implementation of a new business system can only be maximised if the user-base can readily absorb the new processes and support the change.
Improvements to quality & efficiency, reduction in support burden, and hopefully the system being seen by its users as a pleasure to work with, rather than a hindrance, are a few of the direct benefits which can attributed to a well thought out user interface.
With the rapid improvements in web technology it has become easier to produce web-based applications with a clean and intuitive interface, which users are quick to adopt.
At Workbooks we took the decision to build a 'Windows Like' desktop interface, so using Workbooks is a lot like using Windows. You can debate the merits of the Windows interface, but one thing is certain: everyone knows how it works, which means Workbooks' users spend less time learning the product and more time being productive.
If you want to see the user interface there is a short video below. It's well worth taking a look and hopefully you'll agree that it won’t make you think!