Product Blog

Archive for 2008

Digital Mission – here we come

Written by Jake on Sunday, September 14th, 2008

It’s been a hectic month so far – planning for my personal house move, the office move, recruiting two new members of staff, and of course getting ready for the Digital Mission.

All the planning is in place, and I’m now on the way to the airport to meet the other 20 companies that are going too. I’ll try and keep the blog updated over the next week with everything that is going on, and I hope you’ll cut me some slack if I’m too busy and miss a couple of days.

I’d like to say a big thank you to Stitches of Bridgenorth too, they managed to get me three Tactile CRM shirts embroidered and posted to me in 4 days flat so that I can look my part whilst out there!

Meet us at the Web 2.0 Expo in NYC

Written by Jake on Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

We recently won a place on the Digital Mission to New York so I’ll be at the Web 2.0 Expo from the 16-19th September if anybody is interested in catching up and finding out more about omelett.es, Tactile CRM, or Resolve RM.

Free trials should be FREE

Written by admin on Friday, August 8th, 2008

I sign up to, trial and test a higher than usual number of products on the web. Most are easy signups and not too onerous.

We’ve taken this to heart with our Tactile CRM product. You can sign up for the product for free, no credit card details required, and it’s free for as long as you like.

Here are the details we ask for if you sign up for the free version of Tactile CRM:

tactile_signup

OK, it’s not the shortest sign up, but we need all those details to set up a new account – it’s not us trying to do data capture. The main point is we don’t ask for your card details on the free trial. 

We want people to start using Tactile CRM, try the product and give us feedback.

As a start-up this feedback and exposure is just as important as the people that sign up for the paying plans. We really do want people to use the product and actively pursue feedback and suggestions we receive, so giving users an extra barrier to entry, such as entering credit card details is a no-no.

So sign up forms like the following from Apple’s Mobile Me is silly in my opinion:

mobileme

I wanted to give the Mobile Me ‘Exchange for the rest of us’ feature a try with my email (I already have IMAP and wanted to see if it improved on it).

The old .mac service let you have a free trial without this step and I gave it a go. However, I can’t be bothered to complete the above form as I am likely to forget to cancel the trial if I don’t want to carry on.

I’m sure Apple aren’t worried about little old Jake not signing up, but for some of the smaller fish like ourselves we want as many people as we can get.

Digital Mission NYC 2008

Written by Jake on Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

I have been keeping this under my belt for a week or so, but I was really pleased that Tactile CRM has been accepted onto the 2008 Digital Mission to New York. Full details are on the Chin Wag website, TechCrunch UK have done an initial post on it (they are one of the media partners), and the press release is here.

I’ve been trying to stalk follow people on Twitter that are going. So far I have found the following – companies & people with Twitter accounts first (those with two people have the person representing them on the digital mission first):

DM on Twitter or email me jake [at] tactilecrm dot com if I have missed you off.

Activities Updated

Written by admin on Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

We are pleased to announce the second of two new feature sets we have recently rolled out to Tactile CRM.

These features are based around activities and calendaring.

Activities in Tactile have been upgraded – previously they were simply a list of ‘To Do’ type items that you could attach against clients, leads, people and opportunities. There was a bit more to them than that, you got an email when people added new ones for you, a daily update when you had things to do, but now we have made them even better (don’t worry all the old stuff is still there too)!

Events – the first change we have made to activities is to add the concept of an event. This could be a meeting, a lunch or anything that would typically block out a period of time in your diary for.

Event Screenshot

You can of course still add ‘To Do’ items, but now you can add events too.

iCal/vCal – Tactile CRM is designed to be an easy to use CRM system for small businesses. We have deliberately kept away from building a calendar application as there are several excellent ones already available (Google Calendar and iCal), what we have now added is two easy ways to add events to your favourite calendar application.

The first is an iCal/vCal feed you can subscribe to and keep your calendar application synced with Tactile CRM:

Link for iCal Feed

All you need to do is visit your preferences (generate the link if you haven’t already) and you can subscribe to the link in your favourite calendar application and keep updated with all the information in Tactile CRM.

