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Posts Tagged ‘sage products

Sage CRM 7.2 Available for Sage 300 ERP

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Introduction

Earlier this year Sage CRM 7.2 was released for standalone CRM customers. We have competed the Sage 300 ERP integration in conjunction with the Service Pack 1 release of Sage CRM 7.2. We have now released the Sage 300 ERP 2012 integration for Sage CRM 7.2 and this is the integration that will be included in the forthcoming Sage 300 ERP 2014 release.

Generally customers find that combining Sage CRM as a front office solution to Sage 300 ERP as the back office  solution creates a much more powerful combined system than having separate ERP and CRMs. The level of automation, reporting and customer connectedness is greatly increased across the organization. As such introducing a new version of CRM can provide many immediate benefits for companies and this blog is looking at some of the things that are new in this version. We find that customers running both of these Sage products together have much higher net promoter scores than customers running non-integrated systems.

Social CRM

Historically CRM programs managed communications with customers and other business contacts by managing e-mails and phone calls. CRM had all the basic contact information, integrations to help automate these processes like creating e-mails and automatically recording the information in CRM. Auto-dialing phones and logging that you called and letting you fill in some comments. Setting reminders and schedules for performing these tasks.

However, how we are communicating with our business contacts is changing. Many people are using e-mail and voice phones much less than they used to. I ignore most incoming calls from unknown callers because they are usually cold sales calls or scams (like you have just won a cruise vacation). E-mail is getting much noisier with spam and other junk, causing more important e-mails to just get lost. It’s been found that recent high school graduates actually have quite an aversion to actually talking on a phone and don’t use e-mail much.

Now there are many more communication channels. Many people now communicate via various social websites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Yammer and Twitter. Many calls are made via services like Skype and there are people texting more than ever and even using systems like BBM.

So if we want to get a complete comprehensive picture of all our communications with a customer, we need to see all of these in CRM as well. We added LinkedIn and Twitter connectors to Sage CRM last version and with this version we have added Facebook integration.

socialcrm

With this Facebook integration you can bring Facebook information right inside Sage CRM to better understand your customer. You can associate Facebook pictures and profiles with prospects. Generally this is an avenue to get a more complete picture of your customer, or potential customer’s business.

Getting good leads is usually a big problem for companies. Chances are that for a given customer, his contacts will be related in some way and perhaps offer good prospects to market to. If you do get a response from one of a customer’s contacts then you can use the original customer as a reference to help make the sale, or act as an introduction to get you in the door.

Social Media stores terabytes and terabytes of information on business’s and people. Being able to effectively mine all this information is going to be a huge competitive advantage in the future.

Another social feature added to Sage CRM 7.2 is Yammer integration. Yammer is a social network for collaboration within a company. With this integration your sales teams can collaborate and share information using Yammer from Sage CRM.

socialcrm3

Mobile CRM

People don’t necessarily spend their entire day sitting at their desk behind a computer. They work from home, they travel on business trips and visit customers face to face. You CRM system contains tons of useful information that will help you do your job better if accessible in these situations. Over the past couple of versions and further with this new version, we‘ve been adding mobile features to Sage CRM to make it easier to access from mobile devices.

Sage CRM is a web application and with the previous version we enhanced to work with all popular browsers. This then allowed mobile users (which usually have Safari or Chrome) to browse the Sage CRM screens. Perhaps this works a bit better for tablets, but tends to be a bit of a pain on an iPhone.

As a result we’ve been adding native device apps to complement the web interface to Sage CRM. Plus we’ve been working on improving the web interface so it will work much better on table devices like the iPad.

The picture below shows the Sage CRM web application rendering itself for an iPad:

mobilecrm1

Next we have the iPhone native Sage CRM application:

mobilecrm2

And finally the Sage CRM 7.2 Windows 8 application for Windows tablets:

mobilecrm3

As we move forwards we will be providing more and more functionality on more and more mobile devices so you can instantly get any information you need instantly. Down the road you might be wearing your Google glasses and when you say the customer’s name, all the information on that customer will be right there in your view to reference.

