CRM 3.0 EAP released

Attention Microsoft Partners, if you want to get your hands dirty with CRM 3.0 (for testing purposes only) check out http://microsoft.order-7.com/CRMpartnerBeta/ . You need to sign in with your MS Passport to get access to the downloads (462Mb for the SBE edition – just right for SBS).


WARNING: don’t go installing this on your production server, it’s not final code and so is for testing only. I understand the final product will be released over the next couple of months.


As covered at last Monday nights SBS user group meeting, my personal recommendation is you stick to your knitting when it comes to deployment of CRM or other specialised packages. If your focus is SBS infrastructure your best bet is to partner with an organisation that specialises in CRM. This will save you and your clients a lot of pain. Same goes for application development, web site creation etc. Stick to what you know best and work with those who can compliment what you do (see this post – http://msmvps.com/calvert/archive/2005/10/27/73027.aspx for more thoughts on strategy)


That being said, have a play with CRM 3.0 on your favourite virtual server so you can see what all the excitement is about.


Keep your eyes posted on the following sites for more updates:


www.mscrm.com.au


http://thenorwichgroup.blogs.com/


http://www.microsoft.com/businesssolutions/crm/default.mspx


 

Listen to the podcast

I’m just finishing up listening to the SBS podcast prepared by Vlad Mazek & Chris Rue. Topic is Exchange 2003 SP2. The podcast is about 45 mins in length and well worth your time to download and listen to.


You can find it at http://www.vladville.com/sbsshow/ and downloads as an MP3 ready for playing on your MP3 player or Windows Media.


These are intended to be a weekly release, taking into account workload and relevant topics to cover (not to mention hurricanes), so make sure you check out the site for new podcasts.


Well done guys - keep up the good work

A Winning Review

Just finished reading “Winning” by Jack Welch (ISBN 0-06-075394-3) which I’d picked up in Seattle just before flying home from MVP Summit in early October. (see http://www.harpercollins.com/global_scripts/product_catalog/book_xml.asp?isbn=0060753943 for more book information).


Overall I found the book to be a very good read. Whilst there were certainly parts of the book that related more to BIG business operations, there was plenty that I can apply to my own business (currently 6 people) and could even be applied to a 2 person operation.


 


Topics covered included:

  • Mission & values
  • Candor in the workplace (read “honesty”)
  • Differentiation
  • Leadership
  • Hiring & firing
  • People management
  • Crisis management
  • Growth both organically and through acquisition
  • And the list goes on

 


There was a great chapter on strategy, and one section that stood out to me is “..what is strategy but resource allocation? When you strip away all the noise, that’s what it comes down to. Strategy means making clear-cut choices about how to compete. You cannot be everything to everybody, no matter what the size of your business or how deep its pockets.”


That’s so so very true – trying to be all things to all people, trying to provide every solution possible to every sort of client you come across, trying to win every single opportunity just because you want to be a “jack of all trades” will ultimately lead to disaster, dissatisfaction, denial and depression. You, your business, your clients and your family will suffer for it.


Focus on what you do best, and then partner with those around you that you know & trust to complement what you do.


For instance, Calvert Technologies specialize in network infrastructure solutions for the SMB space and use Small Business Server as a key part of this. Sure we could also sell & support other solutions based on *nix (or other products) just to win a few additional sales that we might not otherwise get but then we’d lose our focus on working with SBS as well as we do. We’d not do as good a job because our attention would be shared across multiple platforms and eventually our clients would get lower quality service.


There are others in Adelaide who work with *nix solutions (for example) exclusively and they do it very well. If we have a client that wants to use something other than SBS or Windows Server as the backend for their infrastructure, we’ll get one of these other specialists involved and help them get the solution that’s right for them. Saves us a lot of pain and egg on our face J


I could go on and on about this – but let’s move on.


 


Another key point that got my attention was with regard to people management. Specifically “You simply cannot manage people to better performance if you do not give candid, consistent feedback through a system that is loaded with integrity”.


In other words “don’t beat around the bush when it comes to managing your staff otherwise one, or all, of you will get pricked by the thorns”. This is something I’m learning more and more.


If we don’t give honest feedback, direction and advice to those we work with, how can we expect them to be honest and treat us with respect in return? How will they know if they are doing a good job, a mediocre job or are off track and need to be “realigned”?


It’s something I guess we all know deep down, but can be afraid to tackle and deal with head on. My advice, and that of Jack Welch (to name just one), is to hold true to what you believe in and be honest with those around you before things get out of hand. Remember the last time you got a splinter? If you didn’t take out that small annoyance early enough it could turn into a raging infection that made your whole body feel terrible.


