Archive for December, 2010

EIDA extends deadline

December 26th, 2010

The Emirates Identity Authority (EIDA) said that Emiratis now have until June 30 to register for their ID cards. Eida did not specify the next deadline for expatriates

It is expected that Expatriates whenever they apply for or renew a residency visa, the registration for the ID card will take place simultaneously. Residents can apply for their cards at any of the 25 registrations centres countrywide that are attached to or near to the preventative medicine centres that conduct medical check ups as part of the visa application process. According to a statement by EIDA, this is part of their 2010-2013 strategy to link visa issuance and renewal with ID card registration across the UAE. However, tThis is currently the case in Umm al Quwain only and is soon to be iontorduced in Fujeirah.

‘Unlike labourers, professionals have to perform many transactions with the government and without an ID card, they will not be able to access many services’, Dr Ali Al Khoury, Director-General of Eida said. “So they should not delay the registration

Merry Christmas from Synergy Software Systems 2010

December 24th, 2010

Well its been an eventful year globally, in Dubai and in Synergy. Despite the doom and gloom merchants w,e like Dubai, have shown our strengths and  weathered the economic storms, with our expanded our office space and we continue to provide both outstanding solutions and support to our many long standing clients.

In 2010 we achieved triple Gold ceritfied partner status with Infor, Oracle and Microsoft, and also became the only Middle East Certified distributors of: zap BI,  Prophix CPM, Fraxxion spend approval,  and the at Vision suite of  iptv , Digital Signage and HIAS solutions.

We also signed up our first clients for Microsft Dynamics CRM and for Microsoft 2010 EPM.

So, as the year ends, we say thnk you to our exceptionaal and loyal staff and customers and we send you seasons greetings and wish you a Prosperous New Year.

Some Year end IT tasks.

December 23rd, 2010

Back ups

With year end audits coming, make sure you have a copy of year end data. Test recovery of your back ups – this is seldom done and there is no better time.  

Clean up systems

Review users work stations. laptops usb drives, extermnal hard disks etc.Are all external devices protected by anti virus?  Maybe time for selected scans.

 Just how many versions of software are you supporting. How many Gb of old windows update patch files are you storing on each PC.  Clean up unwanted and temporary files, defragment hard disks, registry, and databases. Reindex etc. .

Educate users not to store large files on their desktops where they go straight into memory. Teach them to create one folder for shortcuts and to put shortcuts to their key files in this.

Data Purge

Consider your  data retention policies. What should be archived, purged etc to improve systme performance- what are the corporate, auditor  and statutory requirements?.

IT Policies

Review your IT policies. Do these need to be updated for social media, cloud access, mobile access etc.

Review useful unused software

Do your users know how to  use e.g. One Note,  Infopath, Groove, Microsoft Project- most users don’t even master the basics of Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint – maybe start the year with some training to improve efficiency e.g.use of  use of quickparts, templates, toolbar set up and some of the pc based  system administration tools.

Emails

Consider a tool like Exclaimer to merge a signature block with outgoing emails- This allows you to enforce a corporate house style , have a consistent email disclaimer and add marketing messages to all mails.

Get users to sort their Outlook mail boxes and to get rid of those large files with attachments, jokes, etc Don’t forget to check the send and delete folders. Do they use the journal feature or woul it improve performance to switch it off?

Do any mailbox sizes need renewal?

Should you consider planning to  put your emails in the Cloud with Office 365, or Google Appas to remove constraints on mailbox size?

Security

In the wake of Wikileaks it is time to review security. Consioder tools like FideAs for group policy based encryption of shared files, or Spectorsoft to finf out what user really do all day.

Use up that remaining budget

Think about it dont spend for the skae of it but if it was approved inthe first place it was probably for a good reason.  for want of a nail…. etc.  Almost every organization has the “use it or lose it” clause in the budget. Should there be any space left in a budget, it may be a good way to get any additional miscellaneous things, such as cables, tools, or utility software. The unused dollars in a budget may not seem like much, but they can be useful if they let you stock up on little things that are not available next year — especially if the budget for 2011 is smaller than 2010’s!

Keep  your software and hardware maintenance up to date

Make sure that all of the maintenance agreements are in order a  din next year’s budget. Ina dditon oyur erp systems don;t forget Microsft licences, as network switches,  tape drives, printers, and any other IT service that has a service agreement. Aside from support, these usually entitle customers to updates and version upgrades.

 Check for obsolete components

, “Is this still going to be here in good order at the end of next year?” This can be anything from a tape drive, storage array, or server. The best approach is check the product lifecycles for all the devices and software in use, making sure nothing is falling to end-of-life status. I have seen compoanies paying  lease invoices  for fax machines that awer long ago rpelaced by a  fax server, or for pritners that are in disuse. 

Check for powered off systems

Nothing is more unsightly than a rack filled with mostly powered-off servers. Consider virtualization and consolidated of servers. Make it an objectivefor 2011  to save enrgy and floor space.

Rearrange racks and servers

Consider  a new arrangement for the equipment in the data cente and rrevisit the domains of failure. While a rack fully loaded with equipment is visually impressive, it also is a single point of failure in itself. Consider dispersing the workload across the datacenter.

