Showing CRM on a Tablet at ASAE Annual Meeting 2011

The ASAE Annual Meeting & Exposition is August 6-9, 2011 in St. Louis.  I am looking forward to networking with colleagues and friends.

If you are in the Expo hall, please visit us at booth 419.  You can pick up a $5.00 Starbucks Card just for listening to me talk for 5 minutes about CRM for Associations.

We plan to show CRM for Associations on a tablet too.  Here is a sneak peak at some screenshots.

Sample Dashboard Report

Easily Selecting Views

Member Contact Record – with read/write back to CRM

Meet me in St. Louis (or simply follow me on Twitter @WillSlade)

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Would a Surgeon use a Swiss Army Knife

Focusing on tools and software that excel at core business needs for improved returns

I guess depending on the surgery a surgeon could use a swiss army knife in a pinch. After all, didn’t Radar O’Reilly use his Tom Mix pocket knife to perform a tracheotomy in an episode of M.A.S.H.

For optimal results though, a surgeon knows which tools to use.

In a similar vein, let’s cut over to how this is similar when using business applications.

All too often, a software solution is developed to meet a specific business process and may perform that process quite well. Over time though, the original product has grown to try to meet far too many niche needs and is stretched to serve an ever growing audience. This often dilutes the products capabilities. The product becomes overly complex with seemingly a button or module or “bolt-on” for everything. In the end, the product might be able to serve more needs but often fails to do any one of them well.

Organizations that are looking to purchase new software need to be careful in their selection. Business applications that attempt to serve a large audience with many modules and many features are often mediocre at your most important business processes.

This also relates to usability, long term cost and support, and if the solution can grow with the organization. If a solution is deeply complex, how easy is it to use? If it is over engineered, how easy is it to support? Are you paying for modules and features that you will never need or use? How easy is it to get the data out of a complex system for business analytics? How easy is it to extend or change the solution to meet your needs over time?

After answering these questions, many organizations are now moving away from their traditional large complex multi-module systems and taking a serious look at CRM (customer relationship management) software to meet their core business needs.  CRM solutions in general have matured over the years and they are often easy to deploy, use, and maintain.  Hence, orgainzaitions, associations, and businesses are finding that they will use CRM more often for their core needs.  This provides richer analytics on key performance indicators as well as better insight into a customer’s (or member’s) unique relationships including their social and business network.

CRM software such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM has the ability to be set up to meet very specific needs and perform them quite well.  Associations for example can not only track their members, they can manage their other core business drivers in CRM such as dues, meetings, donations.   This allows an association to focus solely on their core business needs with a robust yet easy to use and familiar solution from Microsoft.

Organizations should focus on procuring solutions that not only meet the core business needs, but actually excel at meeting those needs. Like a surgeon that uses the right set of tools for the best possible outcome, this strategy sets you up for the highest possible return on your investment.

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Privacy and Securing Sensitive Data in a Shared Enterprise Database

Utilizing Field Level Security in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011

When a business contact changes their address, how many places do you have to go to update that information? Is it multiple databases and Excel files?

Many organizations continue to organize, consolidate, and leverage their data.  Moving data into one central database is critical for business analytics, reporting, and sharing common contact and business information.  If a business contact changes their address, you update it one time on one central record for all users to share.  That is a huge advantage.

Now that all that data is in one place, how can an organization effectively share information without exposing sensitive and private data to every user?  It would seem that organizations still rely heavily on those extra Excel files to house sensitive data and hence the one central database becomes less effective.

Organizations can now utilize the advanced field level security features in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011.  You can easy extend Microsoft CRM and add fields to house this sensitive data.  You can assign unique permissions to each field.

For example, if an organization does a good deal of fundraising and donor development, and the organization wants to hide sensitive major donor information from all the staff except the major donor team, they can enable field level security in CRM to those specific fields that house the sensitive data.  All the staff would be able to see the major donor record but with only the common information that needs to be shared.  The sensitive data on the record is only available to the major donor team.  The organization’s staff may need to share common information. The donor might receive the foundation’s email newsletter and may attend the annual fundraising event but again only the major donor team needs to see the annual income and latest giving information.

