Blogs

E-Mail Marketing

CRM systems typically ignore the importance of marketing, in particular e-mail marketing. Many CRM vendors such as SalesForce, Microsoft and Oracle rely upon the third party ecosystem such as ConstantContact and MailChimp to supply add-ons which suffer from two major drawbacks:

  • Cost - users have to pay more to get e-mail marketing functionality
  • Island of Information Syndrome - the marketing data has to be exported and imported shredding your data everywhere

TriSys does not expect its customers to pay more for e-mail marketing, or have to resort to the inconvenience of moving data out into these islands.

We therefore provide, at no extra cost, a fully functional industrial strength marketing engine built right into TriSys Version 10.

TriSys customers are able to do the following using our application:

  • Import data from e-mail marketing agencies in spreadsheet format - for example XLS
  • Assign attributes/skills to all imported data to track the success of the marketing campaign
  • Create full template-driven e-mail marketing campaigns using Actions
  • Generate e-mail templates in .DOCX format merging ANY field from the TriSys database
  • Include in-line images, hyperlinks, tables, headers, footers, fonts - everything that Word can do
  • Create highly personalised e-mails using TO or via BCC as desired
  • Conduct sophisticated smart searching using the tags assigned to imported contacts
  • Preview the generated e-mail merge in the TriSys action
  • Specify note/history and scheduled follow-up tasks to be merged/generated and linked to contacts
  • Assign attributes/skills to all generated action tasks
  • Send via Outlook with or without confirmation dialogue or for large bulk, send directly via SMTP to G-Mail, Office 365 etc..
  • Capture all recipient clicks and record which link was clicked, by who and at what time
  • Allow recipients to opt-out of future e-mails to comply with data protection and e-mail marketing legislation
  • Provide a comprehensive anayisys of e-mail marketing campaigns using our built in business intelligence engine
  • Cross reference all future business transactions against the success of historic marketing campaigns
  • Keep ALL customer related data in one place at all times, like any modern CRM system should

Please take a test drive of our smart client to see this in action and try it for yourself.

Build Process

We have a very powerful automated build process internally to compile and publish successive releases of our software application and associated utilities and libraries. This has proven invaluable during both development and maintenance.

Any software application will spend 90% of its lifetime in maintenance i.e. only 10% of its lifetime will it be 'in development' which is always at the beginning of any software project. By automating the build process during this early phase, we have ensured that future releases are easy to build and therefore the software becomes easier to both maintain and deliver to customers.

Our automated build process uses a sophisticated workflow tool which does the following:

  • Retrieve latest checked-in versions of all source code
  • Compiles each library in correct order
  • Compile each component
  • Gather correct versions of re-distributable third party libraries
  • Compile full application as a downloadable smart client
  • Compile full application as a terminal services setup EXE
  • Distribute both applications to the web
  • Compile all industry specific libraries comprising industry business rules
  • Compile numerous customer specific libraries comprising customer business rules
  • Distribute all industry and customer specific libraries to the web
  • Compile customer specific ribbons
  • Publish customer specific ribbons and user interface libraries to the web
  • Send completion e-mail to development, support and some customer developers

Our current automated build time for all of the above comprising over 1 million lines of source code is around 12 minutes. We do this build on a quad-core Windows 7 machine with 8Gb RAM using Visual Studio 2010.

We also follow the Microsoft 'best practice' of building our software at least once a day so that we can always get an emergency release out quickly should a problem arise in the field.

Once our software is built, the application quickly auto-upgrades itself when started including taking responsibility for its own database upgrades and ancilliary file management. This approach was once considered the holy grail of enterprise software. Many enterprise software companies gave up and decided to build web browser applications just to skirt around this problem. Unfortunately for them, they lost so much functionality and productivity which TriSys still enjoys by using the WinForms paradigm.

At TriSys, we tackled this problem head-on, resulting is a fully cloud enabled application platform which installs and automatically upgrades native smart-client software onto customer computers for maximum usability, functionality, performance and responsiveness.

Windows 8.1 - 'Blue'

Microsoft has confirmed that the first major service pack to Windows 8 will be 8.1 or 'Blue' and will see the return of the START button to the bottom left of the desktop task bar. Currently you have to hover the mouse to bottom left corner of the desktop to get a thumbnail of the 'metro' tiled screen to popup.

