Blog Posts

Chatter Changes Conference Collaboration

As a past customer and now partner of, Dreamforce has become an annual "must go" event and mecca for all things cloud computing. Each year the conference grows in size, complexity and sheer magnitude. This year is bringing a whole new dynamic to the conference by creating a conference portal with Chatter.
Chatter Changes Conference Collaboration

Dreamforce Chatter Portal

Chatting It Up

For those new to Chatter it is's internal, enterprise version of a social network. Like Twitter or Facebook you can follow people, post statuses and form public and private groups. The killer feature of Chatter is that it enables any data type the ability to post its own message about status or data changes. In a normal CRM installation Chatter enables opportunities to chat when they are updated, accounts to chat when they are changed and for custom data like projects to chat when a new goal has been reached. All of this, including the people you follow show up in a feed and on your profile, which also contains personal information like a photo, contact and followers.

Conference Community Goes Social

The new Dreamforce portal brings all of those Chatter features and throws in all of the conference sessions, speakers, groups and attendees. While Dreamforce isn't until the beginning of December, attendees are already connecting up, following each other and posting statuses about what they are excited about. There are user groups forming from locations and interests like the NJ Salesforce Usergroup and our own Football Fanatics @ Dreamforce for those looking to find the best spots to watch our teams while in San Francisco.

Save Your Business Cards

Bringing this social networking to Dreamforce is changing the face of the conference, creating buzz months before the actual conference and allowing attendees to get to know each other before getting on the plane. It will be even more interesting to see how Chatter and the portal are used during and after the conference. I can see people foregoing the exchange of business cards, by just saying "Follow me on Chatter" and others using mobile devices like the iPad to find someone during the conference to meet up by posting on their wall.

More to come on this topic as we will be attending, podcasting and blogging about Dreamforce and letting you know how it all works out.

For those attending Dreamforce this year, follow me in the portal and let the conversation begin.

Streamline your proposal process with and Conga Composer

This is how we at Arkus streamlined our proposal process using and Conga Composer.
Streamline your proposal process with and Conga Composer

Proposal creation in less then a 2 hour movie!

Let me start off by saying that until I became the consultant, I had never realized how much of a pain it is to create a services proposal.  As an employee in financial services, it was very common to see consultants take two to three weeks if not longer to turn around a proposal regardless of the complexity of the project.  It was mindboggling to me and now being the consultant, I see why.

Problem Proposal Paradox

For starters, consulting services require an explanation which becomes very manual when writing a proposal. You cannot give a client a proposal without detailing what it is you plan to do.  Listing line items like project management, configuration and integration mean nothing unless you can break them down and relate them to the requirements given during discovery.

Second, to estimate the amount of effort it takes to deliver a services project requires expertise and experience. Without it, you will either lose business or lose money and both are a shame. We use the discovery calls and meetings as a way to pull out enough information to estimate correctly.

Lastly, we need to put something together that is professional looking, detailed but not overbearing and on the mark. It needs give enough detail to satisfy the client.

At Arkus, we struggled with all of the work and complexity at the start but knew there had to be a better way! and "The Conga Guys" to the rescue!

After going through our own process, we knew we needed two things to make this process better.

The first was a tool that could store all this information and relate it all to our sales process. We need to capture data which we could then report on and begin to use when we created more proposals in the future. The second was something that could easily pull this data together in a format that was professional and met the clients needs. 

The first one was easy,  By using the Opportunites and the Products objects, we where able to create a proposal process that was simple to use and with all the data we wanted to capture. We standardized our services into categories which became products using price books to break out different pricing models. All of those products relate back to the opportunity and rollup to the account showing true transparency.  This reduced manual entry and now set us up for the metrics we were looking to report on.

Configuring was the easy part but to get all that data into the proposal document was a bigger challenge until we met The Conga Guys.  With some configuration we were able to take what we built in and create a proposal document that was not only professional looking and detailed but was generated with a click of button.  To make delivery easier, we use's email templates which generates the proposal in a personalized email ready to go out the door.


Thanks to and Conga Composer our proposal process is a well-oiled machine. There is nothing worse then work that is going unpaid and we save ourselves a ton of time getting those proposals, written, approved and sent off.