If you want to share an individual event with somebody, or just download it for reference, you can easily do that too. We’ve added a handy link when you view an activity:

Download an iCal File

The Tactile CRM Help has been updated with full details on how to use iCal/vCal information.

Finally we have also added a date picker. When you need to add a date anywhere within Tactile CRM, simple click on the date field and the handy date picker will pop up to allow you to easily choose a date:

Date Picker

Remember – if you have any thoughts, suggestions, or feedback you would like to give us we’d love to hear them. Just drop us an email to support@tactilecrm.com and tell us anything you want so we can right any wrongs. We read every bit of feedback we can get our hands on, and try to rectify the things we can.

Contacts Updated

Written by admin on Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

We are pleased to announce the first of two new feature sets we recently pushed out to Tactile CRM.

These features are based around the way we deal with contacts, particularly people within Tactile CRM.

Permissions on people – the way permissions used to work on people wasn’t great. If you created a person that didn’t belong to a client/lead then only you could see it. For freelancers and B2C businesses this wasn’t great as it meant you couldn’t share these contacts easily with other people in your organisation.

After comments and feedback from users we updated people so that when you add new ones everyone can see them unless you mark them as private:

Screenshot of People Permissions

We’ve updated the permissions help on the website accordingly.

Email linking – when you logged in and looked at your dashboard you could see all the recent emails that had been sent. Great, apart from the fact that you had to search for the person to find them and see what else was going on. We’ve fixed this by making the person a clickable link through to their record so you can now easily find them:

Screenshot of Email Link

Remember – if you have any thoughts, suggestions, or feedback you would like to give us we’d love to hear them. Just drop us an email to support@tactilecrm.com and tell us anything you want so we can right any wrongs. We read every bit of feedback we can get our hands on, and try to rectify the things we can.

Google Contacts API

Written by admin on Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

As Jake has already mentioned, the latest update we rolled out for Tactile CRM included functionality that allows you to import contacts from your Google Address Book. This has been made possible in a secure manner thanks to the release of the new Google Contacts API. The new API allows you to tell Google that you trust us enough to access your data without having to give us your password.

The release of such an API should mean that cases such as that reported by Coding Horror (an application developer was havesting users GMail username and passwords) recently won’t happen again. However, unless users know that giving 3rd parties their passwords isn’t the only option there isn’t going to be a change anytime soon. Facebook still ask for your password rather than using Google’s preferred “AuthSub” method and if such a popular application is working in this way, then there isn’t going to be pressure on anyone else to change how they do things.

This was picked up back on disambiguity in November:

But do we really realise what we’re handing over when we give this log in information away? Do we realise how much we are trusting Facebook, for example, to play nicely with that information? Think of all the email and IM conversations you’ve had that are accessible using these login credentials… now think about the level of security at somewhere like, say, HM Revenue & Customs (where they recently ‘lost’ the personal information of millions of UK taxpayers), and now think whether somewhere like Facebook would have better or worse security… both now, and potentially in the future.

So how long before Facebook joins in and starts, as the author puts it, “Encouraging Responsible Behaviour”? Regardless of how secure Facebook itself might be, by getting people used to handing over such details, they’re not being very responsible. Should Google be more proactive in telling its users that giving away their passwords to anyone, no matter how much they trust them at that moment in time, is a really bad idea when there are alternatives? Will users pay attention if they do?

As web-application developers then, how do we go about making this work?

In Google’s words:

Web applications that need to access Google services protected by a user’s Google account can do so using the Authentication Proxy service. To maintain a high level of security, the proxy interface, called AuthSub, enables the web application to get access without ever handling their users’ account login information.

and a pretty picture:

How AuthSub Works

Thankfully, there are Client Libraries in a number of languages that make this negotiation pretty straightforward. The PHP Client Library is actually the Gdata package from the Zend Framework. We use various components of that elsewhere and we’re pretty familiar with it and so it dropped right in.

Unfortunately, given how recently the Contacts service was announced, there isn’t (yet) a Zend_Gdata_Contacts service but after taking a look at how the code was structured for the other APIs, adding the necessary components for reading the Contacts Feed wasn’t too difficult – credit to whoever developed it for coming up with such a flexible architecture.