 Updates BIOS, firmware, versions

Tricky if you’re on holiday but there is sledom an opportune time.. Don’t  underestimate the value of a BIOS firmware update for computers, servers, and storage. In fact, when For current products, there is a daily build of the BIOS that goes to the products in the test labs. Year is a good time to plan out any updates to low-level drivers and to software in the operating system. This can be management agents as well as hardware management suites, such as Dell OpenManage and HP Systems Insight Manager.

Old operating systems

Windows 2000 has ended its extended support phase, but it is really time to map out the plan to remove this operating system. This will be similar to how Windows NT was removed, a necessary evil; but it is definitely time. Aside from the operating system being obsolete, if this system is on physical hardware, that too may be obsolete.

Organize workspace and tools

A good time to clean up workspaces. Do we really need old posters on our walls? IT pros are not usually noted for their clean work environments, but a professional appearance is good for any profession. Think of it as spring cleaning in the middle of winter. Try the Japanese 5 S approach for your IT department. Think of it as part of your personal marketing and be proud ot show it off..

 And if you have any time after that have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year because you will deserve it.

 2011 will be here before we know it

These are a few ways to get ready for 2011

Open Letter from Michael Park, corporate vice president, sales, marketing and operations, Microsoft Business Solutions – Microsoft CRM

December 22nd, 2010

Complete text of the letter from Michael Park

Between economic pressures, technological advancements, and the need to manage growth and scale, businesses are reevaluating their customer relationship management (CRM) systems to ensure that they are getting the most value from their technology investments.

What we hear from customers is that they are looking for increased user productivity, better integration with existing tools and technologies, and more flexibility and affordability when it comes to their CRM systems. They are struck by the overwhelming amount of information and hype in the market, which is leading to confusion and frustration when trying to determine which CRM solution is the best fit for their businesses.

If you are looking for a CRM system that will deliver productivity for your people, offer flexibility to your business and work with your existing IT investments, you should consider Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online.

In making the switch from other solutions, such as Salesforce.com, you will join thousands of companies that have found that Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online is easier to use, adds value to the technology investments they’ve already made and delivers greater business insight.

For instance, Data Reduction Systems switched from Salesforce.com and has since saved more than 50 percent in user costs and reached 100 percent user adoption. In addition, in just one month since switching CRM systems, Smead realized a 75 percent decrease in annual subscription costs and a 20 percent increase in user adoption. Both companies saw improved business intelligence and collaboration.

If you are a Salesforce.com customer attending Dreamforce this week, we encourage you to ask the following:

  • In this economy, how can I justify paying two to three times more for an enterprise CRM system than I need to?*
  • Microsoft provides a financially backed 99.9 percent uptime commitment for every Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online customer; why does Salesforce.com only provide me with “commercially reasonable efforts” to keep my business running?
  • Having access to the most up-to-date information is critical to my business; why doesn’t Salesforce.com provide real-time access to data and dashboards, refreshed whenever I need it like Microsoft does?
  • Microsoft works great with Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Office; why does Salesforce.com want me to start from scratch when it comes to productivity tools for my people?
  • Microsoft provides the flexibility for my CRM system to work with other systems whether they run in the cloud or on-premises; why does Salesforce.com lock me into one way of doing things?

For more than a decade, Microsoft has run some of the largest, most reliable cloud services in the world. With the combined power of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online and the full depth and breadth of Microsoft’s productivity offerings, we can deliver value in a way that works best for your business. Just ask Microsoft Dynamics CRM customers such as Jelly Belly and Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift Europe, which have won some of the CRM industry’s most notable awards.

In addition, Salesforce.com customers that switch to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online between now and June 30, 2011, are eligible for the “Cloud CRM for Less”** promotion. Through this promotion, Microsoft will pay your organization $200 cash for each user that makes the switch to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online. This rebate can be applied for services to help you switch — such as migrating your data or customizing the solution for your unique business needs. At Microsoft, we do not believe you should be forced to pay a premium to achieve business success.

Please visit DontGetForced.com/CRM8 to see product demos and hear from companies on why they made the switch to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online. You can also join the conversation @MSDynamicsCRM on Twitter and on the Microsoft Dynamics CRM page on Facebook.

We look forward to hearing from you as we work hard every day to earn your confidence in our products.

Michael Park

Corporate Vice President, Sales, Marketing and Operations, Microsoft Business Solutions

About Microsoft Dynamics

Microsoft Dynamics is a line of simple to learn and use ERP and CRM solutions that work with your existing technology and scale as you grow to give you long-term value. By using software and online services that work the way people and organizations work, businesses are better able to make informed decisions and adapt to rapid change. Microsoft Dynamics helps your people be more productive and your investments in existing systems last longer, while enabling your business to derive the insights necessary to respond quickly and have a competitive edge in an ever-changing world of business.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

* Comparison based on Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online vs. Salesforce.com Enterprise Edition.

** Read the complete terms and conditions for the “Cloud CRM for Less” promotion at CloudCRMforLess.com.

Note: this applies mainly to the USA – however Synergy can host Mcorsft CRM for you in the cloud, or install on premise.

