Tag Archives: bizmerlin

Top 5 Priorities for New HR Managers

Congratulations! You have just been offered the post of an HR manager! Sure, the next couple of days will be celebration, moving, boxing and unboxing. If you have a tiny bit of gap, you may even be able to squeeze in a vacation (do try the Strawberry rhubarb mojito if you get a chance!). And then, you are there at your new place, ready to roll up your mangas and get working. Now, what is that you really need to do? Chances are that the new place is (or at least will appear to be) very chaotic. That is just the nature of HR. Things are constantly moving and that is what makes the job so fulfilling! Here then, is the list of top 5 things – very simple things really, but things that you really need to do in your first week in order to start off well and be a huge success at your new job.

Continue reading the rest of the article at LinkedIn.

My Review of Worker skill estimation paper by Rahman et al

My review of “Worker skill estimation in team-based tasks” paper by Rahman, Thirumuruganathan, Roy, Amer-Yahia and Das, is now available on Computing Reviews here. (Requires ACM membership, and it is incidentally, my 11th review for ACM Computing Reviews – you can find the other ones here.)

Companies generally struggle with the problem of estimating the skills of individuals, as it is a hard thing to keep updated and has enormous applications in optimal team formation. Skills are sometimes subjective, can have many variations (Spoken French expertise, or Written Legal French expertise, for example) and change rapidly over time. Historically, skill management used to be only for large companies implementing million dollar SAP HR system implementations, but with the advent of cloud hosted SaaS applications, that situation is now changing. I am fortunate to work on the BizMerlin‘s exciting skill matrix product, so this paper was all the more interesting for me.

5 Awesome alternatives to SalesForce

Salesforce.com is a leading CRM solution and has been quite successful in maintaining its position since 1999. Salesforce is a good solution for many big and established companies but due to its cost and complexity, it is not the right solution for everyone. People like choices, and there are choices available in the market that offer excellent features and strengths to empower the organizations with successful sales planning and management. Depending upon the needs and the vision of the organization, one of the many alternatives for sales management can be selected and used.  We list the top 5 alternatives, but needless to say, there are many others as well.

Sugar CRM

Sugar CRM is a leading open source CRM system – Sugar Community Edition can be downloaded for free and is intended for developers to learn more about Sugar CRM. You can host SugarCRM on premises as well as on cloud.

In SugarCRM, each user is allowed to have their own database and they can add applications that they already use and need.  The hosting flexibility gives your organization more choice and capability to extract data as is required.

BizMerlin CRM


BizMerlin is a proven cloud based sales force automation planning and management tool.  Your sales team can manage contacts, opportunities and accounts from web as well as mobile application.  If your sales team makes calls from their mobile phones, they can also “sweep” all those calls directly into the CRM using the mobile app.  This minimizes the data entry and allows you to leverage all the data for win-loss analysis.

BizMerlin has a compelling Android app.  Using this app, you can track your mobile workforce in real-time. Sales teams especially in the field operations can have better routes – both planned and executed; and more efficiency in terms of response time. BizMerlin can also track the location automatically and you can easily visualize the salesperson’s route and the meeting logs. This enables you to keep track of your sales teams’ efforts and productivity.

A cool feature that makes BizMerlin stand apart from the rest is the Opportunity interaction graph. With this graph you can see all the interactions that have taken place between your sales team and clients related to a particular opportunity. This is a very unique and useful feature to understand how long the sales cycle is and to analyze each opportunity.


Streak CRM


[Streak is currently free while in Beta and we expect paid premium offers in near future.]

Streak CRM is an extension to share your email and track deals through your GMail inbox.  It groups emails of same type or from same clients together. This uses GMail’s built in label system where you label your emails. The app comes preloaded with 8 default business processes, called “pipelines,” and you can also create your own customary pipeline.

Streak is a blessing if you handle most of your sales processes via email and you have to switch again and again from your inbox to other systems.

BPM Online


In addition to CRM, BPM Online offers business process management system that intelligently guides employee’s actions and recommends next steps as defined by customer profile and your business goals. You can also synchronize your CRM with your Google calendar and MS Outlook.

