Blog Posts

Opportunity to Signed Contract in the Cloud

A look at how Arkus helped a client automate and improve their sales approval process, electronic contract generation and signature using, Conga, and Echosign.
Opportunity to Signed Contract in the Cloud

Opportunity to Signed Contract in the Cloud

One of the most important aspects of closing a deal is how fast you can get from the verbal agreement stage to a signed agreement stage. At Arkus we have automated our own proposal process using Salesforce Opportunites and Products along with Conga Composer to generate quotes and get them emailed off to the right person in literally minutes. When a client recently approached us to automate their sales process so that they can get a quicker turn around time from sale to signed deal we jumped at the chance to use Conga Composer integrated with EchoSign to make their process even more efficient. Here is a short description about what we did - hopefully this will help you as you start to automate your processes and close more deals.

Approving The Deal

The first step in the process for our client was getting the deal approved by management. Using the native Salesforce approvals engine we were able to route parallel approval processes to two users based on which region the deal was in. If the deal was based in one region it went to two people, if it was based in another region it went to two different people. The approval went to both people at the same time but once one of them approves then the deal is considered approved and moved into the next stage of the process. Of course when an Opportunity is approved the record Chatters so that anyone following the Deal gets notified in their feed. The next stages are the fun part.

Conga Workflow

Once a deal gets approved by one of the two approvers a field within the Opportunity record gets sent via an outbound message to the Conga Composer workflow service. The field is a URL that calls the Conga service and sends back a response to Salesforce. The magic here is that nobody had to do anything to generate a professional contract template that includes everything from the person signing to the products included in the deal. This generated contract comes back into the system and generates an Echosign Agreement through the native Conga to Echosign integration.

Electronic Signature

Once Conga does it's work and generates the contract document an Agreement record is created within Salesforce which includes the document as an attachment. This Agreement is related to both the person signing it and the Opportunity from which it was created. Again, automatically based on the approval of the Opportunity this document gets sent to the correct person who needs to sign it and the status of the Agreement is marked as such. Once the Agreement is signed the status of the record inside Salesforce gets updated and the originator of the sales process gets notified via Chatter.

Closing the Loop (and Deals)

This process is fairly typical for a sales organization. At a high level we have a deal that needs to get approved by management and then a contract that needs to go out and get signed. What we have done for our client is take all of those processes and baked them into one slick approval process with integrations getting kicked off automatically via Salesforce. As a salesperson you get your deals closed much faster if you can get that document approved and out for signature quicker and as an operations team you salivate at the idea of not needing to manually enter more data, not needing to generate contracts from templates by copying and pasting data, and keeping track of all the approvals and statuses of those contracts. Add to all of the automation the Chatter capabilities of having the data talk via feeds and the automation of this process is a true win win for everyone involved.

If you want to discuss this process automation or anything related to it feel free to reach out via Twitter at or comment on the post on our Facebook page at

March Madness & The Downfall of Netflix?

A look at the streaming content market including the new March Madness On Demand application and the implications of live streaming on Netflix.
March Madness & The Downfall of Netflix?

March Madness & The Downfall of Netflix?

As we sit in the middle of another great March Madness (not just because my Tar Heels are in the sweet 16) we must take note of changes to the fan experience that might make it the best ever. Not only did the NCAA smarten up and use CBS and Turner Sports to broadcast all the games live with staggered start times but they are also offering all the games streaming online and via your Apple mobile devices. I was very skeptical at first about live streaming but after my experience I can't wait for what's next. Here's a little about my experience this weekend and might signal what is coming to an iPad near you.

Streaming Madness

I was very skeptical about live streaming, especially a sporting event where at any moment you could be watching the play of the game. I have had great success with Netflix streaming even over 3G cellular service but this was different and I must say that the results were great. On Friday afternoon my partners and I went to a local establishment to watch some of the games and over their wifi we tested the NCAA On-Demand app to see how it worked on the new iPad 2. Though there was a slight delay (10-15 seconds), the picture was great considering it was streaming and over a shared public wifi network in the restaurant. Later that day I was out with my family and I decided to try it over 3G on my iPhone. The video again had a slight delay but the picture and audio quality was still pretty good. I give the overall experience an A+ considering and it just gets me more excited about what's ahead.

Netflix downfall?

In addition to services like the March Madness On Demand, some recent announcements have me wondering the impact on the streaming content market and in particular the future of Netflix. Netflix recently got bad press for their downtime resulting from maintenance upgrade issues which is not good for obvious reasons so I am not going to spend anytime on it. The bigger news is Time Warner recently releasing their live app for the iPad and Comcast to release theirs in the next few months. There are restrictions thus far like the device has to be over wifi and it must to be in your home on a Time Warner internet connection but it's only a matter of time when these will be lifted. These service providers also offer On Demand movies and shows like Netflix which makes them prime candidates to take over marketshare. This is also very bad news for Slingbox which base their entire existence on giving you the ability to watch and control your home TV via the web. Oh and dare I say Facebook has joined the market. They recently got permission to offer Batman for a small fee via the 700 million plus user social network. Netflix is in for a battle and they know it. Is offering original content that is exclusive to Netflix the answer? I just don't know.

