Did anyone catch that short-lived show ‘Keen Eddie’? The main character’s trademark line was “Hi. I’m Eddie. How do you like me so far?”
In honor of our month day, I thought I’d go DVD commentary on you and describe a little about how we manage this blog. While I’d love to pretend that it’s a casual thing and people just post when they feel like it, the number of contributors and our post-per-day timetable means that we need to be a bit more formal. Our contributors create articles (with various degrees of nagging involved), I schedule them and our Site Manager Jim Glass posts them. While other Microsoft teams use SharePoint to manage their blog posts creation process, we use CRM.
Here at Microsoft, “eating our own dogfood” is an essential part of the product life cycle. (This widely-used industry expression, which apparently even originated here, means using your own pre-release products.) While it’s pretty easy to use Outlook 12 or Windows Vista daily, it’s a bit more difficult for a bunch of software developers to use a product like CRM regularly.
While we do all have contact with customers and partners, most of our day is taken up working with other people in our building on stuff relating to ones and zeros. We’re not qualifying leads, preparing quotes, creating cases, managing campaigns or scheduling services. So instead, we use CRM to manage the processes that we do go through. We use it for things like tracking development progress and managing specs. It’s not necessarily the most natural fit, but it gets us in using the product on a day-to-day basic. Our dogfooding has a bunch of benefits, from all of us gaining a better overall understanding of our big product, to finding bugs.
Caveat emptor: Other CRM companies are taking their CRM products and trying to turn them into general application platforms. Microsoft CRM is designed to be a CRM product – product decisions are guided by customer relationship management scenarios. That said, functionality we put into v3.0 to enable some of these scenarios also enables it to be used for non-CRM purposes. I’m not advocating this; I’m also not discouraging it. I learned when we shipped 1.0 that product usage is governed by users, not by the product team. I just raise the flag of caution – when all you have is a hammer, everything’s a nail. When all you have is Microsoft CRM, everything’s a new entity. Just be sure you’re choosing the right product for the right reasons.
Our reasons are clear: we want to use CRM as much as we can.
This is a screenshot of the blog post record for this post:
The Blog Post record is created when someone comes up with an idea for a post. We keep the text of the post in a linked doc to enable rich formatting and image placement. The Status Reason field takes us through the process: Suggestion -> Creation -> Review -> Ready for Posting -> Published. Post categories are tracked on the second tab. The record is assigned around as required, and we have grid views for the various states. At the moment, we don’t have any workflow processes or external integrations hooked up, but they’re on the plans.
As the first-time-customizer who set this us, I can offer one tip: CRM is amazingly easy to customize, but it’s still pretty handy being able to yell a question across the corridor to the person who designed the feature. 🙂