Things That Work Well in ZOHO CRM: Find and Merge Duplicate Records

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Managing duplicate records is one of the hardest things to accomplish when using CRM software. Just trying to determine what is a duplicate is hard enough and when you find a duplicate somehow you have to decide which fields need to be merged from the duplicate records.

In ZOHO the process is almost automatic. I have spent so much time on this issue with other CRM systems in the past that when I saw how ZOHO handled it I shed a little tear of joy.

Check it out. Go to any kind of record, Lead, Account, Contact, Vendor, whatever that you think is a dupe and click the Find and Merge Duplicate button.

You will go to a UI that allows you to narrow your dupe search. In this case I am using the email address and last name. I came up with 6 matches and four of them have the same email address.

I can merge three at a time so I check them and press the View Duplicates button. This is where the magic happens. I can choose which record is the master record and if the fields within each record are different I can choose which field will get merged. It works perfect. This is a huge feature that solves a huge problem and is so easy to use any temp admin staff person can do with minimal training. Not the case with any other CRM system I have used.

From a software development standpoint this is a deep and complex problem to solve.  The fact that Zoho CRM does it so well is a solid indication of the thought and planning that has gone into the product.

More information on the ZOHO Find and Merge process can be found here.

Adam Stone is a Zoho CRM customer and CEO/Founder of D-Tools Software.

Live Olympics 2008 Dashboard – Powered by Zoho Reports

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Olympic fever has gripped many of us. This edition could provide a much closer finish at the top of the table with China and USA running head-head. China being the host nation, could have the home advantage to topple US leadership this Olympics. Anyway let’s wait and watch….

Some of the Olympics enthusiasts here at Zoho thought about building a Live Olympics 2008 Dashboard for a quick preview of the latest trends. We used Zoho Reports to upload the latest Olympics results periodically and built some insightful reports. We designed a live dashboard using Zoho Wiki collating some of the top reports created. You can access this @ http://olympics2008.wiki.zoho.com

Some of the reports available:

1. Day by Day Medal progress in Olympics 2008 of top performing countries
2. China vs USA head-head comparison
3. Top 7 countries – By Overall Medal count, By Men Event Winners, By Women Event Winners
4. Performance of a Country when being a Olympics Host vs as Non Host
5. many more…

You can also access the entire public Olympic 2008 database done in Zoho Reports.

So just bookmark the Olympics Dashboard, keep track of the progress and enjoy the games…..

Clarence
Zoho Reports – Online Reporting & BI service

WSJ Op-Ed: For Most People College is a Waste of Time

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Knowing what we do with our own alternative to college in India, multiple people sent me this op-ed at the WSJ by Charles Murray  For Most People College is a Waste of Time, asking for my opinion. Before I proceed, let me first state one thing clearly: the problems I have with Indian college education, which inspired our alternative, are of a different nature than the problems (I do have some!) I have with American college education. I have experience with both, and I believe the issues are fundamentally different.

Charles Murray mainly attacks the traditional (if that is the right word here) liberal arts component of American college experience:

Outside a handful of majors — engineering and some of the sciences — a bachelor’s degree tells an employer nothing except that the applicant has a certain amount of intellectual ability and perseverance. Even a degree in a vocational major like business administration can mean anything from a solid base of knowledge to four years of barely remembered gut courses.

In my experience, American undergraduate engineering education is very, very good, but you have to know where to find it. A “middling” or even a “low” school is better for most students because the faculty is more focused on teaching vs a “prestige” school, where the faculty is purchasing that prestige through research (more on that later) so teaching is a chore for them. The humble community colleges offer the most bang for the buck (literally) in most basic math/science/engineering courses – and indeed, that has been our role model in our own internal initiative. If you are short of money, this is the path I would recommend: take all the basic math/science/engineering classes in your local community college, and then transfer credits to a middling state school for more advanced ones. You can get a fine engineering education for very little money this way.

On the subject of research, let me state it very plainly: most research in engineering, even in prestige schools, is bunk (note: I didn’t say “all”, I said “most”, there are rare exceptions). Academia at that level is a tenure-chasing paper production game. You master the art of packaging trivia in impressive sounding language. In hard sciences and engineering, the language that truly establishes your superiority over the rest of humanity is mathematics, so you end up writing highly  unreadable – I doubt even dissertation committees truly read that stuff – mathematical garbage. I had seen it when I was doing my PhD in the early 1990s (I was well connected, with tons of friends from India across a broad range of schools) and most recently I see it clearly in programming language research in Computer Science, which I have attempted to follow.

On liberal arts American education, I fully agree with Murray. Let me give a bit of background to this. When I was an engineering undergraduate in India, I found myself utterly bored and miserable with the education that was on offer. There was a period I did nothing but read, read and read. George Orwell, in particular, was my favorite (I was recently reminded of it at Hacker News, and ended up re-reading Nineteen Eighty Four) – I read every one of his works. I was also well schooled by Bertrand Russell, attempted to but failed with Karl Marx, and found inspiration with Ayn Rand. None of it had anything to do with my “official” education in Electrical Engineering – let me just say that I sacrificed Maxwell for Orwell –  but by then, I had decided I was going to do it on my own.

So why is that relevant here? Orwell’s Politics and the English Language proved even more educational than I realized, when I came to America, with liberal arts faculty providing the perfect, if unwitting, illustration – here is a link on deconstruction for you.