EIDA deadline approaches

December 22nd, 2010

The federal law stipulating December 31 as the deadline for expatriates to register for ID cards is still valid, but  there is no cause for residents to panic it seems. The large number of expatriates [who have not yet registered]  but to fulfil their legal obligation,  have to fill up the application for ID cards at any of the 700 typing centres across the country

Sounds simple but it seems up to 40,000 people a day are registering for ID cards at typing centres  which say they do not have the resources to handle the rush. EIDA transferred the pre-registration process including filling out the application forms, scanning the identification documents and payment of fees to the typing centres three months ago as part of a new strategy to ease the registration process. An applicant goes to an EIDA registration centre only after completing the pre-registration process at a typing centre

The national identity card (ID) will become increasingly important for people to access essential government and commercial services as these become more widely available online.utiltiy companies are already trialling its use.

Non-registered expatriates is still estimated as “a few millions”. The best news is that a single application for an ID card, residence visa and labour card may be introduced in the future when the three documents would be integrated. No why didn’t I think of that?

National Oilwell Varco Abu Dhabi – live on Microsoft Dynamics Ax 2009

December 18th, 2010

National Oilwell Varco Training - Synergy Offices December 2010

Jennifer Vaz, Executive Director Synergy Software Systems, meets Project Lead, Ramkumar Vaidyanathan, the  Director of Finance – Middle East, for National Oilwell Varco, Inc.  during Microsoft Dynamics Ax 2009 training at Synergy offices.
The Go Live sign off with Synergy and NOV project team members:

Microsoft Dynamics Ax in the cloud -available now from Synergy Software Systems

December 15th, 2010

Microsoft is working on enabling next generations of AX to run in the cloud, however, a lot more  Azure development is necessary too before that becomes reality. We are however meanwhile offering  hosted services with Amazon Web Services.

 So, in other words: AX 2009 can be hosted in the Cloud today and you can take advanatge of a scaleable architecture and no up front invesmtent in hardware , install and all of the server amdinsitration and backps taken care of in a secure environment with 24x 7 support.  New companies with cash flow challenges will find this model attractive and it will speed up their  implementation.

The advantage for larger, multi-national, AX clients is that they can scale and roll-out to fit their global requirements in a very cost efficient manner.

  You can add any vertical solution, custom, code, etc as you please. Your AX instance is your application and you manage it just like you would manage a self-hosted AX on your own customer’s site. 

 Contractual terms for the software licences are the same. The terms for the AWS services are AWS’ terms. We  offer  our terms for the AX Cloud technology . We keep it simple.

  The same cloud offering is available applies for Microsoft CRM.

 In other words: We can completely mould AX Cloud to fit any requirement for infrastructure.

Time for GP 9 upgrade??

December 15th, 2010

Mainstream support for Microsoft Dynamics GP 9.0 will end January 11, 2011

(Note: GP users also have the option of upgrading to Dynamics Ax )

Office 365

December 12th, 2010

Microsoft plans to unleash a ‘take-no-prisoners’ assault on the market with Office 365. -  offering a full suite that combines online versions of the 2010 editions of Exchange, Office, Sharepoint and Lync,

“Microsoft is linking its crown jewels, the most valuable parts of the company’s product line, and evolving them with the cloud, another sign of how serious they are about this,” said Jeffrey Mann, research vice president at Gartner.

Snide putdowns by rivals like Google and sharp criticism of industry analysts charging the company with being out of touch with the cloud delivery model were  common last year. Twelve months later, things have changed.

In 2010, Microsoft delivered regular upgrades and new features for its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), which includes Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Communications Online and Office Live Meeting.  In the summer, in addition to Office 2010, Microsoft also introduced Office Web Apps, a hosted office suite designed to compete against the likes of Google Docs through Web-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.

And the icing on the cake came in October, when Microsoft outlined the next version of BPOS, called Office 365: a full-fledged option to Google Apps and other similar cloud-based suites that combines the collaboration and communication elements of BPOS with Office Web Apps and, alternatively, even with Office 2010. It is the broad cloud suite that experts have predicted for years Microsoft could build — and rock the market if priced and configured correctly.

Although Office 365 is in limited beta testing and won’t be widely available until some point in 2011, its announcement changes the landscape. CIOs and IT chiefs evaluating cloud collaboration, productivity and communication suites will have a unified alternative from Microsoft, a leading vendor of this type of software for on-premise deployments for over a decade. Eventually, Office 365 will also include Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

Competition in the market continues from rivals like Google, IBM/Lotus, Cisco, Novell, Jive, Socialtext, Zimbra, Yammer, Box.net and Zoho, but Microsoft may have a winner in its hands.

WIKILEAKS – how does it affect your company?

December 12th, 2010

WikiLeaks’ release of secret government communications  serve as a warning to the world’s big companies: You’re next- there is nothing about WikiLeaks’ release of U.S. diplomatic documents to suggest that the group can’t — or won’t — use the same methods to reveal the secrets of powerful corporations.

There is a real threat  posed by disgruntled insiders and poorly crafted security  policies, which give too much access to confidential data.

WikiLeaks claims it has incriminating documents from a major U.S. bank, which gives new new urgency to addressing  security inside corporations and a reminder of its limits when confronted with a determined insider.

At risk are companies’ innermost secrets — e-mails, documents, databases and internal Web sites that are thought locked to the outside world. Companies create records of every decision they make, whether it’s rolling out new products, pursuing acquisitions, fighting legislation, foiling rivals or allowing executives to sell stock.

