SugarCRM, Telework Day, Symmetry and SAP, SunGard, Call Center Jobs, Parallels

David Sims : First Coffee
David Sims
| CRM, ERP, Contact Center, Turkish Coffee and Astroichthiology:

SugarCRM, Telework Day, Symmetry and SAP, SunGard, Call Center Jobs, Parallels

The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is Miles Davis's mind-blowing album "A Tribute to Jack Johnson," which I guess technically is a jazz album, but which rocks harder than most other albums released in 1971. Thanks to Mikal Gilmore for introducing me to it:

SierraCRM has released the newest version of its process management engine for the open source SugarCRM
This latest release is described by company officials as a way to help users "capture more new business" and create a "customer-for-life" environment. If you think your business would benefit from that sort of thing.

"Companies are striving to get to know their existing customers better and market to new customers more effectively," SierraCRM officials believe, saying that their Process Manager product lets users model company best practices for acquiring and retaining customers through automated workflow.

It's offered in both full-featured and a "lite" configuration, which tastes great and is less filling. The full-featured Process Manager module, combining features of a marketing campaigns module and Process Driven module, sells for $149.00, and lets users send e-mails, schedule calls and meetings and create tasks over time. 

"Common uses of Process Manager include sending e-mails to customers after a sale or support ticket is closed and schedule follow-up calls and tasks for sales and support staff," company officials say. Uncommon uses include... well, use your imagination. 

Sierra's products for SugarCRM include the Process Manager and Marketing Manager, as well as SierraCRM's Routing Manager.

SierraCRM was founded in June of 2004 by people familiar with both AmdocsCRM and SugarCRM. It seems to have staked out its turf among products automating daily tasks associated with acquiring, processing, and marketing to prospects and customers.

Wi-Ex, which sells cell phone signal boosters, would like you to know it did its part for Telework Day last Monday. It'll be nice when Hallmark has a "Happy Telework Day" card, First Coffee seems to have let it slip by this year. 

The company -- Wi-Ex, not Hallmark -- started teleworking on a trial basis earlier this year with select departments. According to the zBoost "State of the Cell Signal Survey" commissioned by Wi-Ex and conducted by Harris Interactive, 31 percent of employed cell phone owners spend at least some time teleworking, or working from home, each week.

"We started allowing select departments the option to telework earlier this year and have been happy with the results," says Lloyd Meese, CEO of Wi-Ex, explaining that the company selected departments "that make the most sense," and it has worked well "in both our marketing and accounting departments." The custodial department was not selected for telework this year. 

"Our employees enjoy the flexibility of teleworking and being based in Atlanta they look forward to not having to worry about one of the nation's worst commutes." he notes. The man is telling the truth: Atlanta ranks second in the nation for worst commutes, according to, which estimates commuting costs Atlantans 60 hours a year. 

There are issues, of course. The zBoost "State of the Cell Signal" Survey found that 38 percent of teleworkers experience cell phone service problems while teleworking, including poor signal reception or dead zones in their home -- 26 percent -- and 21 percent reported dropped calls.

Telework Day is a joint project by the Telework Exchange, Telework!VA and Virginia government officials.

"My commute is 22 miles one day and on a good day it takes me between 20 and 30 minutes, but with rain or high traffic it can take up to an hour each way," says Sharon Cuppett, Wi-Ex Vice President of Marketing, adding that her marketing team "all telework one day a week, and I found that myself as well as my team are often more productive on those days."

Technology considered "extremely or very important" for successful teleworking included computer (88 percent), high speed Internet (84 percent), and landline (38 percent). Coffee makers no doubt scored highly as well.

Symmetry Corporation, which sells basis and security services in support of SAP, has announced it is now an SAP hosting partner offering SAP-certified hosting.

Dan Wilhelms, president of Symmetry Corporation, calls the certification "confirmation of Symmetry's methodology for managing SAP application-based environments, adding that concepts like cloud computing are "driving the IT industry towards a centralized, hosted model."

The Sym-Hosting service from Symmetry provides 24x7 production support and ongoing maintenance as well as support services for infrastructure, implementation and security. It relies on dedicated resources -- "clients never suffer performance issues or downtime as a result of shared servers or infrastructure," Symmetry officials say. 

Perhaps a bit unusually Sym-Hosting clients pay for rack space, rather than by the gigabyte, so businesses "are not penalized for their increasing storage requirements," company officials explain.

Symmetry achieved certification of its hosting services from SAP after an audit of its infrastructure, technical staff, and operations. The company claims over 200 SAP implementations and "over 80 outsourcing customers."

"Symmetry's status as an SAP hosting partner in the U.S. with hosting services certified by SAP is an important progression," says Michael Ressemann, global head of BPO Solution Delivery and Partner Enablement at SAP. 

Frank Powell, chief operating officer at Symmetry, says the company has what he called a "SAP-centric approach. With 14 years experience in Basis-managed services, we understand that SAP is not just another app on the net."

Symmetry is "100 percent U.S. based," company officials say, with services delivered primarily from Milwaukee.

SunGard has added what company officials describe as "a new watchlist checking online compliance" tool for corporations to its Ambit Anti-Money Laundering suite. 
Available through SunGard's Infinity SaaS platform, Ambit Customer Due Diligence will "help corporate risk and compliance officers maintain compliance with domestic and international regulations and sanctions, without adding a large technology footprint," company officials say. The perfect Christmas gift for that corporate officer with everything.

