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Friday, 11 July 2014

Mobile Apps - What’s the cost of free ?


At some point everyone has to compete with ‘free’.  I’ve recently come up against this and it is surprising how many customers hear the word ‘free’ and forget to check out the small print and all the repercussions.






So what makes the customer believe they have an option that is ‘free’?  I’ve listed a few possible scenarios.

1 – “The licences are free” – This turns out to be a total misunderstanding, in fact the licences are far from free, but what they do have are existing licences that would cover this application, but there is still annual support and maintenance to be paid, and at a typical 18-22% this is no small amount.
There is also the dreaded small print – what exactly are you signing up to?  How long is it ‘free’ for?  What happens after Year1 – are you locked in regardless of any increase in costs?  This could be an expensive mistake.


2 – “We plan to take the application and deploy it as is, so there are no project costs” – This is a sure fire way to have the project fail, and potentially bring the company to its knee’s as key sales and support users are unable to use the new application.
            Additional costs come from all directions
(a)   Technical and functional consultants to correctly implement and extend the OOTB solution
(b)   Infrastructure and security architects to design a deployable mobile solution
(c)   Re-writing and developing new training material
(d)   Rolling out user training
(e)   New hardware and MDM system for the mobile solutions
(f)   Training for Operations and Support to allow them to deploy and support the new application.
(g)   Deploying and supporting the new application, hardware and MDM systems


3 – “The free solution isn’t perfect, but its ‘good enough’”.  We have been recently deploying a number of Mobile Sales solutions and its pretty obvious that in this area ‘good enough’ rarely cuts it with the end user.  The User Adoption rates for mobile solution needs to be almost vertical, otherwise the device is put on a shelf and forgotten about, and it’s then almost impossible to re-invigorate the user base, leaving IT to support costly legacy solutions, as well as the new applications.

A few key things on user adoption come to mind for a mobile solution

(a)   Usability – It has to be current, visually appealing and easy to use.  In sales for example we are seeing sales reps, sitting with their customer using the mobile solution to take them through the product catalog, the quote, the configuration – this is no longer an internal facing application.
(b)   Process centric – It needs to be easy and intuitive to do the tasks that the user has to do day in, day out.
(c)   One for all – It needs to be one app that covers all the aspects of the users job, and that typically involves access to information from a multitude of back-end systems.
(d)   It has to be a ‘useful’ tool – not just a way for management to track the number of calls made or meetings organised. Intelligent analytics are a key way to feedback to the user as to where to spend their time to be most productive.

So let me quickly recap on those potential costs

·      Licence fees
·      Maintenance fees
·      Implementation costs
·      Training costs
·      Deployment costs
·      Support costs
·      Cost of potential future tie-ins
·      Cost of failure – due to poor user adoption


So, as you can see a free licence fee is far from it when the total project is scoped out, and it’s typically only a small part of the whole project. 



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Tuesday, 8 July 2014

At the Horizon – Does Cloud meet OnPremise?

On one of my long flights, I had ample time to reflect on our experiences working with customers on the terra firma (the on-premise world of Siebel) and in the cloud (primarily, Salesforce.com).   I was struck by how similar these applications have become.    

We have had Salesforce.com as our internal CRM for over five years and I have always marveled on how easy it has been to implement.  Yes, it required no programming.  We were able to configure it within a couple of hours and our team was fully functional – no training necessary.  For Siebel specialists that we are, this was indeed too good to be true! 



Platform as a Service or On-premise in the Cloud


Simplicity and ease of implementation has been the engine behind Salesforce.com’s rapid adoption across many customers.  Salesforce has since released a lot of powerful features such as Apex programming, Visualforce, Salesforce1, the Force.com ecosystem, etc., to evolve from an SFA application to an enterprise-level front office platform in the cloud.  These features have enabled customers to write custom scripts, create custom objects, add custom fields, and design custom applications, workflows and processes – something commonplace in the on-premise world.  The flexibility offered by these features in on-premise applications is what got many of them into trouble.

Insights from the Field


Indeed we see customers with cloud-based CRM apps facing challenges similar to those seen in the on-premise world.

I was talking to the Director of Sales Processes of a customer regarding initiatives they have underway.  She mentioned “Reducing Sales Drag” as their main initiative for the year.  I asked her to elaborate upon what ‘sales drag” meant to them.  She listed user adoption, complex user interface, too many approvals, and non-standardized rules as issues they are trying to address.  My jaw dropped open.  These are things we normally hear from customers who have had on-premise apps such as Siebel. 

