Monday, November 13, 2006

Learning Something New

I like politics. I love business. When I was a Biochemistry major, I really did not have any respect or desire for business. I think this was mostly due to my experience with business people and ignorance of the higher-level business concepts. At its core, business is simple; provide a good or service at a higher price than your cost. It's simple enough that people untrained in business have a good shot at succeeding. As a "civilian", you mostly interact with the underlings of most businesses or deal with simple businesses that don't require advanced business training. How often does a Rio Grande Valley peasant like myself deal with senior level executives of multi-national corporations? Hardly ever.
 
As I started to learn more about business, I started to enjoy the subject more and more. In any case, as I advance further in my business training and the classes become more challenging, I understand more and I love it more. I am currently not taking any classes, but I can still learn something about business. Thank God that we have book stores here in the RGV that have books on business. Not only that, the Internet provides all kinds of things for one to learn. What has been occupying my attention, recently, is learning some useful software tools for business.
 
One tool is a CRM (Customer Relationship Manager). This kind of software allows you to view and manage multiple parts of your company. Each department has access their own section and is responsible for updating it. For example, marketing can track multiple campaigns to determine which ones yield better sales leads. The Sales department can process leads and develop them into customers. CRMs also allow you to process orders, send out quotes and invoices, and can provide customized reports on the overall health of your organization. One of the more well-known CRMs is NetSuite. They do all that and more. The cost can be pretty steep for the casual user like myself. There are other CRMs that can cost thousands of dollars. If used properly and consistently, a CRM can keep your business humming along smoothly. Even Microsoft has their own version called Dynamics. Well, I can't afford to drop a few grand to learn how to use the software, but I found a free version at Zoho.com. After a substantial amount of tinkering, I am beginning to see how the overall structure fits together. I am impressed by what CRMs offer.
 
Another type of software solution that has caught my attention is Project Management. Zoho makes a project management service too, but I find it lacking, somewhat. Mostly, I've been working with a version I installed on my old 4OddJobz website called phpCollab. There are versions that install directly on your computer, but those are pricey. Furthermore, I like the ability to access from anywhere that there is Internet.
 
Project management software allows you to break up a large project into pieces and plan everything out to the most minute detail you can imagine. In addition, it allows for collaboration on anything from the overall project down to individual tasks and subtasks. Even more importantly, the software keeps track of milestones, percent completion, and the project timeline. If you are going through a huge project with a million details, a project management program can help you keep it all organized. Of course, it works best if you use it consistently throughout the process. Again, it's a good enough niche that Microsoft also has their own version.
 
So, that's what's keeping me busy and awake at nights. It's my escape from the world, for the moment. I know that these solutions will be useful sometime in the future. As soon as I am satisfied with what I have learned, I will resume a more regular blogging schedule.
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