The Future

My NCAA experience got me very excited for what's ahead and may have me change where my money goes. I love netflix streaming and am happy with my investment but my money will go where I can can get both live and on demand content and I don't see Netflix getting the rights to stream live content maybe ever. This competition only drives innovation up and cost to the end user down. If the cable companies are smart and do not overcharge, they can own this market. You are already paying them for live tv, hardware, and often times access to the internet; add some more content and make it mobile and I'm all yours.

Backing Up Is Hard to Do

A look at backing up in the age of cloud computing and internet storage and some strategies to help keep everything safe
Backing Up Is Hard to Do

Backing Up Is Hard to Do

One of the questions I get asked a lot from friends, family and clients who know I have more than a tad bit of technology pulsing through my veins, is "How do I backup?" It usually comes from someone who has lost a file or document and is now worried it will happen again. While a good backup strategy should be as custom as a good retirement plan, some of the principals and guidelines are good for everyone to consider.

Rule of Three

Taking nothing away from this blog post but this, "Nothing exists if it isn't in three places". That is to say that if a document, movie, music file or anything else isn't in three different places it is non-existant when it comes to being backed up. In a good backup strategy, make sure that everything exists in three places, the local machine, a local backup and an offsite backup. Consider things like application install disks as one copy, a hard drive as one copy and any back up as one copy.

Local Still Rules

The first, easiest and cheapest place to backup is locally. Using a external storage device and some backup software your entire computer, from operating system to preferences should be backed up nightly and be able to fully restore the entire computer from scratch. A local backup protects you against theft, damage or disk failure and allows for an immediate replacement. Say you drop your laptop in the East River attending a friends birthday bash, with a full local backup, a quick visit to the computer store, a hard hit on the credit card and you will be back in hours. If you want to go that extra mile use a local storage device that has redundancy like a Drobo or other multi-drived gadget. This will make sure that one drive failure doesn't get worsened by another.

My Cloud Life

Now that you are covered locally make a move to the clouds. Local backup only protects against isolated failure and not things like a house fire or flood that could wipe out not only the computer but any backups in the same room. To protect yourself against that, as the Microsoft commercial says "To the clouds!". Add a backup solution that copies the most important files to a cloud based, offsite facility. Using something like Crashplan, Mozy or JungleDisk all your important files will be encrypted, safe and secure should your local backup fail.

Another way to do this is to use a service like DropBox or MobileMe to store all your important files. These services automatically sync your files to the cloud. The trick is to make sure all your of your important files are stored on these services. Don't be afraid to backup a backup either. You can use CrashPlan to backup MobileMe or use another service to make sure all your files are locally stored as well. These services have lots of different pricing and options but generally are between $5 and $10 a month. You might want to factor in that recovering data from a dead hard drive starts at around $1,000 and goes way up.

Automate & Test

All of the best backup strategies in the world are useless without two key elements, they must be fully automated and tested routinely. Automation means that every part of your backup must happen on a schedule without anyone doing anything. It is way too way to easy to forget to run the special program or move that set of files, so just set it and forget it. The testing part is the harder of the two but is more important. Make sure you actually test your backup system by creating and deleting files and trying to restore them. This testing should also include full computer failure so try to restore an old computer or two before you sell them on E-bay. It is better to test something when you have a choice and the time than learn it doesn't work later.

My Scenario

I start with a very big Drobo (4.51 TB of space) partitioned into two drives one for Time Machine which I back up all the laptops the house and one for very large iTunes and iPhoto collections. I store all my files in my iDisk which is both local and synced to the cloud and other laptops in my house. All of my email is hosted either on Rackspace or Gmail and I use Dropbox to sync a few folders on my desktop that I access a lot (Inbox, Outbox, Downloads). I use CrashPlan to back it all to the cloud including the iDisk.

Backing up is not easy or fun, but if done well can prevent wide spread panic and lost time.

Tweet at me and let me know your thoughts on backup.

Setting Knowledge Free Using Solutions

For years Salesforce has provided the ability to create a knowledge base using Solutions which attach and interact with Cases. In Service Cloud 3 Solutions aren't even mentioned because the Knowledge product has taken over but Knowledge isn't free - so how can you use Solutions in a way that mimicks some of the Knowledge features and allows you to leverage your already existing investment in the platform?
Setting Knowledge Free Using Solutions

Setting Knowledge Free Using Solutions

A little background is in order for how Salesforce has gotten to where they currently are with Service Cloud 3. Cases and Solutions have been part of the service and support offering for years - they date back to before there was a "Service Cloud". Solutions have the ability to be categorized, exposure to the public via an iFrame on your website, self service or customer portal, and attach to Cases while being included in email templates for closing out a support case. Although the Solutions product has been around for a while it hasn't been updated or enhanced for as long as I can remember. It is what we at Arkus like to call a class 3 object - no security, no updates in over two years, and seemingly forgotten in the wave of innovations at Salesforce.

