bespoke business plan CRM customisation php sugarcrm vision zohocrm

Thinking of the CRM future.

To be honest business really has fallen flat here at Chameeya. I’ve no one to blame but myself really. That’s one of the Botty Rules:

As a business owner I am 100% responsible for everything.

It seems the database programmer market really has fallen through the floor. This may be because businesses are cutting back on development budgets and/or shifting work to other areas such as Eastern Europe or South Asia.

So rather than put my head in my hands…well okay so I have done that. I am looking for new opportunities. As I look around I can see that eCommerce, Website, CRM and web applications are still in demand. In fact finding people with good PHP, Drupal, WordPress skills are in high demand. I have known from my mentor that small businesses need help with CRM and contacting and maintaining contact with their businesses.

I’ve begun thinking that learning PHP and a package like SugarCRM or ZohoCRM might be worthwhile. I would still need to market it however. Really marketing is my week point. The rate at which I blog probably gives you an idea how bad I am! I’m still in the database area, CRM’s rely heavily on databases, and its still programming. Customers will need customisation and that’s where my programming skills come into play. And they will need maintenance contracts. Smaller customers can use an Access system, and larger customers can use a in-house or hosted SugarCRM system.

And when you think about it, businesses really need to keep in touch with contacts and customers more than ever now. Now is the time when they need a CRM more than anyone else.

Does this sound like a good vision of the future. I’m seriously asking for advice. seriously.

Access access 2010 CRM zoho zoho crm

CRMs and just the basics please

I’ve been speaking with my mentor last week about the work I do. Mainly it was about straightening out my skill set towards the market needs. As I market towards small business, it really is important to leave all the techno-lingo out of the marketing. That works fine for larger consulting houses who are looking for help – ie: a contractor. But it doesn’t work for a small businessman who knows nothing about technology. They just want something to solve their need.

Lately I’ve been doing more and more simple systems in Access – mainly with CRM capabilities. Access is perfect for a single man shop. There is no installation requirement, it can use the Access runtime component. And as long as you don’t need it to integrate with e-mail, its works a charm. Plus it can be extended to do so many other things.

For the web one can go and get ZOHO CRM which is a very simple system with basic customisability. And free for first three users and reasonable charges there after. Plus a developer can addon any forms and other customisation. This is a new avenue for Chameeya. It still uses a database in the back – so we utilise our database programming skills – and a UI – so we utilise our UI skills.

So many websites go on an on about technology – and I’m no different. This is probably because we are essentially geeks and think (or expect) everyone else to have an understanding of computers. Time for me to update and simplify the website.

asterisk CRM freepbx iax sip sip trunks social crm voip

What is Social CRM and why do beans taste so damn good

I recently read an article in one of the rags I get on a weekly basis – or is that monthly. No matter, it was an interesting article on the business merits and real necessity of employing social media as part of a new strategy to engage with customers.

This overall area is known as SocialCRM. Its not a single package, its a strategy. A company would employ their website, forums, Twitter, Facebook and other websites in engaging with customers and the general public. For example my broadband ISP allows customers to open service tickets in different ways. A customer can do this by phone, e-mail, ticketing on their site iself or by posting to their forums. Almost immediately one of the ISP service reps. will pick up the conversation and assist the user.

Such interaction is open to the public and is searchable. When I shop I now not only look for a product that fits my needs and budget I also search the web for reviews of the product. I then base my decision on what I find. A company can either win my business with great reviews and feedback and great customer service, or lose it by doing neither of these.

So the challenge then becomes keeping track of all of this information. How does staff do all this. Are they sitting inside their CRM with RSS feeds of hot topics flowing in. Are they responding withing the CRM or directly to the social media. I’m just getting my head around this now. It is a huge area and a potential for about £10bn in the CRM market.

Now that I’ve completed the latest project I’ve been working on. I’ve no time to do what I love. Fiddling with my wife’s office network. I’ve just installed a Asterisk server in the office. Asterisk is a VOIP office server which builds a small office PBX as quite a low price. I mean you can’t get much lower than free can you? It is then necessary to get a SIP/IAX supplier so you can make outside calls. The call rates are quite good and the service is usually excellent – unless the power goes out.

Installing Asterisk was simple – its part of the Ubuntu libraries and a simple apt-get Asterisk did the trick. Then…the hard work starts. Luckily there are two simpler solutions.

One, get AsteriskNOW. This is basically a iso which has a prebuilt Asterisk server using CentOS 5.1 distribution. This comes with a Asterisk web GUI which makes life soo much easier than fiddling with .conf files.
Two, install Asterisk and then install FreePBX. This is a great Web GUI front end to Asterisk.

I did neither. Though I am presently evaluating whether doing number 1 is the way to go. None the less I have it installed and have installed the AsteriskGUI manually. The instructions for that all over the web so I won’t repeat them here.

Now I’ve been looking for a IAX/SIP provider. Some a better than others. Some have no idea that I can install Asterisk myself – others are more clued up. As always, shop around and choose the best for you.

Of course you can avoid all this and just get it hosted. You pay more, but then you don’t have the headache of running a server. Now, to buy some IP phones. They sure are expensive. I think its time for some beans on toast. They sure do taste nice don’t they.