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Start-Ups that Help You Start Smart

8 Feb

Upon moving to Austin this past August, I was introduced to the wonderful world of start-up companies. I never quite understood how much these companies actually move mountains until I had the great opportunity of joining one this month. Seeing as though I’m from Virginia, where what we lack in high rises we make up for in national parks, I could not come to imagine how much start-ups help mold Austin into the great city it has become.

I had the wonderful opportunity of joining Epicom this February. Since my arrival, I have been able to see how much better this company is to any corporate chain. Being a leader and partner in providing numerous industries with CRM products, Epicom not only develops and customizes its products, they provide each customer with an efficient and effective team of engineers to help train, educate, and assist you throughout the way.

So I know some people may be wondering what CRM may stand for, because at first it may seem like a doozie! But it stands for Customer Relations Management. Essentially we use CRM in nearly every aspect of doing business. However, the key to CRM is staying organized and updated, and this is where Epicom comes in! They provide you with a program named SugarCRM, that can be customized to meet the needs of any specific field or industry you work in, or with. They can design your software to assure your reports, calendars, campaigns, and accounts work together swiftly and smoothly. They also provide you with training for your program in order to get you ramped up and ready!

So as you can imagine, I was extremely excited to join a team who works so hard to provide such an innovative and important software to their clients. But that was not the only upside of joining the team. I was also greeted with one of the nicest staffs I have ever encountered! While friendly faces are not hard to find in Austin, the Epicom staff goes above and beyond to make sure I feel right at home. The office is filled with a charming spirit, that allows everyone to look forward to their day, and one that I find motivating.

I am extremely excited to become an Epicomer, and cannot wait to see what the future holds! I know SugarCon is just around the corner, and I am excited to see what the company has to present. I am continuously learning CRM and all the magic that happens within it, but with Epicom as my guide, and Sugar as my new found friend, I am sure everything will be great!

Roles and Teams

10 Feb

With the post of a video tutorial on how to set up roles and teams in SugarCRM, an addition to Epicom’s Tips and Tricks series has been made. Administrators can define roles in order to control user access to certain modules or they can create teams to control access to a particular record within a module.

 

211 7th St., Suite 110

1 Feb

A little over a year ago, plans were made in preparation for Epicom’s growth. In foresight that 105 W. Riverside Dr, Suite 230 – a humble office fitted for few – would soon provide a space too limited, the hunt for a new office building began. Ten empty spaces were explored, considered, and voted upon, until finally, a gem was discovered in the heart of downtown. 211 7th St., Suite 110 was being used as an unkempt charity storage. Piles of unused children’s toys lay below the high, debris cluttered ceilings. Burnt and broken electrical currents hung off of the raw, forgotten walls and flimsy hollow pipes that led to nowhere glimmered in the light that shone through the floor-to-ceiling windows. The potential was unmistakable.

The toys were cleared, remnants were demoed, and in late September, Epicom proclaimed this space its new home with the signing of a new lease.

Epicom is no cookie-cutter corporation, so its home should not reflect a typical 9-5 office. 105 W. Riverside Suite 230 sheltered a collaborative working environment where everyone belonged to the same room. The only offices were distinguished by open doors. Every person brought on board adds to the culture with their own characteristic individuality and every person prompted by the pleasant working vibe is dedicated to see the company grow. Though small, the community is tightly knit and welcoming. This atmosphere had to be reflected and maintained in the new space so that it could continue to resonate with existing employees and those new in the years to come.

Starting from scratch, STG Design joined Epicom to cultivate a vision. Everything organic about this new space would be preserved – its openness, its size, its industrial warehouse feel. A walkway paved in glossed concrete would invite visitors into a spacious area where an exposed ceiling gridded with cement, metal vents and an electrical catwalk would hover above the walls that lined executive offices and conference rooms. Splashes of tinted orange and green would brighten a polished contrast to the brick accent walls and cement pillars left raw. Desks would be snaked throughout the open areas and along the panel windows, giving employees a voyeuristic advantage to a displaced alleyway, the Driskill and Hilton Hotels, The Frost Tower and 7th Street. Claiming its presence as one of the few open-minded, forward-thinking, thought-leading technology firms in the downtown metropolis, this office space distinguishes the uniqueness that is Epicom.
I am wrapping up the end of my 2nd working day in this office. I stayed behind on moving day to capture a time-lapse of the move-out from 105. It seemed incredibly small when emptied. I have seen this new space progress and grow, as one of my assignments was to document the build-out process and create a video that profiles this monumental move for Epicom. Sitting it now feels like I am apart of something vast and growing, yet young and intimate – much like this world class city we call home.

Plugging in to Google Maps

26 Jan

To ensure that the Tech Talk on the Google Maps integration with SugarCRM was included in Epicom’s monthly newsletter, the video had to posted 3 business days after the scheduled interview date. Because the backdrop for the EchoSign Tech Talk was received so well, it made sense to repurpose the same framing in a press for time. Amanda and I agreed that the picture should differ, even if only slightly, than the one before, so some plants were moved around and Greg was positioned to take up more surface area. The lighting came out great this time, richening the browns in the wood and highlighting the tones in Greg’s skin. We placed a small LED light behind his head to give him separation from the background, but minutes before go time, it kept flashing on and off. The light works fine now. A rule of thumb in production – everything that can go wrong will. Given that, the light wasn’t absolutely crucial, so we decided to leave it off and move forward with the interview. Looking at the video now, it would have been nice to have that light, since the black in the background is the same shade of Greg’s hair color. But, we chose our battle and the composition came out fine.

Undoubtedly a cause of all the practice I have received here, I was able to transcribe this interview and make the 1st edit in record time. Most of the screencasts and images were taken from a blog post Amanda wrote on the same subject. I think maps make for great visuals in general, and fit nicely as references to the narrative spelled out by Greg.