Returning to engineering, there is a fundamentally different reason I believe alternatives to college education are needed, and that has to do with contextual knowledge and the ability to hold the interest of students. Think about a subject like programming languages. A typical “good” Computer Science program (assume a really good teacher) gives you a very good grounding in parsing, compilers and such. The issue I have is the psychology of most students. No matter how well this subject matter is taught, it is going to be boring for most, because the context is all wrong for them to pay attention. There is no shared purpose in that classroom context: when it comes right down to it, the typical student is focused on getting through with the torture and getting a decent grade, so he or she can get on with their lives.

More on the subject of contextual knowledge later.

Macro Recording & Playback in Zoho Sheet

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Some of you may know that we recently launched Macros (and Pivot Tables) support in Zoho Sheet. With our recent update, we now have a new addition – Support for Visual Basic Macro Record & Playback in Zoho Sheet.

While writing Macros from scratch requires knowledge of Visual Basic, recording Macros for your spreadsheet just needs couple of mouse clicks. Under the Macros Menu, you’ll now see the ‘Record Macro’ option to record your Macro.

After you start recording, all the changes you make to the spreadsheet will be recorded and the appropriate Visual Basic code will be created at the back-end for you. Once you are done recording, you can view the Visual Basic Macro code and apply that Macro to other Sheets.

This video shows this functionality in action.

We have been rolling out quite a number of features and enhancements to our applications and some of them give us a great level of satisfaction.This new feature in Zoho Sheet certainly falls into this category.

The fact that Zoho Sheet is the only spreadsheet (apart from Excel) to support Visual Basic Macros says a lot about our focus on the depth of our individual applications. With feature-rich apps, we are trying to address the business needs of our user base.

Please give this new Zoho Sheet functionality a try and let us know what you think.

Related posts at : CenterNetworks, ReadWriteWeb, Profy, The Dallas Morning News, Zoli’s Blog, lifehacker.

Things That Work Well in ZOHO CRM: – Sheet View

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Introduction here

As far as I know Sheet View is exclusive to ZOHO CRM. A common task (chore) in the management of any CRM system is editing large swaths of data at once. Some systems like Oasis CRM only give you a really crappy (trust me) mass update function. Other systems like Salesforce make you export to Excel to update a bunch of records and then re-import. (not fun)

ZOHO has a great mass update function that works as expected but sometimes you want to be able to change selected records as a group. For example changing just certain records to a new sales territory without changing all of them at once. You want to be able to get a view of all the possibles, sort as needed and then make the changes as needed. Common problem in the CRM admin world and until now I have not seen a good solution until I started working with the ZOHO CRM Sheet View.

Check it out. In this case I want to add a Sub-Territory to the main Territory. All I have to do is create a custom list view of the information. Press the ZOHO Sheet View link and I get an instant ZOHO Spreadsheet of the exact data presented in a new browser tab.

Once I am in the ZOHO Sheet View I can use any normal spreadsheet functions to copy, add cells change case, whatever I want can be done in the spreadsheet and when I hit save the records are automatically updated in the CRM system.

Very well implemented feature, totally useful, easy to use and HUGE time saver.

Adam Stone is a Zoho CRM customer and CEO/Founder of D-Tools Software.

John Conroy @ CMSWire on Zoho

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CMSWire’s John Conroy has an interesting take on Zoho and our parent company AdventNet, in an article titled ‘Why Web Startups Work Better as Divisions of Larger Companies‘. Excerpts :

Startups in the Web applications arena can take a lot of lessons from Zoho: its extremely rapid development cycle, its attitude to monetization and to PR. And, by no means least, the way it scaled. And this latter element owes a lot to the fact that Zoho does not stand alone.

Zoho is a division of AdventNet, a multi-focus software developer which sells OEM, other database software and a multitide of enterprise products, and has been kicking around the scene since the mid-nineties. Crucial in Zoho’s success has been the presence of the parent company, which can pump manpower and financial resources into a blossoming start-up to mitigate against exploding servers, user downtime, and buggy applications. And hopefully do it as quickly as necessary, which today, for any Web service, means NOW.

Thanks to John & CMSWire.

Automatic Payment Reminders For Invoices

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Our goal is to make invoicing fast, easy and painless for our customers. When we say invoicing, we include the entire process of creating, sending, tracking and managing the invoices. More often than not, tracking and following-up for payments takes a lot of time and energy than the other activities. We clearly understand this. So, here we are in line with our goal introducing a brand new feature “Automatic Payment Reminders” which we hope will definitely help reduce your pain points.

Yes, now you can automate the process of sending payment reminders to your customers. We have tried to make this feature as flexible as possible (at least that is what we think :~))

  1. You can specify when each of these reminders has to be sent. Say for example you can configure that the first reminder has to be sent 2 days after the invoice due date, the second one 14 days after the due date and the third one 21 days after the due date.
  2. You have full control over the content of each of these reminders, still better you can make use of the placeholders in the content.
  3. You also have complete control over who has to be notified via each of these reminders. You can send it to yourself or send it to your customers directly and have yourself copied.

Configuring these automatic payment reminders is simple,

  1. Click on the “Settings” link and select the “Payment Reminders” link under “Invoice Settings”.
  2. In the “Payment Reminder” page that comes up each of these reminders can be configured by clicking on the appropriate row in the table.
Invoice Payment Reminders Settings

You can try out this feature by signing into Zoho Invoice now. We would definitely like to hear your comments and don’t forget to drop us a note when you enjoy using this feature.

Happy Invoicing
Siva