Hosted Echanges Services with Microsoft Exchange Server

This article highlights the pros and cons of using a hosted Exchange service as opposed to implementing Microsoft Exchange Server yourself in-house.

A number of Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) are now hosting Microsoft Exchange Server for small businesses who want to utilise the power of Exchange Server without the hassle involved of managing it and maintaining it in-house. This service is typically called Hosted Exchange or a Managed Exchange Service. Note that because Exchange Server is an “application”, you will also see the vendors offering this service referred to as ASP’s (Application Service Providers).

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We discuss the following:

  1. Who this article might be of interest to

  2. What is Microsoft Exchange Server?

  3. What is a Hosted Exchange Service?

  4. What you get

  5. Outlook 2003 Desktop Client

  6. Outlook Web Access

  7. What You Pay

  8. The Benefits of using a Hosted Exchange Service

  9. Possible Downsides

  10. Who could Benefit

  11. Cost Savings

  12. Why deploy Managed E-Mail?

  13. What do you need?

  14. Managed Exchange Providers

  15. Contact Management/CRM - A Collaborative Application in Action
    1. A Contact Management Application
    2. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
    3. Outlook as the Medium for the Contact Management/CRM
    4. Outlook Limitations

  16. MX-Contact: CRM/Contact Management for Outlook/Exchange
    1. What is MX-Contact Adding to Outlook
    2. The MX-Contact Base System
    3. Sales Automation with the MX-Contact Sales Module
    4. Marketing Management with the MX-Contact Marketing Module
    5. Service Help Desk Management with the MX-Contact Support Module
    6. MX-Contact - Optimised for a Managed Exchange Environment
  17. About OutlookWise and ExchangeWise

1. Who this article might be of interest to

If you are currently using Outlook (or any e-mail program for that matter) with what is known as an Internet Mail or POP account, and you have a need to collaborate or share information with either co-workers in the same company or any other people that you are frequently in contact with, and you are not using Exchange Server, then this article will definitely be of interest to you.

Even for those who are currently using Outlook with Exchange Server, a Managed Exchange Service can bring significant productivity and cost benefits, especially where you have multiple distributed Exchange Servers and are struggling to synchronise data between these servers.

Likewise, read further if you are currently experiencing some of the following problems:

·           You don’t have a central Calendar from which you can co-ordinate everyone’s diaries

You need a central calendar where everyone’s appointments are “visible” in the sense that if you need to schedule an appointment with them you will know if they’re available or not without having to call or contact them.

·           You don’t have one common Contacts List

Everyone is maintaining details of your company’s clients, partners, suppliers etc. in their individual Outlook Contacts folder, which means duplication of effort on everyone’s part and incomplete information for those people not keeping their contact lists up to date.

·           You can’t keep track of who is responsible for what activities

If several of you are working on a common project or a common customer, and different members of the team are responsible for performing various tasks, then it is impossible to know which tasks have been worked on or completed by each person again without regular contact or meetings.

·           You don’t have a central document repository

You are working in different offices and don’t have one common place to store all documents that everyone is collectively updating. The net result is that your are constantly e-mailing these documents around to each team member, who then all end up with different versions if multiple people are simultaneously updating the same document.

·           You don’t have visibility of e-mails received/sent

You are working in conjunction with other team members but have no way of all being able to see important e-mail correspondence sent and received to common contacts, without necessarily all being CC’d in on every e-mail.

·           You can’t take important data/information away with you “offline”

You don’t have a way of synchronising the “public” information at your office onto your notebook or PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) so that you can view and update it when you’re “on the road”, and then resynchronise your changes back to the shared database when you return (or reconnect remotely) to the office.

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2. What is Microsoft Exchange Server?

Microsoft Exchange Server is Microsoft’s Messaging and Collaboration Server. Exchange is essentially a piece of software that runs on a server that is designed to:

a)         send and receive electronic mail to and from the mailboxes belonging to client computers connected to that server as well as to any other mailboxes anywhere in the world that can be reached via the internet, and

b)         share other types of documents and information amongst those same co-workers.

