How to use Surveys to Improve Execution at Retail

November 8, 2013 · by Tim Jones · Mobile, Sales Strategy

GreatVines Survey FeatureLots of companies do surveys. Surveying is important, especially at the beginning of key selling periods to drive execution, but most companies do it all wrong and waste the effort they put into the survey.

You have a push to get displays, so you do a survey to check display activity in accounts. You want presence in a well, on a backbar, or a cocktail menu so you survey for that as well. However, most companies don’t maximize their survey efforts. They survey, and forget about it until all the surveys results have been rolled up into a massive spreadsheet (some weeks later) and the volume results for the month are reported to answer the question “how well did we execute this season?” Which is great for analysis… after the fact.

The better reason to survey is to drive the actual execution during the season to get the most out of the selling opportunity. At GreatVines, we believe the survey is an execution tool, not just a measurement tool. Our application enables your company to use Surveys to improve your execution at point of sale.

Key steps to using a survey to drive execution

  1. Create Surveys by Account Segment (or even Chain specific) with “target” answers and “points” awarded for “correct” answers.
  2. Target accounts to survey – don’t let reps and distributors take you to “pet” accounts that really aren’t that important.
  3. Survey accounts using a simple, slick iPad app! That runs on-line or off!
  4. Immediately review survey results and set actionable objectives to achieve in the account… while you are still in the account! Share objectives with your distributor to collaborate on execution follow up.
  5. Create a “journey plan” by adding the accounts with open objectives to your calendar.
  6. Track and measure your results against each objective (“wins”), then re-survey accounts and track the trend in scores.

If you utilize GreatVines to follow this Survey methodology, you are sure to gain incremental sales from increased execution at point of sale.

How the Mobile Web is changing Retail Consumer Packaged Goods

October 17, 2013 · by Jim Thompson · Sales Strategy
Screen Shot 2013-08-05 at 5.56.25 PM

GreatVines Mobile Survey

Thanks to new mobile-friendly technologies from Adobe (PhoneGap) and (Mobile SDK) companies like GreatVines are able to provide groundbreaking new applications which leverage the latest tablets and cellular networks to provide seamless business value in the trade. This blog, written by our CTO Jim Thompson and published by, explores the key concepts behind mobile web surveys for retail and the impact it can have on CPG as a whole.

Read the full blog on

How To Improve Your Results by “Getting in the Game”

September 6, 2013 · by Tim Jones · Sales Strategy

Many companies in our industry are doing things the old fashioned way. Their common practice is to review monthly reports of sales summarized by geography and or product, then react by applying pressure to “do better” down the chain of command. At best, they get the same old results. At worst, they get run over by the more progressive and nimble competitors. We see the same thing happening with both small and large companies who use this old fashioned approach.

GreatVines Development Methodology

August 15, 2013 · by Christian Warden · Technology
In response to a customer’s request for product roadmap details, and not having the project artifacts they expected based on how they manage internal projects, we asked our Director of Software Development Christian Warden to write up a description of the development methodology we use at GreatVines

Axioms of Software Development

The GreatVines development methodology follows from a few high-level axioms,
draws from multiple software development and project management methodologies,
and makes use of modern tools for collaboration.

The axioms:

  1. Requirements Change
  2. Priorities Change
  3. Delivering Useful, Working Software Frequently Is Our Primary Goal
  4. Delivering Updates to our Software is Cheap

The first two items, changing requirements and priorities, are related, and mean that we don’t expect to be able to predict the future more than a few months out. We generally have a good sense of which new features customers want to make use of next month, but not those that will be most useful next year. Additionally, as we deliver new features to customers, requirements for enhancements to these features become apparent as we get feedback from them.

Item 3, delivering quality software, stands on its own. These first three items reflect what we think are the most important principles from the Agile Manifesto.

Item 4, that the delivery of updates is cheap, follows from the fact that we are a software-as-a-service company. The days of shrink-wrapped software are gone, and updates to both our web-based and mobile applications are delivered without end-user intervention. Because delivering updates is cheap and requirements change, we are able to deliver multiple iterations of new features, and adjust requirements as we discover exactly how customers are using our software and how they would like to use it.

Therefore, we aim to deliver useful, working software frequently under theassumptions that requirements and priorities change regularly, and that delivering updates to our software does not impose a large cost on either GreatVines or our customers.


We generally organize releases into three- to four-week cycles, similar to Scrum sprints, but try to keep the next two to three releases planned as well so we’re looking two to three months down the road. Like scrum and kanban, we start from a backlog of features that we would like to implement. We bring together team members from development, support, implementation, and sales when prioritizing the tasks for future releases.

Each release typically has a combination of small tasks, which may already describe a combination of technical requirements and planned implementation details, and larger tasks, the requirements for which need to be further elaborated.