Organizations can now share common business information while securing sensitive data all on one central record.

With Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, those last remaining Excel files that house sensitive data can now be moved into the central database where you can leverage one of your greatest business assets, your data.

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What Constitutes a Technology Game Changer?

The Three “M” method to Recognize and Leverage New Technologies

The GraduateRemember in the movie The Graduate when Dustin Hoffman’s character was told:  “One word: Plastics”.

Chevy Chase was in a movie called Fletch where he said “it’s all ball bearings these days”.

But these days it seems the phrase often heard and marketed is “Game Changer”. I searched the phrase “Game Changer” on the internet and filtered it to 2011 news stories.  There were over 9,000 news  stories that contained “Game Changer” (in quotes mind you).  Really? Were there that many game changers this year?  I must be living under a rock because I don’t recall my world or game be changed by that magnitude.

Could it be that the phrase might be overused?

What happens when a technology truly is a game changer?  How would you recognize it?  Below are the three M’s to help you recognize and leverage new technologies.  I realize that most of these ideas are business 101 basics but they seem to still be worth a review.

  1. Meaning – Does it have meaning to you or your business?  If you sell snow shovels, a game changer in beach towels might not affect you. Take time to drill into what is supposed to make the new technology a game changer and see how that would have an effect.  For example, if businesses are all supposed to “go mobile” with their technology offerings because all things mobile is the latest game changer, how does that effect you and your business by either embracing or avoiding?  Are you able to tie a specific business process to this new game changing technology?  If so, what impact and meaning would that  have.  Focus on specific meaning to you and your business to recognize valuable game changing technology.
  2. Magnitude – Although a new technology may have meaning and will make a relevant change, what is the magnitude of the change?  A technology that has meaning and a high level of change and impact to you and your business is a true game changer.
  3. Monetary – Does the game changing technology increase revenue?  Does it reduce costs?  When evaluating a game changer, it may have meaning and magnitude, but does it make you more money?  The greater your ROI (return on investment), the greater the technology game changer.

I too am guilty of using the phrase “game changer”.  I wrote a post called, Your Next AMS Might Not Be an AMS – Why an increasing number of associations are viewing Microsoft Dynamics CRM as an industry game changer.  Feel free to read it as an example and see if you can recognize the 3 M’s.

When a new technology has relevant meaning to you and your business, high magnitude of impact, and solid monetary value, THAT would be your game changer.

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Ask Why

Why are you shopping for a new system?  Why now?

We know these questions are important for an organization to ask their users and leaders.  We have learned that asking the “why” questions often uncover the real business drivers and reasons for wanting to leverage new features and new technology.  Let’s face it though; selecting a new enterprise class business application for an organization is not that easy.  It involves risk, investment costs, and usually lots of precious time.

My Shopping Story

I have a quick shopping story to share.  Although I wasn’t shopping for a new  sophisticated business application, it was for a new home stereo, the stories have similarities.  Let me explain.  My current home stereo system sounds great and I have had it for many years. How many years you ask?  Let’s just say that a main feature includes two “phono” inputs for two turntables (and dare I say a microphone).  Remember vinyl record albums?

Enter the smartphone.  I now have hours and hours of music including playlists, songs, and video.  I  like my smartphone and its features.  I like the way my home stereo sounds.  I wanted to plug my smartphone into my old home stereo but there was no plug for it.  I could bridge the two with a cable adapter or I could invest in a new home stereo that simply includes features for a smartphone.  Long story short, I went with the new home stereo.  The new home stereo systems on the market (media centers if you will) have greatly matured and the costs are less than I paid for my old stereo system.

Yes, buying a new business application is different than buying a new home stereo, but probably not by much.  It comes down to aligning the right technology to the business drivers.  Getting to the business drivers might be as easy as asking “Why?”

