Category Archives: 860

I thought I should crow about this one…

I’m at the Microsoft Australian partner conference, being held on Hamilton Island. There are 633 Microsoft partners here and around 140-150 Microsoft staff, together with 23 exhibitors including Trend, Kaseya, Wacom, ProCurve etc.


Anyway, Friday night is the big gala dinner where the partner awards are given out. I’m proud to say we’re a finalist for the Partner of the Year award for the Network Infrastructure category.


We’re up against 2 giants – Commander & Southern Cross. Just being a finalist is something special but winning will be even sweeter.


Anyway, just in case you don’t believe me, check out Nick Mayhew’s blog post – http://blogs.msdn.com/nickmayhew/archive/2007/08/21/award-finalists-announced.aspx (scroll down to the bottom 25% in the list).


Note one key name missing from this list – Axxis! Mathew Dickerson is most certainly here dressed up with Axxis branded clothes and golf buggy, as you’d expect. I forgot to bring my camera to show you but then he really doesn’t need any more publicity 🙂


If we win, expect another post and a rather sore head. If we don’t win I’ll still be very happy with being a finalist. Chalk one up for the SMB focussed partner.

The dawn of an era…

Monday morning just about all of us in the office were suffering "Jimlag", trying to remember what we'd learned the previous week & put it into practice. Ian (our implementer) was off in the bowels of north western Queensland so was out of reach for us, although the Happen support crew were just on the end of the telephone waiting for us.

But we survived Monday without having to ask for any support which was due to either us remembering what we needed to or being so ignorant that we had no idea we were lost!! (the former I think rather than the latter).

Today (Wednesday) saw the light come on, so to speak. We had quite a number of jobs to close off, products to finalise receiving in & then invoice. We went through the process of finalising & invoicing jobs and I gotta tell you – it's SOOOOOO much easier than the old way. Simply create the list of "ready" jobs and hit a few buttons.

It's amazing what a sound investment in the right tools can do for a business. I keep reflecting on last week & how interesting it was to be on the receiving end for a change & whilst it was hard going we're reaping the benefits already. I guess it's much the same as our clients have when we implement a new network – there's always some "pain & discomfort" (and I do warn them of that) but the benefits will certainly be there for their business.

It's the dawning of a new era for a business when the right tools are implemented properly & put to use.

Take a step back from your business every once in a while, look for the parts that need oiling, tightening up, cutting out etc etc & set about on a change for the better. Having gone through this and survived I can tell you it's worth it.

What tools have you implemented recently, to fix what pain points, and what has the result been? I'd love to know.

What a week!

It's finally the end of a totally full on week – in fact probably the most incredible week I've had in business.

The implementation of our new Jim2 management system has gone really well with everybody knuckling down and tackling it full on. It's simply quite amazing what a positive impact a great management system can have on a business.

Jim allows us to track service and sales jobs as they are initiated, quotes and stock on purchase. It's giving us much greater visibility of what's going on overall.

I got really excited yesterday & today when Ian was showing me how particular tasks can be "processed" into defined steps so there are checks and measures for them. This paves the way for better quality control and reporting – how sweet!!

We had a large shipment of servers & related items come in today and once received it was a very simple task to see the status of these items for the project at hand – what was still on backorder and even the serial number of those items that have come into stock. So much better than the way we used to do things.

I'm not saying Jim is the answer to all your business issues, but rather than you really need to find systems for defining processes, checks & measures in order to make your business propell itself forward. This is, I know, going to make us so much better at what we do, and more professional in having more visibility of what's going on.

I can see that my life will be mine again (well….it'll be my wife's anyway [:D] )

Just imagine being about to provide much better consistency and have predictability with processes as they are undertaken….it's like a dream come true (I know… I sound really "sad" don't I!!).

Anyway, the point is finding the right solution for your business is important when you want to grow it from being a "job" to a "business". Whether Jim2 is the right tool for you or not is irrelevant – you just need to find it. That being said, have a look at it (www.happen.biz) – it's really quite incredible what it can do.

Days 2 & 3 with Jim

It's been a full on exercise getting the new system going internally. Whilst it hasn't been overly painful as such, it's a big change for everyone so there's a steep learning curve to climb, plus breaking old habits which is always a bit of a chore.