In preparing the bigger tasks for an upcoming release, we work to ensure the requirements are clearly defined so development can proceed. Features that require a new user interface or significant changes to an existing interface are mocked up. There are often a few iterations of mockups, as questions are raised and addressed, and the requirements and mockups updated.

Depending on the feature, we occasionally share the mockups with existing or potential customers, and solicit their input before starting development, but we generally prefer to implement a working interface, then adapt it as we get feedback from real use.

As the requirements are fleshed out, we break them down into development tasks, referencing the mockups and relevant requirements. Each task is estimated by the developer that will be responsible for writing the code.

The tasks within a release are prioritized so if there is any slippage, the highest priority tasks get completed first. The assignment of prioritized tasks to developers ensures that each developer knows which task they should be working on at any time, and helps collaboration by letting all members of the team know who is working on what and how the priorities are defined. As in kanban, it also limits the amount of work-in-progress.

During development, we try to ensure the quality of the software through developer-written tests and peer review. For both our web-based applications running on the platform, written in Apexand our mobile app, written in javascript, we make extensive use of unit tests. Although we don’t follow a test-driven development process per se, we try to take a test-first approach with bugs; for new features, we typically write tests either in parallel with implementation code or subsequent to it.

We have found that testable code is better code. If it’s hard to test, it’s probably poorly designed, and needs to be decomposed.

During peer review, both the tests and implementation code are reviewed. We look for areas in which the design of the software can be improved as well as ensuring that the code follows our internal coding conventions to ease future maintenance.

With our mobile app, we have started writing automated functional tests as well as unit tests. The goal is to have the tests fully specify the functionality of the application.

When a new version has been released, our release notes are updated.


There are a couple important tools we use to support our development process. We use LiquidPlanner as our project management tool. Each release is organized as a package. We have our web-based application and mobile applications organized as separate projects,
broken down into broad features using folders within the projects. We pull tasks from both projects into a release package.

Mockups for new interfaces that will be built as part of the release are done at wireframe level like one would do in Balsamiq Mockups. (Our mockups are actually often done as Google Drawings.)

The use of ranged estimates in LiquidPlanner allow us to organize releases with a fair amount of confidence in being able to hit delivery dates. Estimating software development tasks is a continuing challenge, but we find the confidence interval-based approach superior to point estimates often used in project management tools and story-point estimates used in scrum. In the backlog, we often put wide estimates on broadly defined tasks, when it’s not yet clear the value of the information provided by more granular requirements and estimates. When organizing a release, we break down big tasks into smaller ones, generally around one- to six-hours. Smaller tasks are easier to estimate more accurately, and estimates improve with practice.

LiquidPlanner also serves as a collaboration tool, minimizing project management overhead. As discussed above, the priority of tasks is unambiguous. We keep estimates of remaining work on tasks up to date, and LiquidPlanner automatically updates the schedule. Discussion about task details happens within LiquidPlanner so if there’s a change to or clarification of requirements, there’s one place to look. (When real-time discussion is required, we generally use Google Hangouts, then record the result of the conversation in LiquidPlanner.) Using LiquidPlanner mostly eliminates the need for “what’s the status?” discussions.

We also track the status of code reviews and whether the code for each task has been merged within LiquidPlanner.

We use git and GitHub for version control. Our use of github follows how most open source projects are organized. We have a greatvines organization, which contains the primary repo, from which we package our software. Each developer has a fork of the repo. Developers create feature branches for individual LiquidPlanner tasks, and open a pull request against the greatvines repo when the code is ready to be reviewed. The pull request is noted in LiquidPlanner and the task is moved to a ready-to-review package, which puts the task on hold (not scheduled for further development).

Peer review is done within GitHub, using inline comments on the open pull request. If the task needs further work, the task is moved out of the ready-to-review folder in LiquidPlanner so it’s scheduled for additional work. When the pull request is merged, the task is marked done.

Future Improvements

There are a couple areas in which we are planning improvements to our development process around testing. We are using jasmine and jasmine-jquery to do some functional testing of our mobile app, but it’s not exhaustive, and we don’t
have anything similar in place for our Visualforce interfaces. Therefore, we augment our automated testing with manual testing. We would like to add more robust automated functional/acceptance testing, perhaps using a browser automation tool like selenium or casperjs.

As we further automate testing, we also plan on introducing continuous integration. Travis CI looks promising here, with tight integration with GitHub, and extensive use among open source projects already.

There are a couple areas in which we might experiment with changes in process in the future. One is in choosing which features should go into each release. We currently use a consensus building approach in which we informally consider
the value of possible enhancements to our customers. I’d like to investigate whether there might be gains to be had from the use of more formal Decision Analysis practices.