 

 

Exchange offers the following:

·           Easier Collaboration for Office Users

Exchange makes it easy to share information across a workgroup or replicate it across your organisation.

Using Exchange, users are able to:

·               exchange e-mail with co-workers, customers, partners, and suppliers,

·               co-ordinate daily schedules to easily plan meetings

·               share customer information, correspondence, call reports/meeting notes in public folders

·               delegate and assign tasks to other users through e-mail.

You have the ability to grant other people, such as assistants or administrators, access to your mailbox on your behalf. You can also manage “rules” for processing messages on Exchange Server, giving you the flexibility to create auto-responses and automatic filing of incoming messages.

·           Facilitates Group Scheduling

You can share your calendar with an administrative assistant, who can schedule meetings around your availability. In addition, Outlook and Exchange support direct booking of resources such as conference rooms.

·           Better Customer Service with Built-In Contact Management for Teams

Organise all meetings, documents, tasks, and communications with your customers so that all team members have easy (and shared) access to this information from a central location.

·           Improves Team/Project Productivity with Outlook’s Team Folders

The team folders in Outlook create a workspace where workgroups, virtual teams, and project teams can share group calendars, tasks, contacts, discussions, documents, and other important information.

One is able to set rules so that only team members can gain access to the relevant folders.

·           Streamlines Business Processes

Turn paper-based processes into efficient online applications by simply standardising paper forms, putting them online and routing them to people who need to see them. Create applications such as sales proposal reviews, holiday requests, timecards, help-desk requests and expense reporting.

Mobile users can save money and time by submitting expense reports while out of the office.

·           Flexibility for Branch Offices or Mobile Employees.

You can log on from the road with the same functionality as if you were sitting in the office.

Exchange Server 2003 supports mobile devices such as Pocket PC and Smartphones and enables you to synchronize your Inbox, Calendar, Contacts and Tasks lists so you can remotely check your appointments and other important information. Mobile device browsers are also supported through Exchange Outlook Mobile Access, which enables HTML, compressed HTML (CHTML), and Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) browser–based devices to access Exchange Server. The following diagram illustrates the types of clients that Exchange Server supports

 

You can also work offline with e-mail, contacts, tasks, schedules and applications, such as customer account management, when disconnected from the network. You then synchronise folders and applications when reconnecting with the network.

·           ImprovesOrganisational Knowledge Sharing

Within the Digital Dashboard, you can get e-mail, team tasks, business metrics, and industry news, or keep tabs on the competition.

·           File Searching

Search Outlook folders and messages to find misplaced e-mail.

Search through your company’s public folders to find lost entries.

·           Unified Messaging

Integrate e-mail, voice mail, and fax messaging so all your communications are available within Outlook.

Have anywhere, anytime access to all your messages.

Organise incoming e-mail into folders or flag e-mail from important clients.

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3. What is a Hosted Exchange Service?

ISP’s are now offering a fully managed version of the new Microsoft Exchange 2003 at a fraction of the cost of implementing this sophisticated messaging solution in-house. This option essentially gives small to medium-sized enterprises (SME’s) access to corporate e-mail tools.

Hosted Exchange is an affordable product that transforms Microsoft Outlook into a set of business tools that enable staff to do much more than just use e-mail. Staff can work together more effectively by centrally sharing important information in their contacts, calendars and task lists.

The access options available through Hosted Exchange provide great flexibility for businesses. Staff can access their e-mail, calendar and contacts anywhere, anytime from a wide range of devices including desktop PCs, laptops, GPRS-enabled PDAs and even internet kiosks.

Hosted Exchange removes most of the administration involved with running a corporate Exchange Server.

The ISP provides 24x7 support and security for the system, in addition to virus management, server maintenance and administration, software patching and upgrades.

For small businesses, deploying Exchange 2003 eliminates long-term contract commitments and reduces the capital outlay required for running an Exchange system in–house.