The START button however will NOT display a popup menu like in Windows 7. Instead it will simply redirect the user back to the tiled metro screen where all application shortcuts are installed.

The second major change in 'blue' will be the option to boot straight into the desktop instead of booting into the tiled 'metro' or 'modern UI' as Microsoft wants us to officially refer to it.

This update will be released to partners in June 2013.

My take on this is that Microsoft simply got it wrong on a number of fronts:

  1. Most people running Windows are on PC's which are not touch enabled.
  2. Most new PC's sold in 2013 and in 2014 will not have touch screens, hence being 'all in' with touch was a mistake.
  3. Most people want compatibility between their favourite windows applications and the operating system.
  4. Software vendors do not have the time or money to re-write all apps specifically for touch.
  5. Microsoft did not provide the .Net run-time on Surface/Windows RT thus discouraging ISV's from developing apps for Windows 8.

TriSys has been a classic 'Microsoft Shop' for almost 20 years having originated in the world of Unix, however our patience has been severely tested of late given that Microsoft has changed direction on a number of fronts, including Windows detailed above. As a result, in future, we will be increasing the proportion of our R&D budget dedicated to non-Microsoft platforms (operating systems, browsers, databases, comms, devices). This will be good news for our customers who may be tempted towards touch devices in this now agreed 'Post-PC' era of computing.

HTML5 Browser Access to RDP

The latest standard of the hypertext markup language published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is called HTML5.

HTML5 has already been adopted as an industry standard by all popular modern web browsers such as Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Internet Explorer.

TriSys has now adopted HTML5 as a standard access mechanism to our remote desktop service.

This will be particularly appealing to customers who do not have a Windows PC such as an Apple Mac or perhaps an iOS or Android tablet such as an iPad or Nexus, who can from today, connect directly into their remote desktop without the use of any third party software.

This new technology is both convenient and inexpensive - it now comes as part of your monthly subscription, at no extra cost.

To start using this, simply click the "Connect via Windows Browser" link on the remote desktop page:

We have some example screenshots of this in action from these newly supported web browsers:

Apple Mac:

Chrome:

Firefox:

If you currently login to RDP using your desktop shortcut, you can continue to do so as this is unaffected by this new technology.

We hope you enjoy this new and convenient connection mechanism in future.

Industrial Sabotage - a light hearted tale!

Our developers did another build this evening, but could not wait for it to finish. Instead of locking the PC however, they turned off the monitor of the build machine whilst it was still running. This ought to have been no problem as we have a secure office, in a secure building, manned by security guards.

Upon returning home, and not receiving the automated build e-mail notification, they did a quick sanity check by remotely connecting to the build PC, only to find that the build had failed.

Upon further investigation, it turned out that the office cleaner had wiped the keyboard with a cloth, inadvertently pressing the 'space' bar causing the build to pause. The result was that the build did not complete as planned, no automated e-mail was sent and the software did not automatically upgrade our global network.

We simply un-paused the build and it completed correctly.

Not the most exciting industrial espionage or sabotage I guess we have seen, but nevertheless, a good example of the 'threat from within'.

In future, we vow to lock our PC's before we go home - honest guv!

Paradigm Shift Alert!

I was recently drawn to revisit some musings by someone I greatly respect in the software development world, Mr Daniel Appleman. Much of what he says resonates with me, as we both cut our teeth on the Microsoft Visual Basic, SQL Server and Windows platforms in the 1990's, having come from different backgrounds prior to that point (mine was in embedded systems programming and Unix/C in academia/research).

Dan talks about a 'paradigm shift' with respect to building enterprise line of business (LOB) applications and in particular how Microsoft has continuously re-invented the same technologies it invented in the 90's, making older versions obsolete as required. In my view this is because there are not enough of the younger generation of 'bright young things' who have the foresight and capabilities (time/money) to break free from the established concepts and paradigms.

Many of these new clever developers end up at Microsoft or Google or Facebook etc.. and there is no question that they are great software engineers, however you really need experience to be driving true innovation which changes the world of software development, and these young guys don't have it, obviously.

