Pipeline and Forecasting

In my experience, pipeline/forecast is one area of a CRM system that changes frequently. Way to frequently.

Fortunately, these changes require less coding changes today through Windows Workflow Foundation (Dynamics CRM) and Workflow Automation (Salesforce) that in CRM days of old.

Not going to comment on whether it is right or wrong, just that it happens, often, as a matter of fact in many organizations. Change Sales VP, there will be a change to the sales process. Change the compensation model and the forecasts will change. It happens all the time and makes numbers from sales very short term and difficult to do long term trends. The best way to improve accuracy, find a sales process that works and then measure the core of that process. Less change, more value.

CRM Integration

One of the biggest challenges that CRM systems have is integration with back end systems. In the cloud with hosted CRM, this in some ways is actually a bigger challenge than it was in the past.

From CRM to ERP
Pipeline and Forecast data are the most common and most important data from CRM into an ERP system. Business process determines the complexity of the integration.

Examples of complex integration requirements can be found with just in time manufacturers (e.g., Dell). These organizations will integrate forecast data into their supply chain for competitive advantage. More common CRM to ERP integration is less complex. Generally and regardless of complexity, this integration occurs on set schedules (e.g., Weekly) as part of the sales process. True real-time capabilities are not required or necessary. Real-time availability by a vendor (product, SaaS, or ISP) will be of more concern.

Some Sales organizations have a culture of frequently adjusting pipeline and forecast requirements. This is often seen with changes in Sales and Executive management. Ideally, the change in business process would not impact the data integration; however, the technical configuration may need adjusting as well.

From ERP to CRM
Product and Price List data from ERP to CRM is always a complex integration. Technical configurations can be complex. The volume and frequency of updated data can also be complex.

Most large contracts are negotiated with customer specific pricing, terms and conditions. For many organizations negotiated contracts are the norm and the lifeblood of the company. As a result there are typically no set of constants or rules across all negotiated customer specific prices lists. Individual negotiated contracts for all large customers would create a scenario of hundreds or thousands of unique price lists. This creates tremendous complexity for technical configuration as well as the volume and frequency of updated price list data.

From CRM to Business Intelligence/Analytics
While the two previous requirements focused on the sales force automation areas of CRM, integration with business intelligence and analytics tools could and often cover the spectrum of CRM applications: Sales, marketing, customer service, etc. Each department has their own tools and key performance indicators.

Functional requirements arise from leveraging the right data to enhance the customer relationship. Three areas of concentration are data mining, decision support and analytical tools. These integrations often are “nightly data dumps” from the CRM system into the business intelligence tool.


I really cannot recall how I came across Headsprout, but I am glad I did. It is an incredible online reading program for K-5. My pre-K son, Shane, took to it right away, and as a parent, I am very impressed with the results. Shane went from being interested in books to actively reading after completing the 80th lesson of Early Reading.

The program does a great job of providing active feedback while teaching the student. Shane’s mouse skills and computer confidence have soared. The add-on flash cards and download-able books help reinforce the lessons and the characters and worlds are great. His reading is constantly improving as is his interest in books. As a parent, I could not be more impressed.

Being based in Seattle, Shane had an opportunity to help Headsprout with usability testing on a future product. He got to meet the people who made Scout, Fling, Trish and has favorite characters as well as the muscians who made the music that makes the lessons fun.

If you have an young reader, check out Headsprout.

Disclaimer: No compensation, just a happy customer.

Cloud cover

Joke: “Why did it take God 7 days to create the Earth?”

Answer: “Because He did not have the install base.”

This “joke” was all too common in my house growing up. Dad ran an enterprise software company.

Amazon, Microsoft and Google are all competing for the cloud. Each is taking a different approach. Google is targeting the enterprise through its application suites and the ability to host email through Gmail. It is a very cool feature that I use and love. It is much more consistent than the Microsoft offering that I also use to access my University of Washington accounts. I do have to question the readiness of the enterprise and the cloud; however, when I see advertisements from Google touting their enterprise presence with a customer list full of universities. It is more likely that the raw horsepower of the cloud that Amazon provides is the immediate future of the enterprise. Applications will evolve from that. Interestingly enough Amazon launched Simple Email Service (SES) into the AWS family this week.

So long Bob Feller

Bob Feller Autograph

Bob Feller passed last week and so did a little of baseball history. Richard Goldstein’s NY Times article is the best write up on the pitching legend.