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4. What you get

Normally with a Managed Exchange Service you get the following:

  • A Mailbox with a specified amount of disk space (usually in the region of 100 MB)
  • Use of Outlook 2003 Desktop Client (a distinct advantage for those on previous versions of Outlook or other mail programs).
  • A certain amount of Public Folder space to use for shared Contacts, Documents, etc.
  • Anti-Virus scanning
  • Anti-Spam protection
  • Mobile Device Support (sometimes at an additional cost)
  • Incremental Daily Backups and full Weekly Backups
  • Guaranteed Service Level Agreement

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5. Outlook 2003 Desktop Client

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6. Outlook Web Access

With Outlook Web Access 2003 you get the following:

  • Improved Outlook Web Access Experience
  • Faster Performance – at least 50% faster
  • User Interface almost identical to Outlook 2003
  • New Features: Spellcheck, Tasks, Rules
  • Secure:  S/MIME, Timed Log-off, Attachment blocking
  • Great for co-existence and migrations

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7. What You Pay

Managed Exchange is typically priced on a per user per month basis (usually around US $ 10 to $ 15).

There is also a cost for Public Folder storage, usually priced at a certain figure per 100 MByte of disk capacity.

Very often there is a setup fee, depending on the Service Provider and on whether or not you want to install certain Public Folder applications.

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8. The Benefits of using a Hosted Exchange Service

There are many benefits associated with deploying a Managed or Hosted Exchange environment:

·           Increased Mobility/Easier Access

Staff and employees can access their e-mails through a web browser from any location and have full access to their calendar and task lists. Easier access to information means less down time.

Mobile workers can remain in-touch whilst away from their desks, enabling them to be responsive to customer’s needs. There is more productive use of “dead-time” whilst between appointments or during travel.

It gives employees quick anytime, anywhere up-to-date access to the information they need to make good, timely decisions from PC, Phone or PDA.

The service ensures contacts and calendar remain up-to-date so that these can effectively be co-ordinated with co-workers.

Outlook 2003 and Outlook Web Access gives you increased personal productivity with both designed to work efficiently over slow or high latency connections

·           Critical company data is secure and backed up

E-mails are backed up daily, increasing security and reducing the damage caused by losing data through a hard disk crash or lost laptop.

·           Increased Security

You get increased security & privacy including regularly updated anti-virus and anti-spam protection.

·           Large up front capital expenditure is avoided

You pay for Managed Exchange services on a monthly per mailbox basis, reducing the up-front costs with maintenance and technical upkeep of the system handled by the ASP.

·           Increased Productivity

Shared Calendar, Contacts and Task Lists enable staff to better develop their time management skills and increase their personal productivity.

·           Company phone bills reduced

It’s possible for staff to see when consultants are free and schedule meetings electronically, thus automatically reducing the number of phone calls required to set up a meeting.

·           Client Communication is increased while costs are decreased

You can schedule meetings with customers who are also using Exchange Server in much the same way as if they were internal colleagues. They can accept or decline suggestions for a meeting via the invitation in their mailbox, which eliminates the need for phone calls back and forth to confirm times.

One can also use the SMS add-on to communicate information to clients without interrupting them and without a mobile or STD phone call.

·           Reduced IT Budgets

A hosted solution frees overstretched IT departments to focus on core business objectives and applications.

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9. Possible Downsides

·           Critical company data is on your ISP’s Server.

One has to at least be aware of the fact that your company data is stored on a server outside your company. If this is a concern to you, make sure that your ISP signs a non-disclosure agreement.

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10. Who could Benefit

Any business that wants to benefit from:

·           Greater email efficiency

·           Increased responsiveness to customers and partners

·           Faster and more reliable communication

·           Enhanced email security

·           Reduced operating costs

·           Flexible, secure access - anytime, anywhere

A hosted service is particularly beneficial for:

·           Multiple office locations.

·           A highly mobile workforce – home workers, field-based teams.