I am frankly sick to death of yet another data access technology, forms designer, or markup language, or scripting language or design pattern etc.. Too many of these simply re-invent the same wheel which travels along the same old road. In many cases they fix what was broken, but leave holes where there were none.

You only have to look around at the complete lack of depth in what was in the 90's called the 4th generation language market (Informix 4GL, Ingres 4GL etc..). These tools provided a much higher level of abstraction than with a traditional 3rd level programming language like C, C++ or even C# and VB/Net, and allowed designers to build entire systems with a back end database, front end screens and reports. Because the 'desktop is dead' according to many commentators, and single page web applications with a complex mixture of markup, styles and scripting frameworks are all the rage, there are very few LOB frameworks comparable to yesteryears 4GL's.

The time is right for a new paradigm - one that capitalises on the innovations in web, cloud and mobile technologies, and provides a more intuitive and lower required skill level for designers/developers, otherwise we are going to have a major shortage of LOB apps and expertise in the coming years.

I know Dan has a hunch or two about what product(s) may be the answer to these problems, but I have now spent over two decades designing my own sophisticated, rapid application development business framework, and TriSys remains the best I have used so far.

Starter Edition is now Smart Client

We are no longer offering TriSys V10 Starter Edition to new customers. Existing customers however will be able to continue to enjoy the starter edition and subscription prices have been frozen.

Starter edition was first released 18 months ago, and during that time we have continued innovating at a rapid pace and as a result, Version 10 is no longer an entry level recruitment software CRM application, rather it is a sophisticated and extremely powerful enterprise business system.

We recognise that in todays economy, the majority of startup recruitment agencies require a basic, rudimentary, easy to use, non-customisable and most importantly for them, a low cost recruitment system. Whilst the original TriSys starter edition fitted into this model very well indeed, the current offering is now too sophisticated and no longer matches the requirements of one or two man startup recruitment agencies.

Now that Version 10 has evolved into an enterprise capable product with a large and growing customer base demonstrating extensive return on investment (ROI), we are therefore going to focus on recruitment agencies which would most benefit from a comprehensive, powerful, scalable and highly customisable recruitment software system which addresses their sophisticated business model and helps them compete and win in their chosen area of specialisation.

We recognise that there are a small number of startup recruitment agencies who have the ambition and foresight to invest in a comprehensive recruitment system, and it is these customers together with those more established and successful recruitment agencies to which we wish to deliver TriSys Version 10 in future.

TriSys Version 10 is now available as a 'smart client', which is downloadable and installable on a windows desktop computer, however all data is held in the cloud at either Amazon, Microsoft or Google. TriSys V10 Smart Client is highly integrated with Microsoft Office and performs very responsively, even where broadband speeds are mediocre. No web browser, security restrictions or complex add-ins are required. It just works.

We will continue to deliver TriSys both on-premise and on-demand and will be working hard over the next few months to innovate in this space and deliver yet higher levels of customer service by way of both technology products, support and consultancy. In particular we will be offering Version 10 to our existing remote desktop customers via our new universal client access mechanism which will enable customers using Apple Mac, iOS, Android, Windows phone or Blackberry to access their TriSys system from any device in any location.

Please follow our progress on twitter or our V10 release notes in order to understand the amount of innovation we have engineered into V10 over the last 18 months.

TriSys Internationalisation

This month we have tackled internationalisation - the process of adding support for multiple languages worldwide.

This is not just about translating text into non-English character strings, it also involves upgrading encryption algorithms, documentation, web services compatibility, social media and of course a lot of testing.

We are currently working with some international clients/prospects and can demonstrate a number of these in our release notes:

We look forward to welcoming more clients from all over the world.

Return of the Mainframe Era

I have written about this topic before - please click here to read my article published in Recruitment International magazine April 2008 edition. In that article I discussed cloud computing and how things had evolved up to that time.

In this short article, I want to bring things up to date now that almost 5 years have gone by.

During and after the second world war, the modern computing industry was born with code breaking machines and government sponsored initiatives (culminating in the internet via Darpa in the 80's) . This was followed by commercialisation of big mainframe computers by companies like IBM, Unisys and ICL in the 50's and 60's.