If any of this hit home and you would like to know more about it, please reach out to us.  We would love to give you a proposal!

We can be reached at or

To read more about and Conga Composer:



13 Features I'm Excited About in the Winter '11 Release

These are my 13 favorite features that are coming out in the Winter '11 release. Obviously there are tons of features but these are my favorites.
13 Features I'm Excited About in the Winter '11 Release

The Winter '11 Release Logo

13 is usually considered an unlucky number but I'm going to go with it anyway. As most of you who read this blog regularly already know generally releases 3 new versions of their service every year. They name the releases after the season and the year in which they are being released. Winter '11 is the newest release which will be available October 1st or October 8th depending on which instance of Salesforce you are on. Get started by checking out their Winter '11 Release Preview or if you are really into it you can read the entire Winter '11 Release Notes which I personally look forward to every few months. Salesforce also records 2 hour long webinars where Salesforce employees go over some of the main features coming out in Winter '11.

I'd like to highlight my favorite new features that are going to be available by functional area:


Chatter is finally beginning to feel like a close to finished product. All the features that have been demoed to us over the last year or so are starting to come to fruition.

  • Chatter Central - a homepage for all your Chatter - this makes it so much easier to get through all of the Chatter going on within your Organization
  • Chatter Filters - yet another feature to help filter through the Chatter - use filters on your Chatter Central page to filter through Chatter based on people, specific records (Accounts, Contacts, Opportunities, etc..), or even Chatter directed at you
  • Chatter Search - finally a way to search through all that Chatter from one unified search box at the top of the screen
  • Chatter Topics - much like Twitter you will be able to put a hashtag (#) to create a link to that topic such as #Arkus
  • Chatter Files - this one may be a little confusing to end users but it seems like there will be a Files tab which will house all the documents used within Chatter - also any document posted to a Chatter feed on a record will automatically show up in the Notes and Attachments section of that record


Outlook integration is a main focus of this release. No more clunky Outlook Plug-in to integrate Outlook and Salesforce. From now on a little app will run in the Windows System tray in the background and sync things automatically.


  • Administration in the Cloud - finally all the Salesforce Admins can control the configuration of user's Outlook Integration from the Salesforce interface instead of having to worry about software installed on the users's Outlook client. Just create different settings for different users and you are all set
  • Sync Data - with Salesforce for Outlook data syncs in the background automatically
  • Adding Emails - with only 1 click emails are added to Salesforce for tracking



Activities are getting a boost in this release do in part to the above Salesforce for Outlook product but also some minor tweaks that make Activites even easier to use. These are subtle changes but for any hardcore Sales users out there they will make all the difference in the world.

  • Attachments - yes, finally you will be able to add attachments to your activity records. I always wanted to upload a document to an event so I know what we talked about or have to talk about - now you can
  • Subject Line Limits - Subject Lines are now allowed to be up to 255 characters, up from 80 in previous years




The big thing here is the release of the new drag and drop report builder. The report builder has been in Developer Preview for a few months now and having played with it myself it is awesome. It takes a little getting used to but once you get used to it you will never want to go back.

  • New Report Builder - a new drag and drop interface that allows for building reports on 1 screen
  • View Report Type - you will be able to view which type of report is being used to generate a specific report
  • Chatter on Reports and Dashboards - you will now be able to Chatter on Reports and Dashboards

You should also take a look at all the Ideas that have been submitted to the Salesforce Ideas Exchange that are being released in Winter '11. Participating in the Ideas community is a great way to make you voice heard when it comes to needs of you or your users. Salesforce puts an emphasis on delivering a large number of Ideas per release and always allow you to see which features are a result of an Idea from the community.

Overall Winter '11 is a solid release - lot's of new features for Outlook and Chatter. It looks like Salesforce is making a huge bet on Chatter and have really put a lot of resources towards getting Chatter to be as full featured as possible. In my opinion they should focus a bit more on the core Sales Automation product to continue it's innovation but they likely see Chatter as a huge piece of that puzzle and by focusing on Chatter they are enhancing Sales Automation at the same time.