·           Overstretched IT departments.

·           Replacing older versions of Microsoft Exchange (or other messaging platforms) quickly, easily and cost effectively.

·           Companies with CAPEX limitations.

If you’re still wondering if Managed Exchange is right for you, ask yourself the following questions:

·           Is email critical to your business?

·           Are viruses and spam emails causing worries and wasting employee time?

·           Would you like to reduce the cost of delivering email to your business?

·           Do you want to remove the worry and unpredictable cost of supporting an in-house email solution?

·           Do you need to support a mobile, out of the office workforce?

·           Would you like to be able to free up IT department resources to focus on core business needs and activities?

·           Do your employees need to work collaboratively with colleagues, customers, partners or suppliers?

·           Is your current messaging solution nearing the end of its life?

·           Does your existing messaging solution come with a money-back Service Level Guarantee?

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11. Cost Savings

Studies have shown that a Managed Exchange Service can be much more cost effective than implementing this solution in-house.

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12. Why deploy Managed E-Mail?

·           Reliable, Secure, Cost effective and Scalable delivery of a true Business Class email solution

Guaranteed Service Level

Full Collaborative Solution

From 1 to 1000’s of users with a Predictable cost

·           Relieve pressure on overstretched IT departments

Outsource business critical but low value add services

·           Anytime, Anywhere Access

No need to be limited to the corporate network

Cost effective mobile access to just the users who need it

·           Ability to react to business requirements more quickly

Mergers, Acquisitions, Changing Workforce

·           Dedicated 24x7 Monitored and Managed Platform

Far greater resources than if delivering in house

24x7 Help Desk

·           Email solution is always up to date

Virus Pattern Files

Spam detection

Hot Fixes and Security Patches

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13. What do you need?

In order to utilise a Managed Exchange service, you need:

a)         a reasonably modern computer (preferably Pentium III or later with a minimum 128 MByte memory), and

b)         a good internet connection, preferably broadband.

If you have low mail traffic and are not reliant on sharing too much Public Folder data, then you can get away with a dial up connection. Outlook and Exchange  2003 are designed to work efficiently over slow or high latency connections. However to take full advantage of Exchange’s sharing and collaboration features it’s highly recommended that you have at least a DSL/ADSL-type connection to the internet.

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14. Managed Exchange Providers

We are working with a number of Hosted Exchange Providers around the world. If you are interested in signing up for a Managed Exchange service please e-mail theteam@exchangewise.com giving us details of where you are located, and we will refer you to a partner in your area.

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15. Contact Management/CRM - A Collaborative Application in Action

One business application area where you can realize immediate benefits from utilizing Exchange’s capabilities to share information in a collaborative environment is that of Contact Management (and its more sophisticated variant, namely Customer Relationship Management or CRM).

Even the smallest of businesses (or even groups, clubs etc.) needs a mechanism to track the contacts with which it is dealing. These could be customers, prospects, members, subscribers, etc. In addition it is vital to record the interactions with these contacts, whether by visit, phone, letter, e-mail, etc.

15.1 A Contact Management Application

Any contact management application needs at least the following basic functionality:

a)         A facility to store and profile contact information, as well as company details where this is applicable (i.e. in Business-to-Business marketing as opposed to Business-to-Consumer).

b)         A mechanism to co-ordinate and schedule appointments amongst co-workers and external contacts.

c)         A means to plan follow-ups and to-do’s for those contacts, not only for yourself but other team members managing those same contacts.

d)         The ability to record all types of interaction with a contact, namely meetings, phone calls, e-mails, etc.

e)         A facility to link and/or attach documents to these contact records, namely letters, faxes, spreadsheets, maps, photographs, images, etc.

15.2 Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Over time Contact Management applications have evolved into more advanced systems that track, and manage all aspects of customer interaction across the sales, marketing and service/support departments.