Reporting

With this version of Sage CRM we’ve improved the reporting capabilities. A new HTML5 based charting library has been added, so you don’t need Adobe Flash for charts anymore. You can clone reports to get started with a customization. There are more chart types with more configurable settings. There are new security settings so you can better control who can see what.

Customization

Sage CRM 7.2 adds more codeless customization capability where you can design more powerful screens right in the product without writing code. Sage CRM also doesn’t use frames to hold custom screens anymore. This will affect some ASP based customizations, but generally leads to better ability to control your own web pages (especially the CSS).

Integration

The main change to the Sage 300 ERP integration was changing Quotes to Orders to work in the new frameless Sage CRM web pages. Most other changes have already been released in service packs or hotfixes for Sage 300 ERP 2012, so if you are fully current you won’t see much different. But if you are coming from an older version, you should see a number of improvements.

Summary

Sage CRM 7.2 integrated with Sage 300 ERP make for a powerful front/back office solution. This release is definitely worth checking out especially for the mobility and social features.

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Written by smist08

September 7, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Introducing Sage City Online

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Introduction

Last year at Sage Summit in Nashville we tried an experiment in social networking that we called Sage City. I mentioned this in my blog on Sage Summit 2012 here. Sage City in Nashville was a huge success and we will be building on that for an even better Sage City event at this year’s Sage Summit conference in Washington, DC.

Last week we opened the online version of Sage City. The intent is to build a social networking super-site for all Sage customers, partners and employees.

sagecity1

History

There has always been a lot of social networking around Sage and its products. Typically each product group or division operated its own set of forums and blogs. This is then hard for customers who use several products like say Sage CRM and Sage ERP. They need to join several disparate communities, which are all quite different.

There are all sort of groups on the main social networking sites like Facebook or LinkedIn. Many of these groups are highly successful with thousands of members. For instance the Sage Partners, Employees & Alumni Networking Group on LinkedIn has over 8200 members and has lots of interesting activity.

The external groups are doing great and will continue to do so. But something needed to be done about all the internal groups. Many were running different software platforms, used different sign-on ids, looked quite different, and had different policies and so on.

Unify the Sage Social Sites

The first goal of Sage City was to unify all these different Sage social communities into one place. Basically a Sage customer now only needs to sign up for Sage City and then they can join discussions on many Sage products as well as reference all sorts of other on-line resources. Now all the Sage forums are using the same software, they all work the same way and they will all be updated and maintained together providing a unified experience. Below is just the start of quite long list of support communities available on Sage City:

sagecity2

Notice that we now have both unified customer communities as well as unified partner communities.

You might ask: What about all the great content in all the previous discussion forums and blogs? The Sage City team did a great job of bringing all this content over to the new site. This isn’t an empty site waiting to be filled, there are already hundreds of blog postings and thousands of discussion forum threads imported from the older sites. This provides a great resource of information that has already been captured.

Business Communities

If you attended Sage Summit last year, you know that Sage City wasn’t organized around products, it was organized around business interests. Now that we’ve brought together all the different product social sites into one place, this now gives us a great opportunity to build on this new greater expanded community.

Across all the different Sage business products there is a lot of commonality in professional function. For instance there are many Accountants using Sage ERP products. Sage City offers social sites for all of these. In the screen shot below is the start of the list of the various business communities that are available on Sage City:

sagecity3

The key to their success is that these communities are large enough to be vibrant and self-sustaining. By bringing together the larger Sage community we can achieve this.

Most business issues and problems don’t have anything to do with ERP or CRM software and these new forums offer a great opportunity to discuss these with knowledgeable peers in a community of like minded people.

A True Social Site

Besides unifying all our various discussion forums and blogs, the new Sage City site also offers many of the expected social features that you would expect on any modern Social Media site. You can have friends, follow people, like things, join groups, send messages, mark favorites, subscribe to RSS feeds, and post comments and replies.

The site is integrated with Twitter feeds and with Sage’s product idea site.

There are discussion forums, blogs and videos. There are feeds showing all the activities going on either on the whole site or just in a specific group.

sagecity4

A Platform to Build On

Last week was the initial launch, but we have a large enthusiastic team that continues to work on Sage City, so you can expect to see regular updates and enhancements to make this a continually growing and more and more vibrant site.