Note - there are far more enhancements then I can review in 1 comprehensive Blog Post - these are just my favorites - let me know what your favorites are by tweeting me @JustEdelstein or @ArkusInc.


Connecting Clouds to Open Source: Plone & Integration

With the brand new release of Plone 4, I thought it would be a good time talk about the open source project and how it connects to the cloud.
Connecting Clouds to Open Source: Plone & Integration

Plone & Integration

The world of open source website and blogging platforms is pretty big with lots to choose from in many different computer languages. My tool of choice for at least the last eight years has been the Python based Plone which is built on a Zope backend. Plone is a well managed, fully featured and highly adopted application that installs on almost any operating system. Plone benefits from hundreds of developers, products and themes which makes building and launching a website a breeze. The new Plone 4 release brings speed, flexible folders, a new default theme, and a ton of other new features.

Why Not Sites

While Sites built on the platform allows for some great integration, the tools for managing and publishing content are just not rich enough. Take a discussion board for example, in Plone that is just adding a product that gets downloaded and installed in less than a minute. With Sites that would be a lot of configuration and build including some tricky user licensing. As it stands today, Sites are good for highly integrated, simple featured, and brochure type websites. Plone is still great for content publishing, complex, and community based websites.

Making The Connection

The good news is that Plone and have some great connection tools that can be leveraged to get the best of both worlds. Starting with the core of the integration is Beatbox which is the Python toolkit that talks to the API. From there you add on SalesforceBaseConnector which is the Plone product connecting Beatbox and Plone.

Two Great Integrations

The first is SalesforceAuthPlugin which allows you to leverage any existing object in, such as a Contact, Lead, or User as the logged in user of Plone. This means users who register on the website can be automatically created as leads or other objects in The username and password as well as other information are stored in and any authentification now happens through the API. One central place to manage all data. A very cool trick.

SalesforcePFGAdapter creates a web-2-anything form within Plone which after being validated and submitted on the Plone side can create or update objects. The power of this product is that it can not only create one object from one form, but many objects and relate them. An example we did for a client recently was an event registration that when submitted, created an Account, Contact and custom registration object, all related and in real time.

With these and other Plone and products CRM and website integration takes on a whole new level of sophistication.

To learn more:

Google Strives to Include Everything Productivity in Gmail

With an exciting new feature launching this week Google was very busy moving more and more productivity apps into their Gmail platform.
Google Strives to Include Everything Productivity in Gmail

Google's new voice and messaging system embedded within Gmail

    With an exciting new feature launching this week Google was very busy moving more and more productivity app into their Gmail platform.

    If you are like me, you live in your email. My favorite web based email client is most definitely Gmail. Here at Arkus we run our entire business in the cloud which includes using Google Apps for email and productivity. It's great to have the ability to email and chat all on one page but sometimes that just isn't enough - sometimes you need to actually speak to someone on the phone - I know, so last century. Google recognized this and recently launched Gmail Voice and Video Chat.

    With this new service Gmail users have the ability to make calls via the Gmail interface to any phone around the world. Calls are FREE, yes, free to the US and Canada and for low rates to anyone else around the world. It's as easy as clicking the Call Phone link within the embedded Google Chat widget within Gmail. A dial pad pops up and you just dial the number you want to call and use your computer's internal microphone and speakers to make the call.

    Google is striving to bring every aspect of communication and collaboration into their suite of products and this is just another step in that direction. They have already launched Contextual Gadgets which helps connect applications and emails using contexts and now they are allowing you to make phone calls directly from their service. 

    Perhaps Google will create a brand new paradigm for email even giving the option to replay how the conversation got started so they can catch up to the entire thread - maybe even with the ability to add third party widgets to these emails. Oh wait...they did that already with Wave and are killing it off... As you can tell we at Arkus are a little bitter about Google killing off Wave. You could read more about our coverage of Wave and Google in prior blog posts linked below in the related content section. As Google continues to add more and more feature to Gmail maybe they will reconsider with Wave as it would add a really great feature set to a now really beefed up and feature rich Gmail experience. One thing is certain, Gmail has come a long way over the last few years.