In the mainframe era, each company manufactured their own hardware and also designed and wrote their own operating system and application software to take advantage of their own hardware. Re-read this sentence - it is important later.

When the mini-computer industry was born in the 70's with machines like the PDP-11, hardware companies still made their own software such as operating systems, but allowed new 'software companies' to develop application software for these platforms. Software companies wrote applications for a variety of business uses, such as the Oracle database.

When the micro-computer industry was born in the 80's with the IBM PC kick-starting the industry, hardware companies used operating systems developed by software companies e.g. Digital Research CPM or Microsoft DOS so that these standard operating systems would attract other software companies to develop applications to help attract customers. Lotus was the most successful of these application software companies with their 1-2-3 spreadsheet.

Whilst software companies flourished, Moores law dictated that whilst the power of hardware would double every 18 months, the price would half in that time also. This meant it was very difficult for hardware only companies to be viable as we entered the 21st century.

Couple that with the rise of the internet and subsequent cloud computing, the IT industry was a very different beast to that in the 70's, 80's and 90's.

Now in 2013, Microsoft is rumoured to be buying DELL very soon. A couple of years back, Oracle bought Sun. Both Apple and Google build their own software and hardware.

Given that todays geo-cluster-clouds are comprised of effectively millions of computers, they are the mainframes of today. Millions of users today use the cloud computer mainframes of Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple (and soon Oracle).

What does this mean? It means that the worlds biggest software companies are going to operate just like the worlds biggest mainframe companies of the 50's and 60's.

They want us to connect to their hardware and run their operating systems and use their application software.

They are also manufacturing client-side-devices such as phones, tablets and PC's, which also run their own software.

Who says history does not repeat itself?

TriSys 10 Versions and Release Procedures

We are in a very busy period in the transitioning of the new TriSys version 10 recruitment software application from a starter-edition product to an enterprise level service. This blog post explains what we are doing, why and how. It provides further detail to our roadmap which was published in March 2012.

V10 SDK

We built the software development kit for version 10 in 2010 and have been enhancing this ever since. It is a full visual studio 2010 toolbox and framework for building .Net cloud based line of business (LOB) windows applications. This SDK is the basis for all version 10 software applications including our CRM application we use in-house for managing our sales & marketing, support ticketing, web site, cloud services, invoicing and accounts integration. We also used this SDK to build starter edition and are using it for enterprise too. Sophisticated recruitment agencies, and partners, are also using our SDK to build complex recruitment products and services.

V10 Starter Edition

This product was released to market in 2011 and is designed for startup recruitment agencies who require very basic front-office recruitment software functionality. This is an 'off-the-shelf' software application which is downloaded from the internet and installed on a windows PC. All data services are held in the cloud. The retail price is £50 per user per month. Starter edition is available on-demand only.

V10 Enterprise Edition

This product uses the enhanced SDK and starter edition as its core platform, however it is designed for mature recruitment agencies who wish to benefit from a full agency management system to orchestrate their entire recruitment activities from a powerful CRM/ERP packaged service. Enterprise edition is available both on-demand and on-premise. On-demand prices will be between £75 and £150 per user per month depending upon additional services required (e.g. remote desktop, e-mail, additional disk space, 3rd party integration etc..). On-premise pricing will be between £750 and £995 per license. We will be going live with a number of enterprise customers in Q1 2013, after which this product will be officially available to all customers.

V10 ASP/Remote Desktop

Existing V8 ASP customers will be able to start using V10 at the end of Q1 2013 when it is made available on TriSys remote desktops. Existing customers with Microsoft Office on their PC are also be able to choose to use the V10 smart client, obviating the need to use RDP, and saving money whilst increasing performance.

V10 Release Procedure

We are agressively releasing updates to V10 which are automatically installed on startup. We are documenting all enhancements in our release notes, as well as showing some new features on our YouTube channel. Our approach is to release often; every day during busy periods. Our automated build system ensures that we are able to quickly test enhancements and deliver these to our cloud systems for rapid deployment to our customers. In 2013, this will enable us to support our large customer base as they all transition to V10 from legacy versions of TriSys.


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