He states that Epicom built upon the JJWDesign Google Maps plug-in available on Sugar Forge, which allows users to plot multiple points associated with different modules on a map. For instance, both leads and accounts can be plotted at the same time. It is included with a feature that allows users to specify a radius from this plotted center point and conduct a search for all other modules that contain addresses within this radius. Users can then plot their own custom points.

Epicom built upon this plug-in by creating a drop down field that gives users the option to assign custom markers. After the chosen points are plotted on the map, Epicom’s customized feature provides users with driving directions between the plotted points. The bubble that pops up when a center point is moused over includes information about the company type and its sales volume. So if the Sales Team is making a visit to it’s company’s clients, it can factor in opportunity size and business relevance when deciding on which leads to visit on the way back.

I think this Tech Talk gives SugarCRM a grounding quality, since people who watch, regardless of their CRM background, can most likely relate to Google’s mapping function. Unexposed eyes may open up to the world of CRM once they recognize that familiar features like this can be worked within it.

This was Greg’s last Tech Talk. I will always be thankful for the time he generously lent to teaching me about music composition. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know him on projects like these and on other company outings. He will be missed!

When Certain Conditions Are Met

24 Jan

In the effort of expanding our customers’ resources and furthering their system education, we have added to the SugarCRM “Tips and Tricks” series. Danny was assigned to demo this video recording of SugarCRM Workflows, which he describes as, “actions that will happen automatically in the system when certain conditions are met.” In this particular example, Danny navigates to the Workflow Definitions tab through the admin panel to designate an email alert that fires to certain recipients after the status of the Cases module is changed to or from a specified value.

The set-up for a workflow in Sugar is intuitive, as there are a list of subpanels that are marked with the titles, “conditions,” “alerts,” “alert recipients,” and “actions,” all of which provide options that allow users to customize definitions to fit the circumstances of their business. Say for instance an engineer is working on a project closely with a client, and a constant communicative exchange of information occurs between them. Often times review, approval, or insight is needed from the other party before progress can continue. In predetermining this give and take relationship, where a certain procedure is expected to take place repeatedly (i.e., an update is made and requires review), a workflow rule can be defined so that actions and alerts pertaining to this condition are directly automated within the CRM.

This is the longest training video I have posted, totaling in at 9 minutes. But Danny’s wisdom of the system creates intrigue. He only delves into thorough detail when necessary, thus striking a perfect balance between usability education and user intuition. I think those accustomed to Sugar and apt to learn will find this a fun watch.

The EchoSign Plug-In

20 Jan

The second Tech Talk topic assigned to me covers the integration Epicom built between EchoSign, an electronic signature service, and SugarCRM. Having the ability to streamline the signing process is incredibly valuable, apparently because often times it is difficult to quickly attain the signatures that officially stamp deals as “closed.” Even with fax machines and emails, there are too many steps involved. In this technology induced quick paced society, people need convenience and immediacy. With EchoSign, the recipient of a sent document is able to electronically sign it with a wave of their mouse, then with one click it is sent back. Done deal.

EchoSign was referred to Epicom in its pursuit of building the e-signature plug-in for SugarCRM. Once it is installed and the API key in entered, Sugar users can immediately start sending out documents through their CRM system. Multiple documents can be attached and merged into single PDF’s and signature orders can be designated. The CRM sends the contract to all recipients included, and keeps track of the each event where it is signed by a party. Once the signing process it completed, the document is automatically stored in the CRM database.

 

I wanted to make sure that I paid particular attention to the framing for this Tech Talk, and allotting an amount of preparatory scouting time well in advance proved to be worthwhile. The framing turned out great. I learned a valuable lesson from the only thing I would change – be aware of all lighting sources, and remember that the sun moves.

 

That is the Question

19 Jan

In a discussion held over pint night, I was told that 2 opposing personalities persist. Some make certain that their deadlines are met no matter what, even if the quality of the product is compromised. Others make efforts in the interest of product perfection, and in the struggle to settle for nothing less, deadlines are consequently missed.

For the InnoTech video project, I began with a belief that having as much footage as possible creates more options, and ultimately, a better finished piece. In post, I found myself with 5 interviews, 900 still images and over 2 hours of b-roll. Inescapably, all dialogue has to be transcribed and all footage must be logged. It is important to keep a record and become familiar with the options available, especially when there are multiple at hand. Recognizing which takes are usable is easy, and fun. Deciding then, which ones to keep and which ones to kill, is a challenge.

Finding a correlation between the 5 interviews conducted was rewarding, because all of the subjects were involved in very different fields. Though all deal in the tech realm, they come from opposite ends of the spectrum. There is some awesome dialogue that was captured that I still wish would have been exposed in the video, but it just wasn’t relative to the narrative. Maybe it belongs in another video down the road, but until then, it will remain unused.

It’s difficult to measure whether or not the right choices are being made. Is this shot better than the other? Does it belong here? Is the right message being sent? Decisiveness is the responsibility of the videographer. At the end of the day, the best foot must be put forward, judgment must be trusted, and no matter how you slice it, a decision must be made.

If I was forced to identify to one of the 2 personality types, it would probably be the latter. Though I was working on other projects simultaneously, it took nearly 2 months for the InnoTech project to conclude. It would have been in better interest had I taken it upon myself to set a more reasonable deadline, but nonetheless, it was missed. I blame contemplation.

I am extremely happy with the final edit! And it is not perfect. The truth is, there is always room for improvement, for revision.  While the hunger for excellence provides a driving determinism, perfection seeking can produce a product of diminishing returns, if you are not careful.

I have decided to adopt a new, ideal ethic, wherein which my deadlines are met and my work is the best that it can be.

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