Ian, our implementer from Happen Business, has been very patient with us and been doing a great job. I have never had any misconceptions about my inability to be a trainer, and Ian solidified that further in that his approach is very different to mine. I simply don't have the patience and if someone asks me a question I tend to give them the answer. Ian, on the other hand has a lot more patience (or can fake it better than me!!) and when asked a question he gets us to think about the answer more often than just feeding us the solution (akin to teaching us to fish as opposed to giving us a fish).

We are live with Jim2 with service jobs, quotes, purchase orders and all other essentional functions going through it – and it's only been in since Monday morning! Quite an accomplishment really. If I wasn't experiencing it for myself I guess I would find it hard to believe.

It's really interesting being on the receiving end for a change. I'm used to being involved in major network upgrades for our clients where I can quite confidently walk in, turn the business upside down with a nice, shiney new network (typically SBS – what else!!!) and get them going before moving on to the next one. In this case my business is the one being turned upside down and it's an odd experience, but not one I'm shying away from.

Change is something that people will often try to avoid, mostly because they prefer certainty, even if this means they won't be happy. I'm not afraid of change though however I need to keep in mind that my staff may not attack change the same way I do – which is a good thing when you boil it all down.

Anyway, back to Jim. Performance is no problem – with the database running on a virtual server, and it's great the way things "follow" you around the network such that when I log off a session on my notebook and then hook into the terminal server from home, the same lists, jobs, stock items and reports I had open when in the office are there open & ready at my next session – this is a good time for change to NOT take place [:)]

Two more days to go before we're left on our own. There's still a lot to learn and based on what I've heard the first six weeks are the toughest – after that we'll be wondering how we ever got on with out it. I am getting home each night with a cracking headache but I know it will all be worth it.

I'm looking forward to what I'll learn tomorrow!!

Day 1 with Jim

It's been quite a ride with Jim2 so far – and it's only the end of the first day.
Ian arrived this morning and we got into questions & answers almost as soon as he got into the car – one interesting point I found out is only about 40% of the Jim2 users out there are "IT shops"! There's quite a mix of business types including a number of engineering firms, mining and even a hardware store.
Mostly today was for discussing the various aspects of Jim2 and how they apply to our business, how we'd use them and what things Ian needs to get me thinking about.
Stock is one of those areas that needs some careful thought, particularly with regard to product codes. We typically use vendor (or mannufacturer) part numbers where possible to ensure we can order the same part from more than one distributor but some of these part numbers can be rather obscure. Whilst I personally might be fine in handling a part number like "PE-740K2L" it's not the simplest thing to replicate to the rest of the team.
So, it's time to categorise the various product types we work with and get them into major categories that will help to make a bit more sense of the part numbers. I've decided to split into various groups like: cables, rack equipment, software, computers (servers, desktops, laptops etc), hard drives, accessories, UPS components. It might look like a bit of a list but the part numbers themselves should simplify things a bit more for us although they may appear a bit cryptic at first (eg from the list above we have cables, rack, sw, comp, hdd, acc, ups). This yields our own part numbers that are a mix of the "major category" then the vendor part number such as "HDD.431958-B21" for an HP 146Gb SAS hard drive – we know it's a hard drive instantly.
Perhaps it's not the most ideal system but it'll work.
So I've got a number of part numbers to enter in order to accommodate purchase orders currently "in flux" but that should only take perhaps an hour to get done.
The real trick, apart from getting the rest of the team trained, is going to be getting service types worked out. This is going to be something new for us to get our heads around – remote desktop support, phone, email, on-site or do we want to get more granular?? Ian will give me more headaches tomorrow as we work through this side of things.
All in all I'm still very excited about what Jim2 is going to do for us and also for our clients – we will be even more organised moving forward. I should get back quite a few hours in my week and might even start to get some sleep.
Ian has been great to work with, but there's one really freaky thing – Ian reminds me soooo much of my mate David Mackie (who runs the Canberra SBS user group too). Their voices are similar, their manerisms, they even look quite similar (although David has more hair!). Talk about dopplegangers! I'll have to ensure they meet one day – it'll be quite a sight.
OK – time to wrap up for day 1. Got an email too from Andrew Dugdell (aka Dugie – http://blogs.virtualserver.tv/blogs/dugie/default.aspx) who works at Clariti – another Jim2 user but based in Brisbane. They're happy with Jim2 which is good to hear and he sent me a video file on getting Outlook calendars to "talk" with Jim2 automagically – looking forward to watching that probably later in the week.
Tune in tomorrow for more news on Jim2 (and remember – it's www.happen.biz !!)

