By David Sims
The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is The Best of Three Dog Night:
Peerflix, an online peer-to-peer service that allows members to legally trade DVDs online, today announced that Jim Ambras has joined the company as Vice President, Engineering.
Prior to Peerflix, Ambras was the Vice President of Products and Services at OnStation Corporation, a provider of CRM products to the automotive industry, where he was instrumental in turning the company around and launching many of its defining products.
Today’s a good day for those of us who appreciate contemporary popular fiction, as it’s Scott Turow and Tom Clancy’s birthday, as well as the birthday of one of the most influential yet underrated authors of the 20th Century, creator of the Ramona Quimby books, Beverly Cleary, who’s probably been read by more Americans than any other 20th Century author.
First Coffee has of course read all the Beverly Cleary books she’d written by 1973, all but one Scott Turow novel, but has been able to struggle through only one Tom Clancy novel, The Hunt For Red October, just to see what all the fuss was about, and that was quite enough, thank you.
Gratuitous anecdote: When First Coffee lived in Washington, D.C. in the late ‘80s he worked for a company escorting authors on book tours around D.C. – pick them up at the airport, get them to their signings and media appearances, get them to the hotel and back to the airport. Tom Clancy lives in southern Maryland, so First Coffee got to go to his house – go in his house – enjoy the spectacular living room view over the bluff of the Chesapeake Bay, and must say Mr. Clancy is a gracious man.
Plus, on my last day in America before moving to Turkey in 2003, three friends and I used Clancy’s tickets at Oriole Stadium to see a game. We were literally front row behind the on deck circle, reach over the wall and you’re reaching on the field. Thank you, Tom.
Most authors, when they’re being chauffeured around, want either silence – Joyce Carol Oates’ publicist explicitly says “Do not talk to Ms. Oates,” as if I’m dying to – or a running tour if they haven’t been to D.C. before, or to talk about themselves. Clancy and First Coffee argued the entire way from the outskirts of D.C. to Union Station whether or not Hitler had a plan to invade England, and whether it would have worked or not. Most interesting author I ever drove around. Made me wish I enjoyed his work more.
The Air Force is changing the way they do call centers to achieve greater efficiencies, consolidating current operations and streamlining others.
Proposed sites for the Air Force Financial Services Center and the Air Force Claims Service Center were announced by Air Force officials April 10.
The preferred location for the AFFSC is Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., while the preferred location for the AFCSC will be in the Dayton, Ohio, area. The AFFSC is scheduled for activation in fiscal 2008, and the AFCSC is scheduled to open in fiscal 2007.
Final location decisions for both call centers is contingent upon completing National Environmental Policy Act analyses and meeting labor obligations.
"The AFFSC and the AFCSC are just two examples of our journey down a road toward self-improvement," said Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne.
Both centers are examples of the Air Force's Smart Operations 21 concept, which seeks to improve processes across the Air Force and create a more efficient, effects-driven organization.
The opening of the AFFSC will improve processing efficiency. Initially, the change will be transparent to most customers. Base finance offices will have a reduced presence but will remain open to help Airmen with financial services that require personal interaction. The actual forms processing will take place at the AFFSC.
At full operational capability, the plan is to consolidate financial services by opening a central processing center and a 24-hour call center with up to 775 civilian and military personnel, who will perform financial service transactions and respond to customer inquiries. In time, the integration of new Air Force systems will enable most financial services, from travel vouchers to allotments, to be handled via the Web.
"This new center will save the Air Force more than $200 million dollars in the first 10 years after the center opens." said John Vonglis, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for financial management. "Additionally, our Airmen will see faster processing of their transactions and quicker responses to their financial inquiries through the use of Web-based services."
The AFCSC will provide one-stop service for all personal property claims normally filed at the base level, including claims for household goods damaged during change-of-station moves. Staffed by approximately 100 people, the AFCSC will provide convenient and efficient service for Airmen who experience losses.
Consolidation will ensure greater consistency in claim evaluation, maximize compensation to Airmen for their losses, and enhance the Air Force's ability to recover funds from responsible carriers for damage to household goods.
"While we can't eliminate all the risks to personal property that come with serving in the Air Force, we can, and will, make certain the claims process compensates our Airmen fairly and swiftly," Secretary Wynne said. "The AFCSC will do all that, while saving over $60 million over the next 10 years."
When the AFCSC is fully operational in 2008, claimants will be able to submit claims online, with dedicated claims professionals available for telephone assistance via the center's toll-free or DSN numbers.
Web-based claims submissions will speed the evaluation process and provide payments to claimants more quickly. During the transition to the improved system, wing legal offices will continue to provide personal claims assistance and ensure no loss of service to Airmen.
Calling CRM “no longer a prerogative of the business world,” the Indian publication The Economic Times reports that a free software has been developed for the use of the non-profit sector.
Called CivicCRM, it is designed “to enable the non-profit sector to keep in touch with their contacts and manage information about donors, donations, employees, volunteers and beneficiaries of their services,” according to TET.
It can be redistributed and improved upon by its users, and has a basic donor database product that accepts online donations, records contributions and manages receipts and thank-you-notes.
CivicCRM creates an online donation page for accepting donations online. It can also track donations, transactions, events and correspondence. There’s also a built-in mass mailer which can send out as many as a million e-mail on one click.
Any computer literate can operate the software effectively with just three hours of basic training, Micha Mach, a Polish software developer who was part of the software developing team said.
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