 


There is so much more in this book that I could report on, but I encourage you to instead check it out for yourself. It’s easy enough to pick up a technical book and read it so we can feel that little bit more capable of being a “geek”. That’s good for client systems as you deal with them, but is it the best thing for that which is even more important – your own life?


Closing the technical books once in a while and reading something that can improve your business, the lives of those you work with and your own life can have a much greater and more profound effect.


 


The next book I’ve started reading is “The Marketing Playbook” by John Azula & Michael Tong (ISBN 1-59184-038-4). Give me a few weeks to get though this, digest the contents and I’ll let you know what I think. So far, based on the first few pages anyway, it looks like it’s another good read.


 


So what books are you reading?

Renewed

Well I’ve received my official email, and the kit from Microsoft, letting me know I’ve been renewed as an MVP for another 12 months.


What does this mean? Nothing really changes. I’ll keep working with the user groups, the online community and those around me to help build a better SBS experience for us all. Even if I’d not been renewed I’d still do this though, as would any other MVP.


Being an MVP doesn’t mean I’m anything special either, except perhaps to those people I’ve managed to help (see http://msmvps.com/calvert/archive/2005/10/03/68702.aspx).


So to all those others who have made it through this renewal cycle – well done and thanks for helping to make a positive difference to the world.

New BLOG Topic

There is a saying that a person is a product of the people they associate with and the books they read. I tend to agree with this but with the addition of the experiences they go through as well. Let’s face it, when you look back on your life there are defining points following which you can say “that event changed my life”.


I’ve been giving all of this some thought over the last few months as I’ve been rebuilding my business and reassessing life. I’m know I’m not the only person that goes through this process, but there doesn’t tend to be a lot around the place for one to refer to when you’re looking for relevant answers.


Anyway, I’m not indicating that I’ll be the font of all knowledge for “life changes” but I thought one thing I can do is report on the books I’m reading and that I find beneficial, or not. This might serve to give you some pointers on what might be a good read for you too. Let’s face it, walk into any book store and you’re confronted with more books than you could ever hope to read in your life, each one selling itself to you as the best one to read. But how can you really know? You look at the dustcover and flick through a few pages to see if it looks interesting but at the end of the day you feel more comfortable reading a book that someone you know refers to you.


On my latest trip to Seattle I bought a few books at Borders on 4th Ave. The one I’m reading at the moment is “Winning” by Jack Welch. So far it’s a great book – but I’m not going to report on it here. That’s the subject of another post.


Basically I wanted to let you know about the new blog topic – “books”. I hope you find it interesting, beneficial and perhaps a bit challenging too. I won’t be providing a full book review as such so don’t get too scared, I won’t overload you. Don’t expect the books to be all technical either – I tend to read business focussed books more than just technical. And you won’t find novels here either.


I’m also keen to hear about books you read and can recommend.


OK – back to my reading.

Do you go fishing?

It’s been a very full week here in Seattle at the Microsoft global MVP summit. I’ve met most of the rest of the SBS MVPs (and they are as nutty as I thought they were!) and we’ve had a great time together.


Last night those of us that were still here went down to Pikes Place Pub for dinner together. It was a great time to wind down after the conference – but we still managed to talk about SBS & IT in general. One of the things that ties us all together is the passion (I don’t think there’s any other word for it) we have for the “space” that SBS fits into. It’s not about a product, it’s not about money or power or fame or anything like that – it’s the community spirit that brings us together from whereever we are in the world and enables us to make things just that little bit better for those around us.


This applies to us not because we’re MVPs (we’d still do what we do regardless of whether we have the award or not) but because at the end of the day we care about more than just ourselves. I think it’s as simple as that. And this can apply to anyone anywhere – not just people interested in computers or technology.


If you care enough about the world around you to reach out and help others, to make a difference in their lives first before it does anything for you, then you are an MVP – a Most Valued Person. That’s because your contribution will be of value to the person you’ve helped.


I recall a short story about a little boy on a beach, throwing fish into the water after they’d been washed up on the sand.  A man came by and saw what he was doing, and saw the thousands of fish on the sand flapping about, struggling to survive out of the water. The man said to the boy “there’s too many fish, you’re wasting your time, how do you think your small efforts are going to matter?”. The boy picked up another fish and threw it into the water, then turned to the man and replied “it mattered to that fish”.


Go make a difference to a “fish”. And to all those fishermen & women who attended the MVP conference – thanks for helping to make this world a better place for us all.