The various Google feeds make use of the ATOM protocol but with a number of extensions for the representation of the many properties that make up an ‘entry’ that aren’t part of ATOM itself – things like email addresses and phone-numbers for Contacts; recurrence rules and time zones for Calendar events; and the many free-form attributes that Google Base items can be given.

Within the ZF code each API has a ‘service’ class that knows the URL of the feed and which XML namespaces are used inside it and determines what type of Feed is going to be returned. The Feed acts as a collection of Entry objects that are the result of a Query against the service. Each Entry knows about the types of properties that it can contain – a number of “Extensions” that have a number of attributes. It all follows the hierarchy of the XML quite nicely, with each level knowing what to do itself and what to pass up or down the chain.

From a technical point of view, it’s easy enough to make it work but from the user’s point of view it is a little confusing, the context-switch going from the Tactile branding to that of Google is quite jarring and while such transitions are becoming more common, it’s still not mainstream. It’s helping that Banks and credit-card companies have started using 3DAuth that works in a similar way, and OpenID is slowly becoming more popular and so hopefully people will start to appreciate that the extra couple of clicks are worth it for the increased security.

Getting back to the original point, systems such as Google’s AuthSub mean that our customers can give us access to their data without giving us their passwords – they still have to trust us, but they don’t have to trust us quite so much. It’s a shame that the only options they are presented with are ‘Grant’ and ‘Deny’, and that ‘Grant’ gives access to delete and add contacts, as well as just grab the list. It would be nice if there was a little more granularity in what you could grant access to. We’d be content with a ‘Grant Read Only’ option (or ‘Grant’ to a read-only feed), as we have no plans to do anything other than retrieve the list of contacts and put them in the Tactile database.

In an attempt at a conclusion then, AuthSub is a really nice idea but for it to really succeed end-users need to know it exists. Application developers need to be more responsible, and not ask users to hand over login details. The Zend Framework is really quite good and the components really do just drop in to existing setups, give it a try.

vCard and Google Contacts/GMail Import

Written by admin on Monday, March 17th, 2008

omelett.es are pleased to announce the latest version of their web-based contact and sales management system, Tactile CRM. Following customer requests for new ways to easily integrate their existing data into the system new features have been added to import the popular vCard format and GMail via the new Google Contacts API.

With several program’s making recent headlines by ‘capturing’ user details in a way that could be used maliciously. Senokian have made sure that the new version of Tactile uses the secure Google Contacts API to ensure users details are safe and secure.

You can signup for a Tactile free trial which allows organisations to test the system. With several payment plans (start from as little as £6 per month), Senokian have already signed up clients across the UK, US, Canada and Australia.

Tactile Take Two

Written by Jake on Thursday, March 13th, 2008

Tactile CRM has been live for a month now and we now have over 275 people using the system.

We want to carry on improving our CRM system and this is where we need your help. We want to start incorporating some of the new features from Tactile CRM into our Open Source product, EGS, and find out what new features and improvements we can make to Tactile. As an incentive to those of you who help us out with the improvements on the system (just sign up check it out, and leave comments, suggestions and feedback on our forum) we are offering three free months subscription to the Tactile plan you use.

We do value and listen to feedback that we receive, we have already implemented several new features that have been suggested by users since we launched, including:

  • Internationalisation (opportunity values)
  • Date formatting
  • Timezones
  • ‘Quick Complete’ for activities (one click to complete)
  • Searching on Town and County/State fields
  • and many others

and we are just putting the finishing touches to vCard imports and Google Contacts import using their new API which will be available shortly.

We know the importance of building communities around software (we have worked hard to do this with our Open Source Software EGS, and don’t worry we have some major new functionality coming including a new release and a full ERP/Accounting module for it) and we want you our users to take the lead and help make Tactile a powerful, easy to use system.

Help build your perfect CRM/contact management system

Written by Jake on Friday, March 7th, 2008

Does your current contact management/crm system leave something to be desired? After the initial launch of Tactile CRM we are currently working on the next set of features and would love to here any suggestions you may have to help make Tactile even better than it is.