Options for start-ups start from  $78/month with capacity of up to 1000 contacts and storage capacity of 3GB to complete business management system that costs  $595/month with 3 users included with capability to store up to 5000 contacts and storage capacity of up to 100 GB.

So, BPM Online is a good solution to those who need a BPM solution alone or in addition to CRM solution.

Work etc


Work etc offers almost all the features that are offered by SalesForce, and their small business software contains sales tracking as well as project management.  With Gmail and Outlook plugins, Work etc provides many features, although its price tag may be unattractive to some.

For back end accounting, Work etc provides QuickBooks Online and Xero integrations and these are some neat features of Work etc.

In Summary..

There are numerous choices available to SalesForce.   Many of these choices are simpler than SalesForce to use, and many of them contain other offerings which may be of interest to your small business.  Having an integrated platform may be a significant value for your business.

“You forgot to get your empanada”, and other lessons in Customer Service

Caramel Apple EmpanadaAfter starving for 12 hours for my annual physical, I decided to treat myself with some gourmet Taco Bell food – 2 burritos, 1 pepsi and 1 Caramel Apple Empanada.  After all, with the triglycerides locked in for a year, what is the harm in eating foods that have 23% of your daily requirement of fats. (“If you don’t measure your cholesterol etc., it doesn’t change” — Amrinder).

When I pulled out of the drive through, there was no empanada in it, and if I was smarter and more health conscious I would have left the matters at that, but as I said, it was after 12 hours of fasting and it was a different Amrinder.  So, as I pulled into the drive through again, the woman said “Forgot your empanada?”.  Did I forget it?  No, I ordered one.  You took the order, and noted it.  You charged me for it.  I paid for it.  Here, this receipt even shows it.  The only thing that happened was that you forgot to put it into the brown bag.

Examples like this of poor/mediocre customer service abound.  Still, it must be said that Taco Bell (and McD and BK) has great customer service.  A company of this size can’t possibly exist with some very good customer service standards in place.  In this particular case, perhaps the customer service representative was just not taught what to do in case she forgot to include something in the order.  And the customer service management at Yum brands probably spends a fair bit of time reviewing the processes, the processes for making processes, and such.

When I wrote about decalcification of Jura coffee machine, within a few minutes, I got a blog comment from a customer service rep explaining the decalcification process and where I could get supplies etc.  Of course, cynics might say that the company is trying to sell the supplies, but from a customer perspective, the service rocks!

Similarly when I wrote about how unintuitive the user-project assignment piece in BizMerlin was (the way I put it, it was designed to take everyone off of projects ;-)), the BizMerlin team responded very quickly and their visual way of showing users to projects assignments is the best in the business.  Every month as I go through resources and where they are allocated, it is an indispensable tool to memorialize that.

But back to TacoBell, and I shouldn’t let that inviting picture of empanada go without being accompanied by the nutrition facts.

Time card reporting

Just when you think you are like the unstoppable Toyota on your mission to solve the most complex development challenges, our local admin just has to stop by and say “Hey hey – Friday! Done your timesheet yet?” Done my timesheet? What do I look like? I do work, not timesheets.

Time card reporting is one of those classic functions that every single developer that I know really hates, but the admins can’t do without. For a long time, I have been wondering on how to make this process as simple, and as painless as it can be. There are some good tools and some add-ons to other tools that give it a nice shot. I use FogBugz for case management, and I have been wondering if this is a function that really belongs inside that, but so far the “Currently working on..” feature in FogBugz is just for EBS, not really for any time reporting.

Tried RescueTime as well, and while it works better than most others, it is not as configurable as I would like, and data entries cannot be output into a format that I can then import somewhere else. BizMerlin is a great application as well, probably one of the best, and besides not having a backend integration with QuickBooks, has pretty much everything else. Probably one of the best ways that the timesheet/timecard reporting can be made valuable to the developers is if it can double as a status report tool too. So, rather than entering the time and sending the status report, you can do just one, and it serves both purposes. That is one way I have encountered less resistance from the development team.