Hitching a ride with Jim

Any change, particularly in small business, can either make or break a company. Good big change can propel a business forward whereas bad big change (or lots of bad small change) and kill a company. Today is one of those days where we undergo BIG change – but I feel confident it's going to be all good.

We're implementing a new accounting system, after sticking with MYOB for some 9 years it's time for us to get serious about things (Note: I'm not saying that MYOB is not serious software, or that it's bad software, we've simply outgrown it and need something different).

After doing some checking around we decided to go with Jim2 from Happen Software (www.happen.biz), a local Aussie product written and supported in Sydney. Ian is the consultant we've flown in (arrives in just over an hour) to help us implement it and train us all – boy is he in for something!

All that we've seen of Jim2 so far has been great – it's going to resolve a lot of frustrations I've had for some years, particularly with regard to things like serial number tracking, reports, and tying purchase orders of products in to invoices of products out.

Stay tuned – I'll keep you posted on how things come together. In a few days I'm sure I'll be telling you to go buy it for your own use too. (I'll also have to let you know about what I've done with our server infrastructure….)

Don’t be #801

SMB Nation 2006 is open for registration. This is THE premier event for SME consultants/VARs/VAPs/resellers and you need to do all you can to be there. The conference will once again be held at Microsoft’s Conference Centre in Redmond, Washington.


There are only 800 places available so don’t delay getting your registration in – you don’t want to miss out by being number 801 to register. There’s an early-bird special until the end of March where the registration cost is only US$695, following which it’ll go up to US$795. That US$100 saving can be applied to your drinking money in the bar at the Marriot in Redmond [:D]


There’s an impressive list of speakers for this year’s conference (http://www.smbnation.com/Default.aspx?TabId=5) so you’re sure to learn plenty regardless of which track you follow (technical, business, product/sales). I’ll be speaking in the business track again and plan to get into more advanced business growth information – taking your business to the next level. If you’re coming along and would like some specific information included then please let me know and I’ll see if I can work it into the time available for the presentation.


Of course I think the best part of attending an event like SMB Nation is the ability to network with fellow SBSers from around the world. People with whom I communicate with by email or IM and it’s great to put a face to a name or catch up with a face I’ve met before.


So what are you waiting for? Get your registration in and join in the learning, fun & friendship. Hope to see you there 🙂

Taking care of busy-ness

2006 has already shown itself to be a very full year. In fact I’ve been struggling to keep up with my email traffic let alone all the other things happening around the place.


How’s this for the current major projects on the go:


* office relocation mid-year to bigger and better premises (yet to find this place though)


* new staff – currently looking for a new consultant and sales person to help handle our continued growth


* baby blues – well not really “blues” but my amazing assistant Rebecca is going on maternity leave mid-year for her first baby so we’ve got to prepare for handling some time off for her plus someone to fill in


* home renovations – we’re going to make the house bigger as our kids (http://www.sbsusers.net/atw/photo.htm for some older photos) just keep growing


* there’s a few other things that I can’t list here but rest assured it’s not minor surgery


All this means I need to continually look for ways to improve the way I work, and my team, keeping my eyes & ears open for great ways to use time efficiently and effectively plus handle the information flowing through the place.


We’re going to start using MS CRM 3.0 shortly which I anticipate helping with this significantly but that can’t be the “be all & end all” of the solution. I’d love to hear about any great time saving/efficiency tools & practices you’ve come across and have found to be effective. By sharing these ideas around we can all learn to deal with the information superhighway that just keeps pushing its way through our lives – and enjoy some of the quieter sideroads at the same time.

It is alive!!!

Woo hoo, I’ve just successfully installed CRM 3.0 onto our office SBS2003 server. After nutting out a few installation issues I managed to get it installed using, of course, the SBS installation method (was around 9-10 clicks after all the other fiddly bits).


Now I need to set about configuring the finer details, learning how to use it and then show the rest of the team how to use it. I’m hoping to have it fully operational for February 1 in the office. Guess it’s time I go visit a few MS CRM sites (www.mscrm.com.au for one – thanks Guy Riddle) and read the manual which I’d printed out just prior to Christmas.


So, this is a defining moment for Calvert Technologies – the beginning of a new phase in our development & growth. I’m excited about how this will help us share information between each other rather than be islands of information (we’re not quite at that point though – I’m hoping to prevent this occurring).


Here’s to a very exciting 2006.


{now, where’s that Anne Stanton when you need her…..}

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