I was visiting with another client a few weeks ago.  Our discussions touched upon various topics, one of which was expanding the footprint of salesforce.com across their organization.  The Director of IT was concerned that a wider roll out of Salesforce would be a non-trivial task.  One of their divisions had already used 438 fields on the Customer object!  A wider roll out would hit up against the limit of 500 fields per object in Salesforce.

The Takeaways

In each of the above cases, after some further due diligence we uncovered the root causes for these problems. These are lessons many on-premise customers have learnt, albeit too late, and are equally applicable in the cloud world.

1.    Process Design: Because it is on the cloud doesn't mean that process design can be ignored.  Invest in designing the right processes before embarking on the implementation.
2.    Release Hygiene:  Just because it is easy to add a new field, implement an Apex script, and quickly release it to production, doesn't mean you should.  One needs to make sure the changes are in line with the process design that has been agreed upon for the application.
3.    Coding Discipline:  Cloud is no more about No Software.  Apex is the lingua franca across Salesforce.com.  One needs to follow the software development best practices in order to obviate performance and maintainability issues.



I welcome your comments.  Please feel to reach out to me at Amit.Garg@crmantra.com 
Twitter @CRMantra or facebook.com/crmantra or visit our website at www.CRMantra.com

Friday, 30 May 2014

Siebel OpenUI - "Process is the key to Success"

Siebel Open UI Project - Checklist
  • ·      Upgrade to Siebel 8.1.1.11 -
  • ·      Start-up new Object Manager for OpenUI -
  • ·      Send out new URL to Siebel users -
  • ·      Tell users they can use the browser of their choice -



So you’ve spent time, effort and money on upgrading Siebel to the latest version because… (And this is where it gets tricky!),
(a) The users disliked IE7/8 and wanted the option to use their favourite browser. (Good luck with supporting that!)
(b) Siebel OpenUI looked cool and promised a much-improved UI, (“But it looks the same”)
(c) The business wanted corporate colours and fonts applied to Siebel and you know all about CSS files and a bit of JavaScript.
(d) This is just the first step in a long-term plan to improve the User Experience (UX) for the end user. We have plans to map the key business processes to improve usability and user adoption.  We have hired experienced web designers to ensure we are building a world-class user experience.  We are enlarging our Siebel team to ensure that we have the necessary Web developers and JavaScript skills to build the new UI.

Of course, no one would ever answer a, b or c …would they?  Well yes, my colleagues and I have heard these (and more) reasons for going ahead with a Siebel OpenUI upgrade.  To the Siebel users, who have been yearning for years to be able to upgrade the UI, any reason will do, but unless you can answer (d), then what value is this bringing, what problem is being solved and what reaction are you expecting from the users?

Siebel OpenUI is just the tool, the catalyst, the means to be able to re-design Siebel for your company’s specific needs.  It can now become tailored to your business processes, perfected for different lines of business, or for different business roles.  It can become totally unrecognisable as Siebel.

But here’s the kicker, it can also end up worse. UI designed by developers who think they know the business, implemented by the Siebel team who know a bit about CSS and are reading up on JavaScript programming.  We are already seeing the consequences.

Siebel OpenUI has unleashed a huge amount of potential, but it needs to be used wisely.

Let me give you an example;
A Siebel customer has major problems with their Product Models. They are very large, very complex and hard for even the most experienced sales rep to use.  So we get engaged to try to improve the models, simplify them and improve the usability. 

As always with this type of engagement we are tightly bound by the terms of reference and it’s hard to ask ‘why?’.  ‘Why are we doing this?’, ‘Why does it have to work like this?’, why?, why?, why?.  With some persistence we managed to get in front of the Sales Director, a couple of Sales Reps, and call centre staff in the service centre, to take us through their processes.  As it turned out, the Siebel Open UI Quote is only a small step in the sales process.   Their sales engineers use a drawing package to layout and design the solution, export the images and build a proposal document, and then enter the solution into Siebel with the Siebel product configurator after the customer has signed-off on designs and what they would need installed. Three very time consuming steps, especially if the Siebel product configuration rules says ‘no’ and the design has to be changed.

We recommended combining these 3 steps into one visually configured quote.
We developed a visual product configurator for Siebel, utilising the rules within Siebel, providing drag-and-drop features to place components within the solution, creating the proposal document from those designs and creating the quote automatically within Siebel. 

The visual product configurator has been built using Responsive Design principles and works well inside Siebel Open UI, Siebel HI UI, mobile devices, and web portals.  This has yielded significant other benefits such as supporting the web self-channel, especially MACD operations.  The cost savings on the self-service side are very substantial.  (Please get in touch if you would like to a demo)

This process wasn’t going to be fixed with pre-built UI templates; it had to be a custom design specific to their business needs.  

That’s how you improve the User Experience.