Although it’s easy technologically to limit who in a company sees specific types of information, many companies leave access far too open. And despite the best of intentions, mistakes happen and settings are inadvertently broad,  as networks grow more complex with reorganizations and acquisitions.

Even when security technology is doing its job, it’s often  a poor match if someone with legitimate access is determined enough. A cheap thumb drive  and a vendetta are all  an insider needs to obtain and leak secrets. Outside attackers often have to compromise personal computers , then use their skills and guile in hopes of working their way into your system.

Employees go rogue all the time — for ego, to expose hypocrisy, to exact revenge or simply for greed. A former analyst with mortgage lender Countrywide Financial Corp., now owned by Bank of America, is awaiting trial on charges he downloaded data on potentially 2 million customers over two years, charging $500 for each batch of 20,000 profiles. Prosecutors say the analyst worked secretly on Sundays, using an unsecured Countrywide computer that allowed downloads to personal thumb drives. Other home loan companies bought the  profiles, including Social Security numbers, for new sales leads, according to authorities an employee with Certegy Check Services Inc., a check authorization service, was accused of stealing information on more than 8 million people and selling it to telemarketers for a haul of $580,000. The worker was sentenced in 2008 to nearly five years in prison.

Despite the repeated warnings, many large companies lack clear policies on who should have access to certain data, .

WikiLeaks argues that revealing details of companies and governments behaving  is good for democracy. Julian Assange, WikiLeaks’ founder, told Forbes magazine that the number of leaks his site gets has been increasing “exponentially” as the site has gotten more publicity. He said it sometimes numbers in the thousands per day.

Assange told Forbes that half the unpublished material his organization has is about the private sector, including a “megaleak” involving a bank. Assange also told Forbes that Wikileaks has “lots” of information on BP PLC, the London-based oil company under fire for the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill. WikiLeaks previously published confidential documents from the Swiss bank Julius Baer and the Kaupthing Bank in Iceland. The site also published an operation manual for the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

WikiLeaks’ most recent leaks exposed frank and sometimes embarrassing communications from diplomats and world leaders. They included inflammatory assessments of their counterparts and international hot spots such as Iran and North Korea. The prime suspect  Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, is  held in a maximum-security military brig at with an earlier WikiLeaks release: of a video of  a 2007 U.S. Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed a Reuters news photographer and his driver. Military investigators say Manning is a person of interest in the leak of nearly 77,000 Afghan war records WikiLeaks published online in July.

Manning boasted to a hacker confidant that security was so flimsy he was able to bring a homemade music CD into work, delete its contents and fill it with secrets, according to a log of the exchange posted by Wired.com. Experts said a key flaw in the military’s security was that Manning may not have even had to look all that hard for the data, as it was apparently available for many people to see. The Defense Department says it has bolstered its computer security since the leaks.

Companies have many options technologically to protect themselves.

 Configure  e-mail servers to restrict to whom certain people can send documents.

Prohibit certain people from copying and pasting from documents,

block downloads to thumb drives and CD-ROMs,

 deploy technologies that check if executives’ e-mail messages are being checked too often — a sign that an automated program is copying the contents.

The more companies control information, the more difficult it is for employees to access documents they are authorized to view. That lowers productivity and increases costs in the form of the additional help from technicians.

You run the risk of creating an environment that’s so rigid that people can’t do their jobs and need to find that balance.

Ask about our innovative solutions.

EPM – Microsoft Project Server 2010

December 12th, 2010
Microsoft Enterprise Project Management (EPM) Solution

“A comprehensive PPM tool investment is likely to provide an ROI of more than 250%” (Forrester: The ROI of Project Portfolio Management Tools, May 2009)

Executives are challenged to “do more with less” and have to be judicious about where they spend and how they allocate resources. Microsoft’s EPM solution helps organizations select and deliver the right projects,with capabilities across the entire project  lifecycle.  It helps reduce costs, drive efficiencies, and ultimately plant the seeds to grow the business.

What’s EPM (Enterprise Project Management):

Managing multiple projects and utilizing the shared resources across the organization in centralized environment. EPM gives the ability to enforce set of standards, process and methods in managing the projects. The enterprise management enables executives, stake holders and top-level managers to see and analyze information on all the projects in their organization. This centralized view helps in understanding the nature of progress of the activity within organization.

Microsoft EPM:

The Microsoft Office Enterprise Project Management (EPM) Solution is ideal for organizations that need strong coordination and standardization between projects and project managers, centralized resource management, higher-level reporting and analysis features.

Enterprise Project Management – IT Governance and the Program Management Office (PMO):

Organizations are challenged to track and measure the effectiveness of a large number of projects in various aspects of their work, and aligning Information Technology costs with business objectives is becoming increasingly important. Executives–especially those accountable for the success or failure of IT spending—would benefit from better ways to select the most promising projects from a batch of project candidates, efficiently allocate resources among different ongoing initiatives, and evaluate project success from a strategic vantage point.

The Microsoft Office Enterprise Project Management Solution provides a full set of capabilities for project teams, managers, and executives and delivers specific benefits for better IT governance and a higher-functioning Program Management Office. .