The first goal is to attract as many people as possible to the site. The strength and value of a community is built on the enthusiasm of the individual participants. A strong community is a powerful thing. Hopefully by bringing together all the customers, partners and employees from separate Sage product camps we can build a much more valuable community than we could acting separately.

Summary

Sage City is now live. Sage City is so new the Google Spiders haven’t even cataloged its contents yet. But I think Sage City is a great improvement over Sage’s separate product social site. There are already lots of active users and discussions. I’ll be contributing regularly and I hope to see you there as well.

 

Virtualization

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Introduction

There was a discussion on LinkedIn the other day, that was started since the latest version of Sage 100 ERP only allows one copy of itself to be installed on a given computer. Many programs operation this way such as most Microsoft products and other Sage products like Sage 300 ERP. The main reason for this is to avoid confusion for users when they are using integration technologies like COM or .Net. Since then it’s easy to know what you are talking to when you integrate from another program. This is also how the Windows Installer works, so if you want to use this technology then this is what you get.

But the topic came up as to what to do to support multiple customers? The answer given was to use virtualization. We use this fairly extensively here at Sage for Development, QA and Support. This blog posting is to cover a bit more fully our uses of virtualization and some of the things we have discovered along the way.

virtualization

VirtualBox

The Sage 100 and Sage X3 groups use Oracle VirtualBox. This one is nice because it’s open source (Oracle acquired it as part of Sun). I’ve run VMs created with this, but never created one myself or have too much experience with it.

VMWare

The Sage 300 team uses VMWare. It used to be that you could use the VMWare player for free, but now it is only free for non-commercial use, but at least it’s fairly cheap. Generally you only need the Player and not the Workstation version. One nice feature is the unity feature which does an amazing job of integrating the virtual environment with your desktop environment which is good for demo purposes.

VMWarePlayerUnity

For server based VMs we use VMWare because our experience is that the memory usage is much better than the Microsoft Windows Server versions (but I haven’t played with Windows Server 2012 yet). The MS Server ones tend to force a lot of locked memory and you can’t run as many VMs. Our support department keeps a library of all supported operating systems times all supported versions installed, so if a client problem comes up say running XX version 3 on Windows XP 32-bit, then we boot up the right VM and try to reproduce the customer’s problem.

Generally we find it useful to create a base operating system image like Windows 7 (64-bit) and keep a clean copy that we update every now and then with Windows updates. Then when we want a VM we just get a copy of the base operating system and install what we want on top of it. (We also keep some images of popular operating systems with office and SQL Server as a better starting point). Generally to give a quick way to get running when a need arises.

VirtualPC

We used to use MS VirtualPC a lot, but have moved away from it because MS doesn’t seem to be updating it anymore and it doesn’t support 64-bit client operating systems. This one is included with MSDN subscriptions, so it you have one of these, you probably have access to it.

It seems Microsoft is repurposing its VirtualPC software to their XP Mode feature to allow you to run Windows XP only software easily on Windows 7.

Client Operating System Licenses

Generally all the developers at Sage have an MSDN Universal subscriptions so this gives us the licensing to do what we need with the client operating systems. But for most development partners, there is a lot of benefit in having an MSDN subscription yourselves.

Hardware Requirements

One disadvantage of virtual machines in the past has been how large they are (usually around 32Gig). This uses up disk space fast, but with cheap 3TB hard drives, this doesn’t seem to be much of a problem anymore.

I’ve found the main thing you need for good performance in virtual environments is lots of memory. If your computer has 8Gig RAM then you can allocate 4Gig to the VM and still have 4Gig for your base operating system. Even though I find frequently switching back and forth between things in the VM and things in the base operating system can be slow, so I like to work for longer periods in on or the other.

Also quite a few laptops have hardware virtualization support turned off by default, going into the BIOS setup and turning this on can speed up VMs quite a bit.

Summary

To me virtualization software is quite amazing. I’m astounded that I can just run Windows 8 or Linux easily on my Windows 7 laptop. I think virtualization software has come a long way and is still progressing quickly. If you haven’t tried it out recently and you need to keep things separated, then you really should try one of these out. It saves a lot of headaches not having to worry about the installation of one thing messing up something else you have installed.