Sorry about how I haven't been posting recently. There are two reasons for this. This first is that I just moved from Park City to San Francisco. I finally getting settled in so I can start being productive again.
The second reason blog posts have been few and far between is that our software is really taking shape and it's hard to tear myself away from programming. I realize that I haven't really talked about what Less Annoying Software will look like, so I'm going to spend this post briefly going over what we're working on.
I've mentioned before how I've noticed that way too many individual salespeople and small businesses don't seem to have any good system for keeping track of their clients. The first (and maybe only product) we're creating is a simple but powerful CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) tool meant for individuals and small businesses. This tool will basically be a souped up contact manager.
You may be saying "But Tyler, Outlook already has a contact manager that works just fine." If you're saying that, it highlights my point that most people are using really bad software to manage the most important part of their business (the customers). Outlook is basically just a dump of data. It lets you record information about people, but there are some very important things missing. Here are some of the major differences between a CRM and an traditional address book application:
This is pretty simple, but very important. In Outlook (or any address book) you can enter notes about contacts, but there's only one field. This means that there's no easy way to record different events. A good contact management system should let you enter notes every time you deal with a customer because entering everything in one big notes field gets messy and can't be sorted or filtered easily.
This one is huge. If a small business has multiple employees, it can be really hard to keep track of everyone's contacts. For example, let's say a salesperson sells a widget to a customer. Then the customer calls the company for help setting up the widget. How would the customer service person have any idea who the customer is without access to the salesperson's contacts? Maybe the customer service person finds out information about the customer that could potentially help the salesperson make another sale, but there's no way to pass that information back and forth with Outlook. Right now people send emails with this info, but then what happens when a new employee needs to get up to speed on a customer?
Outlook is only helpful if you already know what you're looking for. What if Outlook showed you a report with a list of every single pending customer service issue at your company sorted by priority? Well, a CRM can do just that. Whenever you enter information about a contact, you're able to categorize the note (something like "Customer Service" with a status of "Unresolved") and prioritize it. Then you can easily view reports based on these categories. A good CRM should help you manage your entire day through these reports.
Most business deals involve more than just one customer. If you're trying to sell a product to a company, there may be three different people that you deal with. You need to track all these people together but still treat them as three different contacts. There also needs to be a difference between a company record and a contact.
Better User Interface
This isn't a fundamental restriction with tools like Outlook, but most contact management systems are analogs of paper address books. This really limits the way people think about UI and it hurts the end user. Even if you used our CRM exactly the way you use Outlook, I think you'd like it a lot more just because it isn't trying to mimic a paper based system.
A Million Other Things
The points above are just the things that came to mind as I wrote this. Anyone that's used a CRM knows that it's not even the same type of experience as using a tool like Outlook.
This post is getting too long but I still haven't really talked about our product, just CRMs in general. So I'll end this post here, but expect a follow-up with details about how we're going to be different from the other CRM tools out there and how we're planning on building our user base.
Also, if you're interested in trying out our CRM, let me know. It's functional right now (although not polished) so you can start tinkering if you have any interest. We'll charge $10/month once the first version is released, but that won't be for a few months so it's free for now. Who knows, we may not even charge people that get in early.