So what makes this version so much better ?

Unified Project & Portfolio Management (PPM)

In Project 2010, the best-of-breed portfolio management techniques of Microsoft Office Project Portfolio Server 2007 are included in Project Server 2010, providing a single server with end-to-end project and portfolio management (PPM) capabilities.

  • Familiar SharePoint user interface throughout the solution.
  • Common data store eliminating the need for the Project Server Gateway.
  • Intuitive and simplified administration.
  • Localized portfolio selection capabilities.
  • Comprehensive Application Programming Interface (API) including both project and portfolio capabilities.

Built on SharePoint Server 2010

Project Server 2010 is built on top of SharePoint Server 2010, bringing together the powerful business collaboration platform services and structured execution capabilities to provide flexible work management solutions. Gain additional value from the Microsoft platform.

  • Take advantage of the Business Intelligence platform to easily create reports and powerful dashboards.
  • Control document review and approval through workflow.
  • Enterprise search makes it easy to find people and effectively mine project data (resources, tasks, documents etc.).
  • Connect teams and enhance communication with wikis, blogs, discussion forums and My Sites.

Project Initiation & Business Case Development

Project Server 2010 provides a new demand management module to capture all work from simple tasks to complex projects and programs.

  • Develop and deploy effective governance workflows to manage project investments throughout their lifecycle and drive accountability and control.
  • Define Enterprise Project Types for all requests and associate with workflow, a project plan and a custom workspace template.
  • Standardize data collection through configurable business case forms. Capture project information, cost estimates, resource estimates, strategic alignment assessments and more.
  • Display relevant Enterprise Project Types for each line of business using departmental fields.

Portfolio Selection

Project Server 2010 helps organizations select project portfolios that align with their business strategy by providing techniques to prioritize competing requests, run optimization scenarios under varying budgetary constraints and maximize resource utilization across the planning horizon.

Business Strategy Prioritization

  • Objectively prioritize business drivers and drive consensus across the executive team.
  • Intuitive and visual interface for completing the business driver prioritization assessment.

Portfolio Prioritization and Optimization

  • Effectively prioritize projects from multiple dimensions – strategic value, financial value, and risk.
  • Select the optimal portfolio of projects while meeting budgetary and other constraints.
  • Enhanced optimization interface surfaces powerful analytical views (e.g. Efficient Frontier) to improve decision making.
  • Better understand trade-offs with Force In/Out descriptive values.
  • Compare optimization scenarios side by side with snapshot scorecard.

Capacity Planning

  • Gain insight into generic resource demand and availability across the planning horizon.
  • Reschedule projects within the horizon to maximize resource utilization while adhering to schedule dependencies.
  • Model headcount decisions and compare scenarios.

Web-Based Project Editing

Project Server 2010 brings the power of Project Professional 2010 to the browser with Web-based Project Editing.

  • Easily build schedules online and conveniently make simple project edits from anywhere.
  • Gain flexibility with user controlled scheduling – manually schedule tasks with the information you have right now or automatically schedule tasks to have Project calculate durations and dates.
  • Create projects with more than 100 tasks, assign multiple resources, and easily define task hierarchy and dependencies.
  • Gain insight with change highlighting and multi-level undo.

Fluent™ User Interface

Microsoft Project 2010 delivers a consistent experience across Project Standard 2010, Project Professional 2010 and Project Server 2010 through the Fluent user interface.

  • Work more efficiently with the simple and intuitive Ribbon, so the tools you need to plan and manage your project are always at your fingertips.
  • Task oriented tabs and context sensitive menu groupings make finding and performing activities easier.
  • Task oriented tabs and context sensitive menu groupings make finding and performing activities easier.

Time Reporting Enhancements

  • Save time and unify task status updates and timesheet submissions by enabling Single Entry Mode.
  • Flexible and consistent interface enhances the time reporting experience.
  • Conveniently approve timesheet and task status updates through the consolidated Approval Center.
  • Simply delegate approvals with enhanced user delegation.

Exchange Server Integration

  • Choose to receive and update your project task status in Microsoft® Office Outlook.
  • Project tasks are shown as Outlook tasks grouped by project name. No Outlook add-in required.
  • Stay connected with notifications and updates through Outlook and Outlook Web App.

Enhanced Reporting and Business Intelligence (BI)

Experience the strength and depth of Microsoft Business Intelligence platform. Gain transparency and control with Excel Services, PerformancePoint Services, Visio Services, PowerPivot for Excel 2010 andSQL Reporting Services.

  • Get started quickly with predefined best practice and localized report templates in the new Business Intelligence Center.
  • Intuitively customize reports in a familiar Excel editor and publish through Excel Services.
  • Simply create powerful audience-based dashboards to effectively monitor portfolio performance.
  • Satisfy line of business reporting requirements with Departmental Cubes. Allow decision makers to focus on their data, eliminate unnecessary clutter and ensure faster cube build times.

