Wednesday May 25, 2011

Read This Book - Please!

Mr. McDade’s voice echoed in my brain, What you cannot clearly state, you do not know. He was my high school English teacher, and I thought of him as I read the Oracle CRM On Demand Deployment Guide. Why? Because the authors, Jeff Saenger, Tim Koehler, and Louis Peters, gave me insight into a product that I’d been documenting for years now!
  • They explained basics that I sort of knew but probably could not “clearly state” (or not state as clearly as the authors do).
  • They framed information from a different perspective, shedding some high-level light on the product.
  • They provided details that I wasn't aware of at all!

Before I tell you more, though, let me confess that I know the authors. In fact, the entire curriculum development team has tapped into their expertise when developing training materials.

Nevertheless, even realizing the depth of knowledge that the authors have amassed, I had low expectations. After all, software, SaaS, configurations? Not the stuff that keeps you up at night! But happily, their book is, dare I say, a great read!

First of all, it spans big and small topics, taking you through planning, designing, and maintaining your application. Yes, that could be a little dry, but the language is clear and understandable, made more comprehensible with specific examples peppered throughout. And most importantly, it’s chock full of best practices. Articulate, accessible, and relevant to application designers.

Here’s just a sample of discussions that caught my interest:
  • Designing to meet different solutions
  • Chapter 6, “Sample Oracle CRM On Demand Designs,” details six different designs, which address solutions ranging from B2B sales to consumer support services to retail banking sales and service to pharmaceutical sales call tracking. The authors graphically represent the process flow for each solution and discuss the necessary object design, access and visibility, analytics, and integration setup.

  • Understanding the embedded processes
  • I love the way the authors describe the core sales, marketing, and service functionality that is embedded in the application. Knowing how the product works will help you match your business needs with those in the product for total leveraging. Do that before you start thinking about customizing anything.

  • Tinkering with the default objects
  • The authors take you through each default object and point out “special purpose fields” and “relational design” for each of those. And then they discuss considerations when customizing those objects. (Yes, I knew about those special purpose fields but hadn’t grasped the full significance of tweaking them.)

  • Leveraging the industry objects
  • If you find a gap in functionality between your needs and the product, look at the industry objects, which can be turned on through Oracle customer care. Often, you can repurpose those objects to fill the gap.

  • Keeping an eye on the schedules for the Staging and Testing environments
  • Ever wonder what environments are available with your subscription, or how they work? Well, the authors outline each environment and caution you to pay attention to the schedule to preserve any new configurations that you want to move to your production environment.

  • Using formulas for field validation, default values, and workflows
  • In the Appendix, the authors list some formulas for field validation, default values, and workflows, such as 1) updating an opportunity’s Close Date field with Today’s Date when its Sales Stage is Closed/Won or Closed/Lost or 2) when an Opportunity is modified, update its Priority to match that of its associated Account. Great examples to use or adjust for your own business requirements!

In short, the authors have been the “bridge” between customers and trainers, including me. Now the bridge has been extended to everyone…and it’s quite a view! Mr. McDade would be pleased.
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