One popular definition of CRM is the following:

“CRM, or Customer Relationship Management, is a company-wide business strategy designed to reduce costs and increase profitability by solidifying customer loyalty. True CRM brings together information from all data sources within an organization (and where appropriate, from outside the organization) to give one, holistic view of each customer in real time. This allows customer facing employees in such areas as sales, customer support, and marketing to make quick yet informed decisions on everything from cross-selling and up-selling opportunities to target marketing strategies to competitive positioning tactics.”

Source: What is CRM?, destination CRM, Thursday, February 21, 2002

Thus, the so-called “holy grail” of CRM is a “single view of all customer-related information”. That is, a CRM application should record all relevant information about a contacts and/or companies, both existing and prospective customers, at all stages of the dealings with that contacts/companies. This “relevant information” should include recording/presenting sales/purchase data for each client through integration with the company’s accounting system.

Typically then a CRM system will have functionality embracing the following core areas:

a)         Sales: Opportunity Management, Sales Methodologies and Account Management Planning.

b)         Marketing: Direct Mailing/Marketing, Campaign Planning, Event Management and Customer Surveys.

c)         Support: Asset Tracking, Service Contracts, Incident Management and Issue Tracking.

Note that these advanced CRM systems still have contact management functionality as the core component. One needs to have a mechanism in place to record and track the basic customer/prospect touch points before one can realistically expect to successfully implement an advanced CRM system.

 

15.3 Outlook as the Medium for the Contact Management/CRM

Even though Outlook is classically defined as a “Personal Information Manager”, it has many of the basic facilities described above that are needed in a Contact Management application.

a)         Contacts for Contact Profiling: A mechanism to store and profile Contact information. The “Contacts” folder in Outlook already allows a comprehensive profile of any personal or business contact to be maintained.

b)         Calendar for Appointment Scheduling: A means to plan and schedule appointments and to-do’s for those contacts, not only for yourself but other team members managing those same contacts. Outlook’s calendaring and task management facilities provide these effectively.

c)         Tasks for To-Do Management: A means to plan to-do’s for those contacts, not only for yourself but other team members managing those same contacts. Outlook’s Task facilities provide these effectively.

d)         Journals for Call Reporting/Activity Tracking: The Journal folder in Outlook is a handy facility for recording interactions with a contact, namely meetings, phone calls, etc.

e)         Document Linking to E-Mails, Journals, etc: The fact that you can link/attach documents to E-Mail messages, Journals, Contacts, etc. gives you basic document management capabilities.

15.4 Outlook Limitations

As a contact management application however, Outlook has the following limitations:

f)           Private Mailbox (Contacts, Appointments, etc.): Without setting up and customising Public Folders, most users will just utilise their Private Mailbox Contacts folder for managing their contacts, thus limiting the sharing of that information and potentially creating massive duplication of the same data within the organisation.

g)         Contact-centric: By virtue of their being only a Contacts folder (and no Companies folder), Outlook tends to be Contact-centric rather than Account-centric, which can be limiting for those users managing corporate accounts.

h)         Discrete, independent folders: Most users tend to use their Outlook folders as discrete elements, i.e. because it is fairly cumbersome for users to link one item to another, (e.g. a contact to an appointment) they seldom do this. Thus it is difficult for users in the organisation to get an overall picture of all the activity occurring with any particular company or contact. The universal objective of any CRM system however, is to provide a “single-view of all customer-related information to everyone in the organisation”.

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16. MX-Contact: CRM/Contact Management for Outlook/Exchange

MX-Contact is an example of one application that leverages the existing contact management functionality in Outlook but overcomes the inherent limitations of Outlook. It is a CRM, Contact Management and Sales Automation package that runs inside Microsoft Outlook 2000, 2002 or 2003, and utilises standard Exchange Server Public Folders for data storage.

The system utilises all the standard functionality of Outlook but provides many additional features that transform Outlook into a powerful CRM system.