Simplified Administration

  • Project Permissions – Empower project managers to control who can view or edit their projects with Project Permissions.
  • User Delegation – Enhanced delegation enables users to easily specify colleagues to act as their delegate when on vacation, without assistance from the administrator.
  • Departmental Fields – Provide a level of autonomy while maintaining enterprise standardization and control. With Departmental Fields administrators can associate Enterprise Project Types, Resources and Custom Fields to specific departments, eliminating unnecessary clutter and allowing departments to focus on their data.
  • Centralized Administration – One stop administration console for managing both project and portfolio management capabilities.
  • Administer Reporting Cubes – Enhanced administration interface for displaying the status and managing available cubes. Quickly take action and intuitively add, edit, delete, copy and refresh cubes.

Extend Interoperability

Integration with related Microsoft technologies provides a familiar and connected work management platform. Empower teams to work in their preferred productivity tools and provide status updates toproject stakeholders with minimal effort and administrative overhead.

  • Microsoft® Exchange Server – Conveniently receive and update your project tasks in Outlook or Outlook Web App.
  • Microsoft® Visual Studio Team Foundation Server – Seamlessly connect the worlds of application development and project and portfolio management.
  • SharePoint Server Sync – Effortlessly improve productivity with bidirectional status updates between Project Professional 2010 and SharePoint.

December 10th, 2010

As  revenues  drop,  cost  cutting  is  an obvious  strategy that businesses employ to maintain profitability.

 In fact, shares of Gap (GPS) jumped 27% in November 2008 even as the retailer’s sales fell 8%, due to successful cost-cutting that improved profitability.
Cutting costs is  a precautionary measure, best done earlier rather than later.
A fundamental step is an in-depth analysis of your business  and  the  economic  environment  to  understand  which  areas  are performing  and  which  aren’t,  and  what are  the  external influencers  and  trends .  For  example,  what  is  your  business performance  by  geography  and  region;  by  product  line;  against plan; by channel, by month, quarter… – and what are the recent trends that highlight how the downturn is aecting your business?

Perform “outlier”  analysis,  such  as  reports  on  the  least profitable  product  lines  and  geographies.

Typical  candidates  for cost cutting within sales and marketing include:
Reducing   headcount   across   sales   and   marketing   is   more complex  today  than  in  previous  downturns,  argues  David  Court from  The  McKinsey  Quarterly who  states  that  because  today’s sales  organizations  are  much  more  diverse  and  sophisticated than in previous times – with roles including product specialists,
telemarketers,   industry   experts,   and   competitor   analysts   – managers must be more careful when forced to make cuts:

Instead of making across-the-board overhead cuts, a company can rationalize its sales programs while maintaining performance in  a  variety  of  ways.  Assessing  the  current  sales-coverage  model helps  the  company  determine  which  selling  and  sales-support formulas are most effective for which types of customers and sales situations and then to rebalance resources as needed. In practice, this  approach  might  mean  handling  reorders  online,  covering basic  sales  and  account-management  tasks  through  telesales representatives,  and  using  larger  response  teams  to  address major requests for proposals. Another important step is to analyze win–loss  ratios  in  difficult  customer  negotiations  with  an  eye  to determining  which  sales  support  groups  are  most  effective  and which contribute less and can therefore be trimmed. Streamlining the  after-sales  process  and  establishing  the  appropriate  level of customer support can shrink costs as well. Critical to all these moves is an understanding of what customers expect and of the importance of after-sales support to their overall experience.”

Few businesses these days slash marketing budgets in a random manner. Tthe challenges during a downturn is  not  enough  revenue,  and  it  is  marketing  in  combination  with sales that are expected to  drive  more  revenue. The
basic  principle  is for marketing  budgets  to  focus  on  those activities  most  likely  to  deliver  cash and profit.
The  McKinsey  Quarterly’s  David  Court  asserts  that  the  previous approach to a downturn of focusing marketing budgets only on traditional,  tried-and-true  media  is  no  longer  the  best  approach.

“New   communications   vehicles   such   as   the   Internet,   social networking, and mobile devices are gaining scale and delivering  results. Meanwhile, classic media such as television have become, at a minimum, much more costly.” He goes on to say that assessing  marketing  media  only  by  reach  and  cost  to  determine their effectiveness is too limited – quality must also be determined. For instance, you may be able to analyze the response of previous
campaigns such as quantity and quality of leads coming in from email campaigns vs direct mail.Analysis  of  marketing  campaign  performance  is  critical  to determine  what  has  worked,  what  hasn’t,  and  which  campaigns
are  performing  in  a  changing  economic  environment.  It  is  also necessary to justify budgets and resource allocations, and to ensure you take a disciplined approach during diffcult timse. USe analytics to  closely  monitor  campaign  spending,  and to highlight immediately any overruns in budget, or those campaigns that are  performing  well  and  should  have  their  budgets  increased.

As  businesses  adjust  their  marketing  message  or product offerings during a downturn, ongoing measurement and adjustment  is  required  to  tweak  performance  and to  respond  to changing market conditions.Once  a  lead  comes  through  the  door,  who  is  responsible  for converting  and  tracking  that  lead?  Sales  or  marketing?  When times are tough, your company’s ability to qualify, close, and convert sales leads into revenue is crucial. You need to
squeeze the most value possible out of each lead.

Whether a lead originates from direct marketing, trade shows, or online advertising, it is well known that the more quickly you follow-up on leads, the better your chances of closing the sales. However, in the current economic climate, it is also just as critical to  ensure  you  are  chasing  the  right  leads  and  not  wasting  vast
 amounts of sales energy and resources on leads that go nowhere.

