GL Computing wins Experts Exchange Titan Award 2008

Experts-Exchange announced today that The Titan Award for the highest percentage of support points earned in an Experts-Exchange Zone was awarded to GL Computing.

Experts-Exchange interview with GL Computing's Mike Lazarus

GL Computing’s Expert-Exchange Certifications for the ACT! Zone

GL Computing’s Experts-Exchange Profile

Having been the first Expert to earn Master Certification in the ACT! Zone, and the only one so far to have earned Guru and Wizard certifications, this award is further evidence of Mike Lazarus’s evangelical support for ACT! over the past 21 years.

To win this award from among some 250,000 experts world-wide supporting nearly 4 million IT professionals is simply amazing, and we’d like to thank Experts-Exchange and the users who have appreciated his support in this and many other forums.

About Experts-Exchange

Mike is also Sage’s ACT! Community Leader and the leading poster in the ACT! forums on itToolbox, Tek-Tips and many others.

Mike Lazarus - Experts-Exchange Titan

Titan 2009

How to pick the right CRM consultant for you

First, I think it’s necessary to point out that we don’t sell (product or services) direct to end-users. Our main role is supporting ACT! Consultants, Resellers and add-on vendors around the world. But I have worked with CRM products for 24 years and with ACT! for 21 and was an ACT! consultant for about 10 of those years.

I always recommend getting a consultant involved in the implementation of a CRM (even an entry-level product such as ACT!) as a good idea for anyone who wants to ensure a successful implementation and maximise their Return on Investment.

It’s not just a question of figuring out how to use it… most people can figure out the basics of ACT! very quickly. It’s a question of customising the power of the product to make the best use of functions that you might not look for (and therefore not find) or utilising the right add-ons to add functions that are not in the core product.

Investing in a suitably skilled consultant will save you money, especially once you factor in the costs of your own staff that many people forget. To assume you can always do it cheaper yourself is to devalue your own work.

Some like to have the CRM vendor do the work... but this is like having a car engineer teach you how to drive. They don't always have an unbiased view and when the only tool they have is a hammer, every problem resembles a nail.

It’s also useful to note that not all consultants have the same skills and expertise and you need to pick one that can do what you need – just like picking a hair-dresser or a builder. Some have more technical skills, some have better business workflow comprehension. Some have a more available support staff to deliver on an SLA and some are better trainers. Not all skills are might be required for your project.

So, other than cost (which I'd argue should not be a primary deciding factor when choosing the person implementing your access to data as valuable as your client base), what questions do you think a user needs to ask a prospective consultant to select the right one for their project?

As you can see, I believe it is critical in determining the right partner (and the relationship should be one of a partnership) to ask the right questions. This also identifies the first selection criteria – Does the consultant “listen” to the questions and respond appropriately? If it’s a technical question that they don’t have the answer for, they should be able to find the answer and respond back to you in a timely manner.

Do you have a “chemistry” with your potential new partner? Do they understand what you're saying. Do you feel comfortable communicating with the consultant.

Does the consultant show an “Insight” into your business need? Can the consultant ask pertinent questions that make you think about how you are doing things or are they just accepting that the way you usually do things is also what is best for you. You must accept that their experience might have taught them processes that are an improvement.

Have they got a proven track record in projects requiring similar “skills” and are they willing and able to provide references you can contact?

Do you perceive them as “honest”? Is the consultant willing to tell you something can't be done or will be prohibitively expensive and able to offer alternatives or do they just say yes to anything and everything.

Do they understand your professional “jargon” (or at least are self-assured to ask for an explanation when they don’t) and can they explain technical aspects in a way you can understand them.

How “responsive” are they? While speed to return sales calls isn’t always the same one the project is running or worse, once it’s complete and you have a need for support, if they are too slow with this, they are unlikely to be better later. Do they have an SLA with penalties if they don’t perform?

Are they willing to discuss agreed “goals” for a successful project? The goals should be measurable and usually relate to a Return On Investment or satisfaction of a specific set of needs.

Does the “estimate” seem real? Does their quote of hours and/or money seem realistic or are they promising you the world for a dime delivered tomorrow.

As you can see, I regard price as the least important concern and it should only be considered when all other aspects have been satisfied.

Most CRM vendors will have a selection of Certified or Authorised Consultants on their web site – and this is a good place to start. For ACT!, Sage has this at www.act.com/acc. For Asia Pacific ACT! users, we have our own list at the GL Computing recommended consultants page

If anyone has any thoughts or additions, please add a comment to this post or via the GL Computing Contact form

With thanks for their thoughts to:
Jason Tiler Broad, Michael Bryant, Hazem Bawab, Ben Hamilton, Tony Holowitz

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IIS Installation and Lockdown with Networking Basics

From Networking and Server Basics through to Installing and Locking Down Microsoft Internet Information Server.

When ACT! first released a web version (for ACT! 6.0), most of the consultants at the time had no experience with IIS. Many had little real networking skills as these weren't really required for most ACT! implementations.

As one of the few with these skills (I was a CNE), I was asked to train ACT! Certified Consultants in IIS installation and Lockdown. In order to do this properly, I produced this document covering:
  • Networking terms and other basics
  • IIS definitions and installation
  • What you need to protect your server from
  • How to configure and secure IIS
The document was so well received that it became used as a training guide for technical support staff at organisations such as Symantec and Sage.

While the examples are specific to IIS 5 on Windows 2000, the general ideas are also applicable to the recent releases and so I thought I would post it publicly here for others to use as an educational guide.

If I get the time and there is any demand, I may update it for the current versions of IIS.

If you download this document and have any thoughts on it or find it useful, please add a comment to this post.

Tip - Lookup across multiple address or phone fields in ACT!

Do you have multiple address field-sets in ACT!?
Do you have multiple phone fields
Would you like to lookup up phone number or contacts in an area without having to check each field?

A little known function that you can use in Lookup | Other or Advanced Lookups is to use one of the "Any ... " fields:
  • Lookup | Other
  • Change the Field to "Any City", "Any Phone", etc
For other useful Advanced Lookup functions, have a look this ACT! Knowledge Base article