I don’t think anyone would be surprised to hear that, at agileBase, we use our platform to build our own back office (which we call OBO).
Basically we eat our own dog food.
Yesterday however, I was really surprised by the value I got from a very small integration we did the previous Friday. So I thought I would share this “discovery” with you.
In the past we used Duedil as our source of financial data on prospects and clients to help us make better decisions during our sales lead qualification process.
Unfortunately, Duedil increased their charges 10 fold and we parted company.
We found a replacement provider in a company called Endole and on Friday got around to setting up OBO to pull data over from them via our API into OBO.
Each company record costs 70p and they seemed to have digitised around the last 8 years worth of financial records from Companies House.
So far so good, I am guessing everyone in a sales role would agree that having rich financial data about prospects and clients can never be a bad thing.
What was different for me was that, this time around, I also imported data for our five biggest competitors. Taking a look at the charts of their financial progress over the last decade, I could see two of the five had experienced major financial events in the last couple of years.
With a small amount of searching using Google I found they had both been acquired by US companies and I hadn’t heard anything at all about this.
Everyone in the company is now aware that we need to track these two competitors far more closely than we had in the past so we can see what impact these takeovers may have on ourselves.
One small inexpensive and simple integration has paid back in my eyes within days.
If you are interested in how we did this, please take a look at this documentation page which runs through the setup.
Recently Oliver introduced the new “tags” field type in Agilebase to meet a specific client’s need for multiple answers to a single question. (If you want to know more look here) and we got into discussing the pros and cons of tagging in general.
Obviously tags are great where multiple answers are to be expected from a single question
But interestingly I have recently found another way in which they are handy during the post launch phase.
Sometimes it is hard to get people to generate a definitive list of options for the lookup list, Jane normally calls it “HR”, John calls it “Human Resources” but neither of them are that bothered really so both get used!.
By setting up the field as a tag field first you can see actually usage patterns emerge over time. Once a pattern is clear you can then convert the field into a lookup by adopting the most popular usage option (and cleansing out the less popular versions).
It reminded me of a story from my Uni days.
I went to Warwick Uni just after it was opened. The story doing the rounds was that on the Uni opening day there were no pathways laid out between any of the campus buildings as a decision had been taken to wait until students had worn routes into the grass and then to use these as a guide as to where it was best to create paved walkways.
The battle in businesses over BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is pretty much over and IT departments are now having to deal with the impact (largely security related) that this is having on their business.
I think for most of us this was always going to be the outcome, the benefits where so obvious and compelling (fun?).
However some observers have also been describing a far broader trend, CITE (Consumersiation of IT in Enterprises) the outcome of which is less easy to predict. At Agilebase we have a very keen interest in the outcome as you can imagine. So I thought I would try to clarify what my thinking is on this at the mo.
Basically CITE includes what a friend called BYOT (Bring Your Own Tools) which is like an extension of the “Personal Productivity Tools” logic of MS Office etc. People are increasingly choosing from a massive range of cloud based tools (dropbox or google drive) instead of using internal IT. Generally this is because internal IT is less well funded, often rather clunky but most importantly really slow to change. Staff are building workarounds to deal with the functional deficits in their core system.
Often this approach is fine.
However the downside of this is the loss of the gains that come from a core shared system. Tools can be fine for hard pressed individuals / teams but it is often only systems that can deliver for entire organisations. An alternative approach to pure BYOT can be called “Citizen Development” where staff are also working on the core system not just bypassing it entirely.
This month Freeform Dynamics, published a really interesting research article called “Freedom Without Anarchy”. In it they quantify the challenge most legacy systems face re “Citizen Development”.
Agilebase embraces “Citizen Development” 100%. We believe in making development of core systems really simple and quick to entice staff away from the BYOT path!
Over the last five or so years there is one topic, gamification, that has really got people talking. (For the sake of this post gamification is the bringing of game mechanics and dynamics into the development of enterprise software usually to increase the depth and speed of adoption).
Enterprise software can be reallyyyyyy dull. Getting employees to use it fully is becoming increasingly difficult as people become familiar with slick consumer apps at home.
However most discussions of gamification of enterprise applications often comes down to two very basic concerns.
- How can we use it without it being annoying?
- Where can we use it without destroying one of the key underlying elements, games aren’t mandated they are about the freedom of choice?
Sun use a structured Sales Methodology and this article explains how they successfully used some gamification ideas in the creation of their e-learning environment for their global sales team.
In most CRM applications there’s normally some really useful functionality that allows you to record your ongoing interaction with clients. Same goes for many other applications such as Customer Support Systems, and Clinical Records Systems in hospitals that build up data over time.
CRM is already good at doing just this for customer facing “front office functions” such as Sales, Marketing and Support but things get a bit more problematic once you get to “back office” ones such Accounts, Buying or Operations etc.
Unfortunately life doesn’t always neatly fit into neat “front / back office” boxes. Particularly for smaller companies people may be, clients and suppliers, debtors and have really interesting sales opportunties all at once.
You want to record a comment in one place and maybe act upon it somewhere else or share it with someone in a different context.
This is where “comment feeds” come into there own. They pull together comments from all over the place and make them visible in any chosen report and thus allow you to search them in any way you choose.
So if for example you had a idea / concern in a project the whole conversation can be seen in one place.
The screenshot below shows one example of this in action. By filtering on a client name I can see all the ongoing conversations we are having with them.
To add a comment field to a table, in the admin interface, just select the type ‘comment feed’ when adding a field in the fields tab.
Some people will see Comment Feeds as just another feature, and that is fine. But for me I like to see it as another way in which agileBase can be used to break down silo thinking and help organisations that wish to adopt a more systematic or process orientated view of things.
Oh, and it is quite a fun thing to use!
In many situations (during a sales, credit control, or support call) you may want to jot down a note in the system. agileBase has a new “comments” function, that allows you to do just that.
Every agileBase field now has an icon beside it that links to this comments function. The latest entry in the field will appear on top of all the earlier ones and will automatically have the author and a date and time stamp added to it.
To add a comment, click the speech bubble that fades in when the mouse pointer is over a field.
Really useful but equally simple and quick.
Want to keep up to date with current activities, events, opportunities or issues being entered into agileBase by staff ? This month’s new ‘RSS’ feature means you no longer have to log in to agileBase you can get data sent directly to your mobile.
Want to know what is coming in from other outside sources (forms on your website etc.)? Just use the same function.
RSS pushes data using the method of your choice. Popular ways of reading RSS are,
- Phone / tablet apps from your mobile app store (search for RSS)
- Sites such as Google Reader
- Dedicated applications for PC or Mac
- Email clients such as Outlook
- Modern web browsers also let you subscribe to feeds
To access the feed for a particular agileBase report, go to the report’s ‘manage’ tab and click the ‘sync’ button. If you don’t have a manage tab, please ask an administrator.
I hope you enjoy trying out this new feature and look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Thanks to Think Drinks for suggesting and commissioning this development