Often it can be a struggle between quickly following-up the leads you have, and the need to carefully qualify those leads to identify those that pose a true sales opportunity. While the amount of information required to qualify leads varies between organizations, analytics can help to identify, by campaign, which leads are qualified and which are cold leads. Analytics pinpoint those opportunities with the highest probability of conversion  to  sales,  determine  lead  conversion  rates,  identify stale  leads,  and  ensure  well-qualified  leads  further  along  in  the cycle are given sufficient attention to close the deal.

In a downturn, sales cycles are often longer. Buying decisions are  either  delayed,  or  customers  are  increasingly  choosy.  This means that more attention needs to be given to nurturing existing leads. A study by the Aberdeen Group found that 56 per cent of businesses do not have a formal lead nurturing scheme in place and the majority of those that do are driven by productivity and fianncial reasons. “The  goal  of  lead  nurturing  is  to  solidify  your
company as a trusted adviser and a source of thought leadership for your prospects and customers,”
commented Ian Michiels of The Aberdeen Group. Just one example of a lead nurturing strategy is to produce more campaigns and material that show prospects how to put forward a solid business case and justify the return on an investment in your product

Without closely monitoring marketing campaigns – by tracking sales leads back to their source, measuring lead conversion rates, and recording campaign costs – measuring your marketing return on  investment  (ROI)  becomes  impossible.  This  information  is critical to make decisions about ongoing marketing investments, particularly in a changing economy.As  an  example,  if  your  company  distributed  10,000  direct mail  flyers,  it  is  simply  not  enough  to  identify  that  you  received 30   responses.   Considerably   more   information   is   required   to
successfully analyze the campaign’s eectiveness and ROI. Say for example, those 30 responses returned twice as much revenue as the entire campaign cost. Without proper analysis, a cursory glance at the campaign may have noted a low response rate to the flyer, and the campaign could have been shelved.Analytics can be used to highlight the cost to your organization in capturing each lead. By improving analysis of lead costs versus lead revenue, you will gain a greater visibility into what works best for your organization in terms of engaging and generating revenue
from prospects and opportunities. 

Pricing    comes    under    intense    pressure    in    a    downturn. Competition heats up, and existing market positions may become vulnerable.  Market  leaders  may  use  their  position  and  deeper pockets  to  pressure  market  followers,  or  alternatively,  market followers can sometimes turn a downturn to their advantage and leapfrog ahead of the market leader9.

Tony Cram of Britain’s Ashridge Business School also agrees that a downturn provides opportunities: “What you have in a recession is an opportunity to learn faster about changing customers than your  competitors  and  use  that  insight  to  gain  advantage.” He recommends  researching  the  likely  behavior  of  your  most  price-sensitive customers rst, and then extrapolating that out to your broader  customer  base  when  determining  where  to  make  price cuts.

In The McKinsey Quarterly, analysis and research are highlighted as  top  priorities  to  setting  pricing  strategies  in  a  downturn. “…Companies  need  to  manage  the  protability  of  individual customers and transactions with greater precision, develop richer insights into their customers’ changing needs and price sensitivities, and understand more clearly the microeconomics that shape their own industries and those of their suppliers.”

Some recommended approaches include:

Using  transaction-level  data  to  measure  the  profibility  of each customer and to ect where customers are becoming more costly to serve or falling below target profibility. “One industrial company found that more than 20 percent of its customers had fallen  below  breakeven  protability,  forcing  it  to  raise  prices selectively and, where possible, lower cost-to-serve by decreasing delivery  frequency,  reducing  sales  support,  or  fulfiing  orders through alternate channels.”

For  consumer  markets,  micromarket  analysis  may  highlight pockets of potential profibility. “One beverage company recently conducted  surveys  that  identied  staggering  dfferences  in  the potential  profibility  of  customers  within  individual  markets and micromarkets. The price sensitivity of the respondents varied
by as much as a factor of 13 across regional markets, a factor of 5  across  cities  within  them,  and  a  factor  of  3  across  zip  codes within individual cities. Armed with this level of detail, a company can  maximize  its  profitability  by  focusing  on  micromarkets  less sensitive  to  prices  while  also  offering  discounts  or  preferential pricing elsewhere to drive sales volumes.

Identify how the changing market is impacting customer needs and the benefits they value. “One plastic resins supplier that had developed  a  fast-curing  resin  (to  enhance  capacity  of  injection molders  when  the  economy  was  strong)  has  now  developed  a less costly resin that doesn’t cure as quickly. The new resin helps the supplier’s customers decrease costs, because molders are not running at full capacity during the downturn.”