MX-Contact comprises a Base System, with optional Sales, Marketing and Support modules that can be added at any time.

www.mxcontact.com

  

16.1 What is MX-Contact Adding to Outlook

Essentially MX-Contact takes advantage of Outlook and Exchange’s powerful facilities while at the same time overcoming most of the previously identified limitations of Outlook. Amongst other things, MX-Contact adds the following to Outlook:

  •  Centralised “database” on Public Folders. 
  • Additional “Out-of-the-box” CRM functionality (e.g. Companies, Opportunities, Products/Services).
  • Unlimited additional user-defined/customisable folders.
  • Ability to seamlessly link items in one folder to those in another either directly (one-to-many) or via an Association folder (many-to-many), so as to create a single view of all Customer “Relationship” information.

16.2 The MX-Contact Base System

The Base System comprises the “contact management” functionality of MX-Contact (as opposed to the more advanced “CRM” functionality). The Base System allows you to maintain details of companies, contacts, groups (of companies and/or contacts), and the interactions with these companies and contacts, namely Appointments (Calendar), Tasks, Journals, E-Mail and Documents. These are described in more detail below:

16.2.1               Companies

The Companies folder is used to store the company name, address(es), web site address, multiple phone numbers, and any other profiling information that relates to the company, such as industry, type or status.

The Company form records the common information required to identify, locate and categorise a company, on both “General” and “Profile” tabs:

The Profile tab contains user-defined fields that are used to store information that will help you to profile the companies in your database. These fields can contain picklists that will ensure that all users select from the same list when entering information.

16.2.2               Contacts

The Contacts is where a listing is kept of all the contacts that one deals with, both individuals and company contacts. Multiple contacts can be added per company. All the standard demographic and personal information can be maintained per contact, including the person’s name, address(es), e-mail, multiple phone numbers, and any other profiling information that relates to the contact, such as type or status.

The Profile tab contains user-defined fields that are used to store information that will help you to profile the contacts in your database. These fields can contain picklists that will ensure that all users select from the same list when entering information.

16.2.3               Associations/Relationships

MX-Contact incorporates the facility to link one item with an infinite number of other items, this establishing the “relationships” that define a Customer “Relationship” Management System. So a contact can be linked to any number of companies, opportunities, journals, documents, orders etc.

The Association folders are used to link multiple company, contact, user and team records that are linked or related to a particular company, contact etc. Association Folders allow many-to-many relationships to be created between items. That is, one company can be linked to many contacts, but likewise one contact can be linked to many companies. These association tabs appear in the bottom section of the Company and Contact Forms (General Tab).

16.2.4               Groups

The Base System of MX-Contact also contains a folder called Groups. This is for recording details about groups of companies and/or contacts. A Company Group for example would be a collection of companies all belonging to the same Holding/Parent Company. A Contact Group is a collection of contacts linked by some common bond, such as a family unit, a committee, board of directors, etc.

16.2.5               Calendaring

Users continue to schedule Meetings and Appointments in their personal Calendar in the same way that they’re used to, except that that they have the additional facility to link an appointment to a Company, Contact, etc.

The only visible difference when scheduling an appointment are the links to various companies, contacts and users that are seen both in the Contacts field at the bottom of an Appointment form and in the Links dropdown on an additional toolbar that MX-Contact adds at the top of the form:

These linked appointments are seamlessly copied to the MX-Contact Public Folders so that anyone in the organisation can see who has scheduled activities with various clients.

16.2.6               Task Management

Likewise users continue to utilise their Outlook Tasks to manage not only personal to-do’s but also tasks that reflect actions that need to be taken for a particular company or contact. These tasks are still stored in the responsible user’s Personal Tasks folder but a copy is (automatically) maintained in the MX-Contact Tasks folder so that Account Managers can monitor who is doing what for each client.

16.2.7               Contact History/Activity Tracking (Journals)

Journal Entries record details of events and activities that have taken place with a particular Company or Contact. They can also be linked to any other relevant item (Opportunities, Events, etc.)

