Do More With Microsoft Small Business Server
Many small businesses have capitalized on a recovering world economy in the past year. Upgrading networks and workstations means there are plenty of stable infrastructures running that are ready for new business applications. Many small-business networks are probably underutilized and would welcome the opportunity to do more.
This month, I offer my own company, SMB Nation, as an example. SMB Nation provides a variety of services, all centered on the world of small and medium-sized business (SMB) technology. It’s been a fun ride so far, but we’ve hit a few organizational limitations that relate directly to the way we use technology. For example, our telephone system is still embarrassingly simplistic. Our database is really six data silos, and we’re still on our original accounting system from a few years back, before we grew rapidly. This month, I’ll focus on the step-by-step process we took to commence our database conversion and start implementing a real customer relationship management (CRM) system.
Walk Before Running
SMB Nation runs Windows Small Business Server 2003 (SBS). In order to run Microsoft CRM 1.2 on top of SBS, there are a few tasks that must be performed:
- Use SBS Premium Edition that includes SBS 2003.
- Apply the latest Windows Server 2003 Service Packs, hot fixes and patches.
- Install SQL Server 2000 and Service Pack 3a.
- Install the following Windows Server 2003 components: Message Queuing and Indexing Service.
From the context of your underlying infrastructure, you are now ready to proceed with successfully implementing a line-of-business application on top of the SBS 2003 server.
Recognizing that the SMB space wants to do more with its technology and at a small-business price point, Microsoft recently introduced a promotion that effectively combines its CRM 1.2 product with SBS 2003. Part of the promotion includes a robust step-by-step guide (SBPartnerKit.xls) that truly is one of the more amazing Microsoft deployment documents I’ve had the pleasure of using.
Figure 1 displays the systems analysis question-and-answer section you would complete at this point. Because small businesses often cannot afford MBA-like management consultants to assess their needs, Microsoft has a simple Q&A format, called the Readiness section, for you to complete. So, before installing the CRM 1.2 solution, you should sit down and complete the Readiness section.
Figure 1: Microsoft’s Simple Q&A
Now the real fun begins. Moving to step two in the previously referenced Microsoft guide, you would install CRM 1.2 on top of SBS 2003, but SMB Nation did this with a twist. In the installation instructions (the steps are far too numerous to list here), you reach a branch where you can install CRM 1.2 as a demonstration installation using a sample bicycle company or as a production server. We first installed CRM 1.2 using the demonstration installation approach to learn the program. We then reinstalled CRM 1.2 via the production installation instructions. This was a case of “measure twice and cut once,” as the old saying goes. (See Figure 2.)
Figure 2: CRM 1.2 Has Been Installed!
After the production installation is complete, the SBPartnerKit.xls guidance offers another Q&A step where you dig deeper into the business workflows, processes and data usage. Specifically, you will complete the following:
- Configuration Interview Guide: Here, you answer questions about your business unit, users and roles and system settings. Which groups within the company will use the system? Who are the individuals using the system? In the calendar view, which day should the workweek start with?
- Account and Contact Management Interview Guide: Here, you answer questions about the customer entities and tracking communications. (See Figure 3.) For example, do you need to track your e-mail and telephone interactions?
- Lead Management Interview Guide: This section delves into the workflow of your business. For example, are there a high volume of leads generated?
- E-Mail Marketing Interview Guide: Here you answer questions verifying that you have valid and up-to-date e-mail addresses.
Figure 3: Will CRM 1.2 Help Your Business?
In this step, SMB Nation found that it had to make an early decision that would impact the use of CRM going forward: Would the company’s primary relationship be associated with a customer company or an individual? After talking about it, the team decided that our customer relationships in the SMB space typically involve the individual. That means we would want to add individual records and live with the decision moving forward. In all honesty, we confirmed the correctness of this decision with Scott Colson, a Microsoft CRM-MVP with small business expertise.
Next on your plate? Good, old-fashioned data entry. This takes significant staff time—and I’ll keep you posted on this conversion in future columns.
Bringing It All Together
First, you should realize that the CRM 1.2 implementation is a marathon, not a sprint. It is something that staff members will have to do each and every day. Not only do the historic records need to be entered, but all customer interactions must be captured to facilitate a complete relationship. That’s the only way CRM 1.2 can be successfully deployed at SMB Nation. Still, we are tremendously excited about this conversion for the following reasons:
- Eating our own dog food: The oft-referenced Microsoft CRM 1.2 and SBS 2003 promotional bundle is all about eating your own dog food. If you are a technology consultant, you make yourself your first customer, gain experience and go install it for your real customers. I really liked the fact that finally, I was able to wear the “customer” hat!
- Valuation: When the clock strikes 5 p.m., I can assure you that the true value of my company is its customer list, not the few laptops, printers and servers that are lying around. The best way to increase the intrinsic value of the company is to make sure we have a well-managed customer list. So we’ve bet the farm on the Microsoft CRM 1.2 and SBS 2003 bundle. Note that other CRM solutions exist, and my comments here are generic enough that you could apply these tips while using alternate solutions to organize and manage your customer list.
- Exit strategy: So what happens when I get bored in a few years with SMB-related technologies, and I want to travel for pleasure and lead bike trips for burned-out technology executives? Perhaps I’ll sell my cash cow. Having an exit strategy is not only legitimate, but also wise. I had better make sure that customer list is in prime condition for any possible suitor!
Harry Brelsford is the co-author of “Advanced Windows Small Business Server 2003 Best Practices” (SMB Nation Press) and is CEO of SMB Nation Inc. Visit www.smbnation.com or e-mail Harry at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.