What “The Internet of Customers” means to me

I’ve spent the last few days at Dreamforce 2013 thinking about this year’s theme: The Internet of Customers.

What does it mean to the nonprofits I support? What does that have to do with CRM? I don’t want to just introduce my clients to a new mobile app – I want to show them why it matters. I want to drink the Kool Aid and share it.

This morning I received an email which led me to a bit of a revelation:

Hello Webmaster,

We had approached you on dated October 13th, 2013 for remove our back links from following links.

(links removed)

It has been past almost one week and neither link has been deleted nor any confirmation from your side. Again we are requesting you to remove link or we have only option to approach for disavow tool.

Disavow tool may be harm to your website so please remove back link and confirm us.

Softweb Solutions

I’m not honoring this company with another backlink – they’re easy enough to find if you’re curious to see a company still living in 2003 and not 2013. This isn’t a startup fly-by-night. This is a big company serving the enterprise space.

I replied, to express a bit of a WTF but mainly to see if a real person sent the message. He replied and said he “understood my situation” but his manager made him do it.

The link in question was on a comment at the bottom of a 5 year old blog post. The comment itself was “Thanks for this information” and the URL of Softweb Solutions. Truth be told, I typically delete such useless drivel right away as blog spam. Guess that one slipped through in 2008.

I was mad. First, I don’t like being threatened. (who does?) Does it look like I care about the disavow tool? I’ve long stopped monitoring where my blog comes up in search results. When I have something I want to say I post here, and when people who care about what I post want to read what I post they come here and they read it. If they really like it they’ll post a link on their own networks. That’s all I look at. If it comes up in Google, all the better. I don’t remember the last time I looked at traffic stats.

But then I thought about it and it made me sad for poor sorry Softweb Solutions. They don’t get it. This is a technology company in 2013 serving the enterprise with expertise in every tired technology, and they are clueless about what it means to be a customer company. And they shouldn’t be clueless. No business or nonprofit can afford to be clueless about the direction we’re heading.

I’m not their customer, and probably never will be. I’m sad that they saw a link buried in a comment on a 5 year old post and decided that I had no value as a potential customer or partner. They didn’t know that I recommend technology to many others, including some who work for or connect with some very large companies. They didn’t know that I have 1,000 more followers than their company Twitter account does. They apparently decided based on one old page on this site that I was a detractor to their success rather than an opportunity. And that’s sad.

And here I am, posting a blog saying bad things about this company and there’s no disavow tool they can threaten me with to make this go away. People who follow me might be looking for exactly the service that Softweb Solutions offers and their first impression of the company may very well be someone else’s negative insight.

That’s the Internet of Customers, isn’t it? Everyone who touches your brand, even if it’s in a buried and forgotten blog post by some tiny person, is your customer or constituent. Are you going to threaten them with disavow or make a positive impact? Your choice.

A customer company would have known that I’m so much more than a blog that doesn’t get enough love.

Dear Softweb Solutions: I was more than happy to mark that useless ancient comment as spam. You don’t deserve to have a link here.

Open Letter to Salesforce Nonprofit Admins

In the 20 months since I left Fight Colorectal Cancer, I would guess that I’ve logged in to no less than 150 nonprofit Salesforce organizations. First as part of my role supporting customers at Convio/Blackbaud, and now in my role at KELL Partners where I work with clients who contract with us for support or virtual administration services.

When trying to troubleshoot a problem, one of the first things I typically look at is how the organization has structured their security and sharing model. Profiles, roles, organization-wide defaults, sharing settings. I’m thrilled to say that I’ve logged in to many organizations where the System Administrator is truly that – someone whose is responsible (and accountable) for the way Salesforce works for everyone else. Someone who protects the data and their configuration. Someone who knows where experimentation is okay and where they need to tread lightly. If that’s you, then thank you – this post isn’t for you. But please read on and comment on anything I’ve missed, okay?

For this post, I’m talking to the organization whose Manage Users looks something like this (yes, this is from a real org I won’t mention by name):


Read on and I’ll explain exactly why it’s a very bad idea, and I’ll give you some suggestions on what to do to protect your organization’s data and your sanity.

Continue reading “Open Letter to Salesforce Nonprofit Admins”

Smartsheet: Frustrated with online project management no longer

smartsheet1It’s been a while since I posted anything that wasn’t related to Salesforce, hasn’t it? Here’s something a little different, but still cheerleading technology and tools I like, which I used to do a lot more of.

Over 3 years ago, I wrote a blog post about my quest to find decent project management software for Fight Colorectal Cancer. That post was quite popular for a while and still gets a fair number of page views. Commenters either sympathized, or used the post’s page rank to promote their own wares.

Right around the time I started at KELL Partners last year, I helped our team implement Smartsheet as our main tool for keeping track of timelines, requirements and deliverables with clients and internal projects. Truth be told, had Smartsheet existed in this form 3 years ago, I wouldn’t have been so frustrated. It meets all the requirements I mentioned in that post and then some.

Right now we have 389 active sheets in our Team account. I’ve been asked a few times, “Why Smartsheet? Why aren’t you just using Google Docs?”

Yes, some of what we’re doing in Smartsheet could be done in Google Docs. But aside from the fact that KELL doesn’t use Google Apps so documents wouldn’t be centralized and owned by the company, Smartsheet does so much more than just flat spreadsheets. Every time I use it, I find some cool new way to make it work better.

What is Smartsheet? It’s an Excel/Google Doc-like online app that generates spreadsheets that are more dynamic than just rows & columns. In addition to spreadsheets, there’s quite a bit of Microsoft Project thrown in (it can even import Project files). The interface is very simple to learn and use, which makes it ideal for sharing with clients of all technical backgrounds. You need a paid account to create sheets after the free trial expires. But those sheets can be shared with anyone, either through a named user or through a publish link that anyone can view if they know it.

Here’s why I think Smartsheet is a better choice than Google Docs for team collaboration, so I can just point to this post in the future.

Continue reading “Smartsheet: Frustrated with online project management no longer”