Top 3 ‘Why’ Questions to Ask

There will come a time when investing in new technology is the right thing to do.  But first, you may want to ask these “why” questions.

WHY #1 – Why not just keep the current system? 

All too often organizations want to quickly abandon their current system that “just won’t work right” for a new one without first uncovering the business drivers, their possible root causes, and evaluating fixes.  Without clear business drivers, an organization may find that they got a new system but still have the same issues.

Typical business drivers usually revolve around:

  • Money.  A new system provides significant cost savings or increased revenue or increased profit.
  • Time.  There are efficiencies gained with a new system including less time to complete tasks, staff efficiencies, or operating efficiencies.
  • Growth.  Increased growth and increased market share may only be possible with a new system or an organization may have simply outgrown their old system.
  • Competition.  Keeping up with the competition as well as market demands often drive the need for new technology and new solutions.
  • Compliance.  A new solution may be the only way to keep up with new regulations and compliance.

WHY #2 – Why not bridge our current system to new technology?

An organization might be able to address their business drivers by integrating (linking, bridging, etc.) their current system to new technology.  Some additional questions to ask are:

  • What are the long term costs including support costs compared with putting that same amount toward a brand new solution?
  • How difficult will it be to support two separate systems compared with one?
  • Does buying a new solution offer any additional advantages?
  • Is there a business driver than obliges an organization to keep their current system?

WHY #3 – Why now? 

An organization should ask why they want to take on this new investment now. Considerations and questions on the timing of a new system include:

  • How much is it costing you by waiting?  Costs in terms of missed opportunities, increased costs, lower revenue, competition taking market share, etc.
  • Is there a mandate or compliance deadline?
  • Would the organization be considered an “early adopter” with this new technology?  Are there other client references that are successfully utilizing this new technology?

Ask why

Organizations can reduce risk by asking why and by identifying the compelling business drivers for acquiring a new technology solution.

Ask for help

Have a qualified technology company or expert help your organization.  They can help uncover complex business challenges and provide recommendations for smart technology solutions based on quality thinking, extensive business expertise and innovative problem-solving.

Posted in AMS, CRM, ERP, General, SharePoint | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Your Next AMS Might Not Be An AMS

Why an increasing number of Associations are viewing Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 as an industry game changer.

Since the dawn of databases, companies have created AMS (Association Management Software) to serve the unique needs of the association world.  Over the years, many AMS solutions have mutated into very large complex and heavy systems attempting to accommodate every association need there is.  Basically, if an association has a task or business process, there is probably an AMS module for it.

Because of this trend, many AMS systems have become overly complex, challenging to use, difficult to maintain, expensive to buy, and expensive to keep.  Increasingly, association executives are searching for alternatives to this traditional AMS technology path.  There is a strong desire to break out of the never-ending cycle of having to get a new updated AMS system every few years and the inevitable AMS vendor demo parade that follows.  Associations are looking for cleaner, easier, lighter, and more cost effective options.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM websiteIt turns out that Microsoft Dynamics CRM is filling this new role.  It is an excellent non-AMS choice for a growing number of associations.  It is understood that Microsoft Dynamics CRM right out of the box is not for every association, but if the association focuses on their core and high priority needs, the out of the box offering is quite compelling.

You might ask, “Why would an association look at a CRM solution in the first place?”  After all, CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management and CRM systems have traditionally been used for tracking prospects and sales.  The answer lies in the ability to easily extend the base CRM to meet the specific needs of the association.  Extending CRM is a strategy called xRM.  Before I get too deep in the weeds with CRM and xRM (that definition forthcoming), let me provide some Microsoft Dynamics CRM highlights:

  • Easy to use – robust where it counts.
  • If you like Outlook, then it looks and feels like Outlook.
  • Lots of business productivity built in.
  • Microsoft to Microsoft integration for Outlook, Word, and Excel.
  • Industry’s Best Outlook Integration. The Microsoft Outlook team created the Outlook integration – not an AMS vendor.
  • Provides mobile connectivity.
  • Easy to deploy and maintain with a hosted or on-premise options.
  • Supported by a vast number of Microsoft Dynamics partners and not a sole AMS vendor.