About two and a half years ago Salesforce acquired Instranet to extent the service cloud. Instranet already integrated with Salesforce to provide a higher end knowledge base product but it was an on-premise solution. Salesforce aquired it and put it up into their cloud slowly but surely and it has now become Salesforce Knowledge and has replaced Solutions in all the marketing literature and feature upgrades for the Service Cloud.

Is that Knowledge? Nope - Those are Solutions!

While Solutions are a class 3 object they can be built upon using the platform and made into a really useful product without the need to purchase the additional Knowledge product licenses. Part of what makes Salesforce so great is that you get the platform and everything that it affords so it seems a little odd to have to pay for additional native features. Something that we have done for a client is essentially build out Solutions so that it is more like Knowledge with advanced searching, searching ahead based on criteria within a Case, and custom user input and edit screens for solutions which utilizes a templating system to make sure that articles are uniform and standardized in the way that they are written. All of these features didn't exist when the client wanted to start using a knowledge base and we advised them that we could build out Solutions to do just that.

When are Solutions the Right Solution?

There are a certain set of requirements that will lead you down the path of figuring out whether or not you should use Solutions vs Knowledge in your knowledge base implementation. If the following features aren't that important then you can totally go down the path of using Solutions with some custom VisualForce magic:

  • Twitter integration: Knowledge to Tweet?
  • Security: Visible based on role within the organization?
  • Call Scripting: Based on Assets or Products owned by an Account?
  • Search: Multi-faceted searching for articles?

If the above outweighs the licensing cost of purchasing Salesforce Knowledge then you may as well go down the path of purchasing Knowledge and just configuring it to your needs. If the licensing costs outweigh the additional features and the ability to be on a product roadmap then you should absolutely consider Solutions for your implementation.

So Many Options

The great thing about the platform is that there are these options. Sometimes choosing isn't easy and in this case most of the marketing and documentation would lead you down the path of choosing Knowledge while that isn't always the right answer. Interestingly you don't even hear anything about Solutions at all anymore but they still exist on the platform and in my eyes are still viable for use as a knowledge base. Case in point, we just tricked out Solutions for use by a large enterprise and saved them on the ongoing licensing cost of Knowledge and got them exactly what they were looking for.

If you want to talk more about specific use cases around using the Service Cloud and a knowledge base hit me up on Twitter at or comment on this blog post on Facebook at

CloudForce, Apple Announcements and Charlie Sheen

A look at a busy week of technology news, events and the growth of Twitter.
CloudForce, Apple Announcements and Charlie Sheen

Extra! Extra! Read all about it..

As I thought about what topic I wanted to blog about this week, I realized that this week was filled with exciting news and events in the world of cloud computing and technology worth talking about. So here we go.

Cloudforce 2011 will host its annual Cloudforce event on Thursday, March 3rd at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City. Here is a great opportunity to hear Marc Benioff and other industry leaders discuss the latest breakthroughs in Cloud and Cloud2 technology. What makes this more exciting then being free is where it is being held. The Jacob Javits Center is a much larger venue than normal so I am very interested to see what they have in store for us. If you are in the city or close, it doesn't get any better then free so come check it out. It's got enough buzz that I got a competitor who implements Microsoft CRM and Sage to come with me! If you are interested in hearing some predictions about CloudForce, my colleagues will be taking a deep dive on their award winning podcast CloudFocus Weekly.

iPad2, Macbook Pros and more

For you Apple lovers out there, this week was filled with announcements to put a smile on your face from ear to ear. First they announced the new Macbook Pro line, which Arkus immediately went out and purchased in case you were wondering, which brings speed to a new level along with new thunderbolt technology which looks to be a way of attaching a new generation of peripherals such as high resolution displays, high speed drives, and other yet to be invented devices. Most would be satisfied by that but they went ahead and announced the new iPad 2 and iOS 4.3. Now, I am not ready to buy the New iPad just yet but I do feel its new features are pretty cool. Its thinner, lighter, faster and adding a few HD cameras really puts it in a class of its own. The iOS 4.3 update coming to your homes on March 11th is what really excites me. Airplay to any device in your home and Facetime for the iPad are great new features that I see using a lot. The only thing that could have made me happier would have been an announcement of an enhanced Mobile Me but you can't have everything.

Charlie Sheen

Unless you live in the stone age, you know who Charlie Sheen is and probably know something about what is going on with him. What makes it more interesting to me is how fast this has grown. In the last 24 hours, Charlie has joined Twitter, had about 12 updates and a million people have followed him waiting to see what he will say or post next. To put that into prospective, it was in 2009, about 2 years after it initially launched that Twitter had its first account with 1 million followers when Ashton Kutcher took on CNN. In addition, in 2009 when Oprah joined, it took about a week to get a million followers. Twitter is a great social media platform as we all know but this really woke me up to how amazing it is.

Till next time, Winning!