In my youth, my father and I bonded over baseball like so many Americans. We had a different twist in that we also collected autographed baseballs from Hall of Famers. From the ages of 10-12, I was able to collect every living member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Bob Feller was one of the first and the first autograph I paid for. It was at a baseball card show at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare. Mr. Feller was sitting at a folding table with several different 8×10 photos purchase and he would autograph for an extra dollar. Yes, $1. I am pretty sure the photo and the signature totaled $5. I remember my dad explaining on the way home that players from his era did not make what they did today (this was in 1983 or 84). They did not have a pension or any of those other benefits. What I really remember was how personal he made each signature. He talked to me and wanted to know my name and what position I played. He spent a good 4-5 minutes with everyone who wanted his signature. I remember it so well because I would come to learn that experience was the exception, like Bob Feller was most of his life, rather than the rule.

Online eyeglasses

It seems like I am always talking to people about buying eyeglasses online. This is an update of a previous post.

Almost 2 years ago, I realized that I needed glasses. The 20/10’s of my youth were done. I got a very nice pair at one of the cool places in Seattle. They fit great and looked really good, but they were not me 24/7. I came across the sites below and thought it would be interesting to try. At the same time, a friend who really needs glasses had his last pair broken for him (that is another story). I sent him these links and he ended up getting a couple of pairs. They looked great. Worked great, even bifocals. Encouraged, I took the plunge and have been very satisfied. To date, I have ordered from Zenni, Coastal Contacts and EyeBuyDirect.

What you need
You need your prescription and pupillary distance. Also you need to know the frame dimensions that work on your face. For the first couple of pairs, I mirrored my expensive, very nice, cool store pair. After that I learned what would work and branched out from there. I have about 4 pairs that I rotate and 2 $8 pairs for backup.

Where I have bought
Zenni Optical Dirt cheap prices and solid quality. Only $5 to ship, but can take up awhile to deliver.
Coastal Contacts More designer frames than other sites and prices range accordingly. Super fast shipping.
EyeBuyDirect Great turnaround. I had my order within 7 days. My current favorite pair is from here.

Check these sites for more information
GlassyEyes Definitive Blog
43 Folders: Adventures in $40 eyeglasses
Lifehacker: Save Bundles of Cash by Buying Eyeglasses Online

Overall, I wear the EyeBuyDirect and Coastal Contact pairs all the time. They are more pricey compared to Zenni, but look great and arrive quickly. If you have glasses, give any of the three a shot.

Happy weekend.

8 Summer Reads

Some of the books I have tackled this summer.

The upside of pursuing an MBA has been the rekindling my interest in reading actual books. Here are some of the books completed this summer:

Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
A solid, quick and entrepreneurial read by the 37 Signals guys.

Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn from the Most Iconic Band in History by David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan
Some great lessons on when to zig when everyone zags.

The Financier by Theodore Dreiser
Dreiser’s tale based on the life of Charles Yerkes, financier and “robber baron”. It took about 100 pages for me to root for the main character, Frank Cowperwood.

4 Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss
Enjoyable and eye-opening read. Worth checking it out.

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
A different historical and enlightening read. I was amazed at how interconnected many of the great men of science have been throughout history.

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
An addictive read. Made me ditch my orthotics.

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Another great book by the Heath brothers. Some useful strategies that I have been able to successfully implement.

No More Mister Nice Guy by Robert A. Glover
I came across this book from The Art of Manliness blog. At some point everyone has a lack of confidence. This book has some great ideas on how to get it back.

Quote Generation

The 4 P’s (Product, Price, Place and Promotion) are the standard Marketing Mix. This is not just “marketing fluff” the P’s are where the rubber meets the road in CRM, namely quote generation. The 5th P (Problems) still exist with quote generation today.

Product and pricing data are integrated with ERP systems. Promotions live with CRM and for the enterprise are often customer specific. Place in the CRM parlance is the here and now. Sales is looking to book revenue today. The revenue pipeline needs to flow so that the company can grow. It is amazing to me that 5th P (problems) still exist with product and pricing. These problems are identical to problems faced by CRM over a decade ago. Customer-specific pricing is everywhere and is not going away, yet the complexities of this pricing makes quote generation in CRMs nearly impossible. Too many companies have this problem and no one really solves it. Why? Likely the P (price) to fix the P (problem) is way to high and no P (product) or P (promotion) have incentives to fix it in the P (place).