Microsoft Outlook – If an association already uses Microsoft Outlook, then Microsoft Dynamics CRM provides the ability for all staff to access one ‘database of truth’ across the entire organization through Microsoft Outlook.  You don’t have to “get into the AMS to try and find an email”.  CRM is one of the best ways to collect and manage data and communications throughout the organization.

CRM in Outlook

Game Changer – I believe Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a game changer in the association industry.  To help illustrate, here are a handful of other examples of industry game changers.

  • Accounting Systems separated from the AMS – At one point, most AMS systems included an accounting system with a general ledger, accounts payable, etc.  Associations started demanding integration to their existing best of breed accounting packages like Great Plains (now called Microsoft Dynamics GP).  As a result, most AMS vendors removed their own accounting systems from the AMS.  That was a game changer for accounting systems as well as accounting departments that didn’t want all the staff having access to vital accounting data.
  • Microsoft .NET.   Back in the 2002-2003 timeframe, associations were introduced to the concept of .NET with its promise of better system interoperability.  Databases and applications could now easily talk to other systems with this new technology.  Who remembers the AMS vendor panel discussion on .NET at ASAE hosted by DelCor and designData?  Talk about a game changer.  Seemingly overnight, associations started to include the requirement that their AMS solution be 100% .NET.  The AMS vendors that had solutions that were not 100% .NET certainly struggled.
  • Google.  The increasing size and complexity of the AMS reminds me of how the basic home page of a website has evolved.  At first, the home page was basically a fancy business card.  Over time though, each department wanted to stake claim to their piece of the home page real estate and before you knew it, the website home page looked very cluttered.  It was difficult to find anything.  Then along came Google.  All it had was a search box and submit button with a whole lot of white space going on.  It clearly and succinctly cut to the purpose of that website and made it easy to use. Google was a game changer.  It inspired cleaner and more efficient design. It required people to think differently about the true purpose of their design.  I think that is what we have here with CRM.  CRM can finally inspire cleaner and more efficient use of the membership data.
  • xRM.  The “x” in xRM stands for “Anything” – Anything Relationship Management or eXtended Relationship Management.  xRM is not a product, it is a strategy that takes CRM one step further, focusing on managing all connections – not just those with ‘customers’.  Specifically with Dynamics CRM, Microsoft has provided a rich foundation of powerful functionality.  An association can then easily add to their system.  If you need to track meeting attendance or committee management (as an example), Microsoft provides the ability to create that functionality. As you can see, this is not your father’s CRM.  You don’t have to be a developer to add functionality to CRM.  You use CRM to extend CRM. The tools Microsoft provides have been made so straight forward and easy to use, creating new “modules” (called ‘Solutions’ in CRM) is analogous to creating a custom report.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM with the xRM strategy is the game changer.  Now an association can have a clean and easy to use membership system that is robust where it counts.

Association executives can now take a look at a standard Microsoft product to see if there is a fit at their association.  Who knows – your next AMS might not be an AMS after all.


Author’s note on this particular post – I first wrote this post in September of 2010. I posted it on the Microsoft Dynamics for NFP’s community blog.  Since that time, this post has been published with different titles and author names by the various companies I have worked for (some with and some without permission).


Posted in AMS, Association Management Software, CRM | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Welcome to My Blog

I am glad you found my blog. My name is Will Slade.  I am sharing my ideas, thoughts, and opinions on Microsoft Dynamics CRM (Customer Relationship Management) as well as xRM (eXtended Relationship Management – aka the CRM platform).  One of my goals is to help organizations understand the unique business value derived from using CRM as the centralized and consolidated single point of information for an entire enterprise.

To learn more about me and my background, visit the About page.

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