Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Prophet CRM vs Business Contact Manager

A while ago I complained that CRMs are just too slow and unresponsive and support is always a headache.  Well the search for a decent and affordable Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software program has led me to abandon Business Contact Manager and try Avidian Prophet CRM On Demand.

Well Prophet CRM has some features that I like:

  • Outlook integration (which I like as I’m also running LinkedIn for outlook which as CRM functionality too)
  • List management (includes grouping and filtering for prospect companies which takes a little getting used to but still quite effective)
  • More detailed and flexible reporting of pipelines, follow up dates etc
  • Reasonably good online tutorials
However I have found it has the following disadvantages:
  • Not free – and no free trail – I am using the On-Demand version at $20 a month.  The full personal version is $200.
  • Outlook only
  • Slow – although I’ve found this to be the case for all CRMs, particularly Outlook based ones which are resource hungry and web based ones which aren't AJAX or based on similar technologies.  Prophet appears to be just mildly faster than BCM
  • Website Enquires – have to set up manual Outlook rules to move enquiries into the Opportunity Manager folder (haven’t tried this yet)
  •  Contact sharing (Microsoft Exchange)requires Premium version $400
  • Automated follow-ups requires Advanced Edition edition $300
  • No timesheeting function
  • Can’t be integrated easily
Their sales crew appeared to be completely automated which meant I couldn't get great pre-sales advice.

Some specific bugs did rear their head, although their support seems to be active.  One in particular I found annoying was that although I could generate reports with data in Excel, the inbuilt functions of the Report Manager (preview and view) in Standard modes did not work.  No matter what I did, they came up blank.  However their support staff called me on the phone and diagnosed the problem, which was a conflict with Brother P-Touch's software.  They also provided me with some training and advice.

Despite the problems, Avidian seems to be ok and slightly more productive than slower online CRMs - Salesforce sucks and SugarCRM is ok, but in my opinion fatally flawed.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Brother P-Touch QL-500 and Outlook 2007

A few months ago I picked up an office label printer Brother P-Touch QL-500 for about $90.

This printer is supposedly compatible with Outlook 2007 (which I also use plugin based CRMs including Business Contact Manager and Avidian Prophet).

However there are some massive issues.  For a start, the drivers (latest update in 2009) do not work with Outlook 2007 and Windows XP, although they claim to be compatible.  Sure you can do some stuff but you are limited to default styles that are not compatible with the labels the printer uses.  It is effectively stuck on "Memo Style" and "Table Style" - any other type of paper you change it to Outlook blocks you with the error "The paper size is not valid. Check the values for Width and Height."

The add-on does work, but only allows individual printing of labels, which defeats the purpose of a label printer.  Bulk printing of labels from within Outlook's contact system is impossible without manually importing and exporting.  It is not available on the list view and selecting multiple and only available.

Disappointingly, the product is now already listed as an "obsolete model" by Brother.  oh Brother ...

The worst part about buying printers like this is you never know just how compatible they will be with Office applications until you buy them, unwrap them and get them going.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

10 Essential Freeware Programs to download for a Fresh Install

Having recently reinstalled my PC yet again, I thought I'd share a brief list of must have free programs which I always download and install on any fresh copy of Windows.
  1. Microsoft Security Essentials (freeware - requires valid Windows licence) - virus and spyware protection is a must and it won't bog down your PC either
  2. Sun Open Office (freeware) - essential for documents, desktop publishing, spreadheets and presentations
  3. Adobe Reader (freeware) - opening PDF files can be difficult without it 
  4. Mozilla Thunderbird (freeware) - for email
  5. Irfanview (freeware) - for viewing images
  6. Paint.NET (freeware) - for editing images
  7. Mozilla Firefox (freeware)- web browsing mainly for its plugins and standards base (using it less than Chrome these days though
  8. Picasa (freeware) - an essential photo management tool
  9. Windows Movie Maker (freeware) - a nice little suite for creating movie files and uploading them to services such as YouTube
  10. Filezilla (freeware) - for uploading files to the web
I can survive without anything else installed.