16.2.8               Document Management

Any kind of document (Word, Excel, pdf, jpg, etc.) can be linked to a Company, Contact, Opportunity, etc. so that anyone can track the correspondence relating to a customer/supplier.

Existing documents can either be linked or attached to a document item.

If linked, the documents are stored on the Windows File System either in a central folder or in multiple folders as required.

If the documents are stored as attachments they are stored in the Documents folder of MX-Contact.

Documents can be generated using the Create New Document tab.

The name, address, etc. is inserted automatically into the Word document using Bookmarks in the template.

16.2.9               E-Mail Handling

All e-mail sent and received can be automatically linked to a Company and/or Contact and copied to the MX-Contact (Public) E-Mail Folder. Thus all (relevant, and non-confidential) incoming and outgoing e-mail correspondence can be made visible to the organisation as a whole.

16.3 Sales Automation with the MX-Contact Sales Module

In most companies sales is a team effort that requires involvement from multiple individuals all playing a part in moving the prospective customer towards a buying decision. Critical to the success of this process is shared information between the team members so that everyone’s activities are co-ordinated and one person is not working in isolation, blindly ignorant of discussions etc. that are taking place between other staff members and the prospective customer.

The Sales Module of MX-Contact provides the following folders/functionality:

  • Opportunities (with sub-folders)
  • Projects
  • Orders (with Line Item Details)
  • Sales Plans

The most common activity associated with the Sales Management aspects of CRM is Opportunity Management, which is essentially management of the sales process and tracking of all activities associated with getting the business in the first instance (as opposed to keeping it once you have the customer).

16.3.1               Opportunity Management

All potential sales to companies and contacts are called Opportunities.  The MX-Contact Opportunity Management facility allows you to collect and report on a variety of information relating to an opportunity such as expected values, probability of closing a sale, estimated close dates and more.

The Opportunities folder shows a listing of all opportunities:

 

A variety of Views is available to sort, group and filter the information so as to see for example only the “Open” opportunities.

General Information

The General tab records the basic details about the opportunity:

 

 

Any number of companies, contacts, users and/or teams can be linked to an opportunity.

In addition all activities (journals, tasks, appointments, documents and e-mail) that relate specifically to that opportunity can be linked to the opportunity so that one can get an overview of what has transpired in the progression of this opportunity.

Details

The Details page typically records the expected values, dates etc. that relate to the opportunity, but then is also used to record the actual detail when the opportunity is either won or lost.

In the case of a lost opportunity one can track who was awarded the business and the reasons (if known).

16.4 Marketing Management with the MX-Contact Marketing Module

The Marketing Manager in a company generally needs to manage one or more of the following activities with the company’s customer/prospect database:

  • Direct Marketing

The Base System of MX-Contact includes the facilities to produce either non-personalized or personalized direct mailings/letters or e-mail shots. These facilities are mentioned here because of their applicability to the other Marketing-Module specific features.

  • Event Management

Event Management involves tracking the details of events such as functions, dinners, seminars/training courses, golf days etc, and the process of inviting, following up,  registering and (where applicable accommodating) the attendees of the event.

Here MX-Contact will enable you to send out invitations by direct e-mail, fax, mail, etc. to  subsets of your customer prospect database, co-ordinate the responses, and then record details of the travelling/payment information relation to those attending the function, training course, etc.

Tasks can be linked to an event corresponding to various activities that need to be done for the event (booking the venue, etc.) and assigned to internal staff members responsible for carrying out the task. This is handled via the standard Outlook Task functionality but with links to the Event.

All outbound and incoming e-mail to and from attendees will be linked to both the respective companies/contacts as well as the event.

Documents of any type (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) can be linked to an Event for Itineraries, Maps, etc. This will also allow for Document templates to be sent to groups of contacts at a certain status, e.g. reminder letters, etc.

  • Campaign Management

The Campaign Management Module sets out the objectives of a marketing campaign such as a series of advertisements and tracks the progress and results of the campaign in terms of responses received, sales made, etc.  In many respect the functionality of Campaign Management is similar to Events, even though the focus is different.