Starwood’s  Director  of  Revenue  advises  against  across-the-board  price  cuts.  He  says  that  from  his  experience  in  the  hotel industry, in-depth analysis often shows that decreases in demand are  confined  to  a  certain  area  of  the  business,  such  as  weekend bookings, or corporate bookings from a particular industry sector.
“Don’t  give  in  to  the  desperation  of  dropping  your  rates  and crossing your fingers; generating business is hard work,” he states. Instead, he advocates value-adding to stimulate demand, such as offering free breakfasts or internet access

In   times   of   economic   slowdown,   directors   and   investors demand   more   frequent   and   accurate   forecasts   and   reports. Long-standing  assumptions  are  questioned,  and  the  business  is dissected  from  every  way,  searching  for  problem  areas  and  new opportunities. This puts immense pressure on sales and marketing
managers to provide views of data from multiple sources at more granular  levels  and  more  frequent  time  intervals.  If  this  entails manual  processes  and  endless  hours  in  spreadsheets,  managers will struggle with the extra reporting demands, and are likely to produce  reports  that  are  prone  to  errors.  An  investment  in  the
right tools can be far more valuable than sidelining resources for endless manual reporting, and is also an investment in the longer term that will ensure that the business is agile and responsive to any future change.

Conclusions
For sales and marketing managers, it is normally analytics from the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system that provides the most useful insight. Some of the reasons these managers must have analytics capabilities in an economic downturn include:

  • The volume of reporting and forecasting required increases. 
  • Relying on manual tools and processes will mean delays and inaccuracies in providing information back to business decision makers.
  • When sales and marketing managers are buried in producing reports, less time can be spent in the field, interpreting data, and helping the business to act on opportunities.

Managersneed to reduce manual processes and to provide strategic advice and market condition feedback to their teams and business directors as one of the most valuable parts of their job. Formal, structured reports are not enough. Many established businesses have long-standing reports in place. However a downturn requires ad-hoc, instant questioning of the latest data to determine trends, answer questions and challenge assumptions. This requires far more speed, agility and exibility than is necessary for “standard” management reporting.Data must be communicated accurately and easily. For example, providing decision-makers with dashboards, scorecards and charts help to convey performance metrics instantly, rather than using tabular reports. If formal report
packs need to be generated, it is much more effective to use an online reporting tool that enables multiple types of data to be pulled together and for sales and marketing teams to collaborate, rather than using multiple oine, unsecured tools.

The past few years have seen an increased investment in the use  of  analytics  technology,  and  case  studies  show  that  users are  seeing  a  return  on  those  investments.  In  a  tougher  market, purchasing new technology can often be delayed until times are more certain. Contrary to this, slower times of economic growth can actually be the best time to invest in technology that helps to maximize performance and enhance decision-making, and secure
a company’s future.Decision-makers who embrace business analytics applications find that the initial investments in such tools are a  low cost way to gain a competitive edge. Slow business  periods  are  the  best  time  to  launch  new  initiatives, for  example,  implementation  times  are shortened when business is slowest. This is due to excess capacity in the times of business slowdowns, whereby acceptance of new systems is higher and implementations are more thorough. Th bened for change is also more evidetn when times ae tough

Often  organizations  are  reluctant  to  change,  preferring  the devil they know such as spreadsheets, even when they realize the inaccuracies and operational ineciencies of remaining stagnant. Smart  organizations  understand  that  the  real  question  is  not whether  your  company  can  afford  an  investment  in  business analytics, but in such lean markets, what are your competitors doing with analytics, and how can you best target limtied resources.?

Understanding    that    business    analytics    is    your  organization’s  greatest  shield  against  a  market  downturn  is  a significant  advantage  to  all  decision-makers.  By  transforming raw  data  into  business  intelligence  and  undergoing  rigorous questioning  and  ongoing  measurement,  your  business  will  be better placed to make accurate and informed strategic decisions, ensuring your organization emerges from a downturn leaner, and
in a strong competitive position.

If you are considering how  analytics can help your company then ask about our rapid deployment solutions.

Rugby 7s 2010 – well done England

December 5th, 2010

England’s outstanding scrum-half Ollie Lindsay-Hague, scored two tries and Dan Norton, Simon Hunt and Mat Turner one each as England beat Samoa, the outgoing HSBC World Series champions 29-21. This hard fought match in front of a packed crowd, with I would guess 50,000 English supporters,  was a great finish to the tournament. The semi finals were both also very high quality, hard fought encounters.

A pity that so many were not there for the rugby -  young girls ednlessly fashion parading and blocking the view being the biggest pain. It seeemd for many the rugby posts  were there as a guide to where to stnad to make a mobile phone call and block out the maximujm view. Given that 7s is only 7 minutes a half is it really too much to expect [eople to sit still till the interval – this sort of  rudeness is not allowed at the  tennis championships and it does not seem to be a problem there ?

And while I am having a moan is it really necessary for Emirates to stop people bringing food and water with them. Not everyone wants to eat burger and chips and whejn customers have paid Dh300 for a weekend ticket is it really necessary tocause so much bad will just to  make another Dh5 on water?

And let me say despite those moans the orgnaisers did a fantastic job to cotnrol the traffic and  the crowds, to clear the rubbish, to coordinate the numerous matches to schedule and to provide such a great atmosphere  (though I doubt I want to hear the song Hey Baby again for for at least another year).

40 years of history also  came to a tearful end as the Arabian Gulf badel farewell to international rugby.  Their final  of  proud endeavour was a defeat against one of rugby’s elite nations, France but the home side dominated the majority of the game, and twice held a two-try advantage, only to subside to a 26-19 loss via two late scores in the Shield semi-final. The Gulf’s membership of the IRB will now be taken on by a newly formed UAE side.