The checking of government sanctions and terrorist watch lists has become a part of protecting and safeguarding corporations' business interests, what with the increase in legislation -- Patriot Act, Sarbanes Oxley, etc. -- to curtail the illicit flow of funds into financial systems. 
Currently in the U.S. every business is required to cross-check their customers against the government's Specially Designated Nationals list, checking it twice to determine who's naughty and nice.

Ambit Customer Due Diligence provides a range of Web-based tools for "resolving and verifying the identity of potential and current employees, customers, suppliers and business partners," company officials say, adding that it also helps customers comply with government anti-terrorist legislation and list checking regulations. 

Colin Day, vice president for compliance and financial crime solutions in SunGard's banks business, said watch list checking is "a big challenge" for many of their customers: "There are many lists like the SDN list, and most are frequently updated and difficult to search. Most small-to-medium enterprises don't have the funds and resources to support an in-house software solution to track and check against these lists."
Infinity is described by SunGard officials as a tool to help financial institutions develop and deploy custom applications, "integrating SunGard components with their own proprietary or third party components," using SunGard's Common Services Architecture.

SunGard reports annual revenue exceeding $5 billion, ranking 435 on the Fortune 500 and is the largest privately held business software and services company on the Forbes list of private businesses.

Are things getting better on the job front in America? Despite the needle not moving on the latest unemployment report, some think there are indications.
The Daily Oklahoman recently ran a piece noting that while a nationwide report this week said planned layoffs by U.S. firms jumped 31 percent in July, "close to 400 job seekers arrived at the first of three job fairs for a new AAA Operations Center in northwest Oklahoma City."

As the paper reported, "An eager line of applicants began forming at noon Wednesday for the event's 6 p.m. start, AAA Oklahoma spokesman Chuck Mai said."

Mai told the Oklahoman that while "there were 370 people, it looked more like 3,000 to me. It was just amazing; I've never seen so many people in one area who were so well-dressed and with resumes."

Well-dressed people with resumes jostling for a place in line at a call center still under construction. You be the judge of whether that bespeaks improvement in the nation's economy or not.

The center will be a contact location for millions of AAA members in 10 states, the Oklahoman reported, adding that "AAA initially is looking to hire between 350 and 400 employees to fill insurance policy servicing, underwriting and claims positions... The center's ultimate goal is to have a work force of more than 800."

Mai termed Oklahoma City's work force "educated, sincere and motivated." He probably could have added "desperate," too.

The bump up in layoffs last month was the first increase in job cuts since January, according to global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas. So far this year, employers have announced 994,048 job cuts, the Oklahoman noted.

You know, "Oklahoma" is one of those words that starts to look weird the more you see it. 

According to the Challenger report, hardest hit nationwide was the transportation industry, which said it would reduce payrolls by almost 28,000 positions, up 400 percent from June's layoffs. Telecommunications jobs also suffered, with job cuts climbing 209 percent from June.

Automation and virtualization vendor Parallels has announced increased demand for its Parallels Automation offering among its hosting provider partners.

The service delivers applications like Microsoft Hosted Exchange in a software as a service model. 

Using a third party - such as a host or telco provider - to manage corporate e-mail and unified communications can be an alternative for companies lacking space or resources to administer what SMBs consider their most important business application. In the hosted exchange model, the service provider manages all the technology and support for the SMB.

"Hosts, telecommunication providers, and MSPs" are leading the industry trend, Parallels officials say, and "providing hosted e-mail services to SMBs in a cloud model, with capabilities that were historically only available to large enterprises."

The economy is probably increasing the attractiveness of Microsoft Hosted Exchange by SMBs as a way to lower their IT costs and overhead. In fact, according to a Gartner report in 2008, Microsoft Hosted Exchange will grow to 35 million users by 2012, "representing an 88-percent compound annual growth rate."
Microsoft Hosted Exchange is billed as offering SMBs an alternative to managing an in-house e-mail server. Parallels Automation is used by such cloud services providers as Apptix in the US, Cobweb in Europe, and GMO Hosting and Security in Asia, as well as telcos such as Portugal Telecom and Sunrise.

"E-mail continues to be the most popular form of business communication today," said Philbert Shih, research analyst at Tier1 Research and winner of the First Coffee Interesting Name of the Week Award. "But in order to save on IT spending, SMBs and enterprises are increasingly making the move from on-premise e-mail deployments to a hosted model."

Chris Damvakaris, Vice President of Sales and Business Development for Apptix, reported "tremendous interest from our channel partners for the expanded suite of hosted communication services." 

"Our SMB customers need to avoid upfront costs associated with purchasing the hardware and software, but need to access the latest applications and services, such as business-class e-mail," notes Claudio Granella, Product Manager at Sunrise.

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Global slowdown has turned 1.31 lakh persons jobless in last three months, according to a quarterly report by the labor bureau on the slowdown and its impact on employment in India. Indian manufacturing and service sectors, including textile, export, Information Technology, Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and gems and jewellery sectors, have been adversely hit due to low demand in the global market, forcing these sectors to shed jobs during April-June 2009.

We're using SugarCRM with out fabrication business, yet it's been a difficult road. It's always hard to get people to change. I'll be taking a closer look at your process management tools - mentioned above. Thanks SEF.

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