  • Surveys

The Surveys Feature of MX-Contact allows you to define templates of standard questions that need to be asked during a survey. So if a Customer Satisfaction Survey is conducted then the appropriate questions are mapped out in a sequence.

Surveys can also be used to gather information about a company or contact. The responses given by the client can then automatically update the relevant database fields for that company or contact.

16.5 Service Help Desk Management with the MX-Contact Support Module

The Support Module consists of the following components:

  • Asset Management/Product Registrations

The Registered Products screen records the details of each product sold to a customer, either a company or an individual client (contact) purchaser. This is particularly applicable for serialised inventory (either computer hardware/office equipment, etc. or software with individual serial numbers/license keys).

Components are attached to Registered Products and record details of each component of a main system or configuration. For example a computer system may be built up of Case, Power Supply, Motherboard, CPU, Hard Drive(s), etc. Each component may be individually tracked.

  • Incident/Service Request Management

An Incident is a record you create and associate with a company or contact to record a problem and its resolution. For example, a customer may have a problem with a product that you have supplied. Logging, handling, resolving, and closing Incidents are the primary tasks of most support system users.

Support Incidents are also referred to as Work Tickets, Job Cards, Service Calls, etc. depending on the nature of the industry, and may be renamed accordingly.

  • Issue Management

This module deals with the management of support issues or defects.

Using MX-Contact, you can track and resolve issues. An Issue is a record that describes a problem in a product or process, or a feature request for a product or process improvement. It is similar to a Support Incident except that people involved in the design or construction of the product or process typically resolve Issues, and quite often these issues are not necessarily linked to specific companies and/or contacts (although they may be).

  • Support Contracts

This module deals with the management of support contracts.

Support contracts are agreements between your organization and your customers to provide support services. It is imperative to ensure that there is a valid support contract for the account so that your organisation is paid for the support services it provides.

Support Contracts are typically linked to certain Registered Products supplied to the Customer. One Support Contract usually covers several products, of which each one in turn may comprise several components.

16.6 MX-Contact - Optimised for a Managed Exchange Environment

MX-Contact Version 6.01 has been specifically optimised for use with remote Exchange Servers. Outlook 2003’s Cached Mode provides the facility whereby the Public Folder data is synchronised constantly to a local off-line file (an “.ost” file) in order to improve performance. As a result, when using MX-Contact and opening say company/contact records for example, these are actually opened on the local “cached” folder (as opposed to the remote Exchange Server Public folders). So this is naturally much faster fast when compared to the time it would take to open that same item across a very slow internet connect when the data is held on a remote server that might be on a different continent.

When you save changes to an item, these changes are then first saved to your hard drive. Outlook 2003 then takes care of seamlessly synchronising the change(s) back to the Public Folders in the background, while you continue with other tasks.

In particular MX-Contact is designed to handle working with both online and offline folders and to switch seamlessly between these when required.

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17. About OutlookWise and ExchangeWise

OutlookWise is both a web site and newsletter aimed at keeping Microsoft® Outlook® users up-to-date with news, information and articles of interest on Outlook and Exchange Server, as well as reviews of add-on products and utilities, all geared to enhancing your knowledge of Outlook and increasing your productivity.

If you’ve found this article useful, please subscribe to the monthly newsletter.

If you would like to contribute an idea or article, or tell us about an exciting product or utility that complements Outlook and/or Exchange Server, please feel free to e-mail us.

OutlookWise is a service to the Outlook community from ExchangeWise, which is a specialist software company focusing on the development and marketing of applications and utilities that enhance the functionality of Microsoft Outlook and Exchange Server.

OutlookWise is edited by Brian Drury, founder of ExchangeWise, and the architect of MX-Contact, a CRM, Contact Management and Sales Automation System for Microsoft Outlook. Brian has over 20 years experience in the IT industry and has focused on CRM, Messaging and Collaboration systems for the last 14 years.

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