We might also experiment with scrum-style user stories for documenting requirements. For the most part, our lack of a formal requirements documentation structure has not been a problem, and we are able to turn requirements into technical designs easily. But in cases where requirements are very broadly defined, the “As a user, I want” structure may prove valuable. Using a standard structure may also ease on-boarding of new employees and coordination with any contract or outsource developers with which
we work.

How Your Business Can Become A Social Enterprise

September 21, 2011 · by Tim Jones · Chatter, Mobile, Technology

“Social networking-type applications will become as ubiquitous in the workplace as Microsoft Office tools and will likely replace e-mail as the dominant form of corporate communications.” — Bill Gates

Chatter is changing the way employees collaborate with one another. New, young sales reps grew up on the internet. This is how they communicate. This is how the world communicates. Now available for your business. Contact GreatVines to learn how Chatter from is an integral part of the GreatVines user experience, from real-time team collaboration, to triggered alerts and shared content. Let your data talk to you!

Whether you know it or not (or even like it) websites like Facebook and Twitter are shaping the way we think about data and communication. No longer do you need to search through piles of disparate, disconnected information sources – today the data you need comes to you! We all have strong feelings about how Facebook connects us or who it connects us to, or how Twitter overwhelms us; but you can not dispute the power of information within a business. At one level or another, you are probably on this website because of a need for a CRM solution – relationship management, and relationships are founded on communication.

The great news for all GreatVines customers is that Chatter is embedded fully within our application and available today  - and you can now enable Chatter access for all employees in your organization for free, including mobile support! Please check out this powerful video (also displayed below) and contact us to discuss your collaboration needs.

GreatVines Academy: Why is CRM the Key to Success?

October 3, 2013 · by Tim Jones · Clients, Events, General
Tim Jones - Chief Customer Success Officer

Tim Jones – Chief Customer Success Officer

We are officially announcing the formation of GreatVines Academy, a service we are providing to the GreatVines user community. Over the coming months and years, we will be delivering several added value resources to help you get the most out of your GreatVines solution. We will highlight important information on new features and functionality, including how to implement them. As well as an ongoing series of scheduled webinars focused on specific use cases within GreatVines starting with:

“Why is CRM the Key to Success and How do I Implement it?”

For more information please email .

Whether its basic CRM, National Accounts, Surveys, Sales Goals, Reporting and Dashboards, or discovering our new mobile app—pick the modules you are interested in and join us for an educational and inspiring webinar demonstration of how to leverage the power of GreatVines.

It is our goal to empower each of you to utilize the full power of the GreatVines tool to deliver exceptional success to your business.

Why aren’t beverage executives online?

January 4, 2013 · by Tim Jones · General, Sales Strategy, Technology

I loved Richard Branson’s recent article, “Why aren’t more business leaders online?” While he is mostly referring to executives aversion to social media (only 16% of executives are using social media), he also indicates the lack of ambition by these executives to utilize technology in general. There is a “surprising lethargy about using the online tools already available”. In his opinion, and mine, this is a big mistake. If your answer to the question “How am I using the latest technology to improve my business?” is, “I check my email on my iPhone”, then you are missing the boat. State of the art cloud computing systems and mobile business applications can make your business much more efficient, collaborative and productive. And, the tools are here NOW. As Branson says, “Anyone who thinks new technology isn’t going to keep changing the world has got their head in the sand”. Don’t be late to the game.


GreatVines Customer Success Manager (Job)

November 12, 2012 · by John Collins · General

The Success Manager role is a client-facing resource for GreatVines Customers, delivering support account management. The role encompasses ongoing support/guidance, business strategy and transformation advice, and account oversight. As a customer advocate, the Success Manager is the client’s Primary Point of Contact responsible for orchestrating all support activity within GreatVines to deliver a superior client experience. This role focuses on ongoing relationship-building and proactive account management activities, promoting overall customer satisfaction, product adoption and renewals.

High Level Duties:

  • Provide support to customer admin resources to resolve questions and issues related to the GreatVines platform.
  • Act as trusted adviser and own the overall customer satisfaction of named customer accounts. Take proactive action in a number of areas to detect or avoid system issues.
  • Provide training and mentoring to clients.
  • Technical Configuration: Configure GreatVines product to meet customer needs, document and communicate any functional gaps.
  • Documentation: Contribute regularly to knowledge base of implementation, support and best practice materials.
  • Teamwork:  Collaborate with team members. Share knowledge, provide visibility into personal accomplishments and follow direction when provided.
  • Participate in after hours support call rotation.
  • Perform thorough analysis of customer data and lead remediation of issues.


2+ years recent admin experience mandatory, certification desirable.

You are: a quick and motivated study in all things technology.

We’re an agile company using leading edge cloud tools for process management alongside enterprise software integration with our global clients – for you mastering new technology isn’t a burden, it’s just another day at the office.

You possess: strong communication, organization, business analysis, and project management skills.

Your ability to effectively communicate with clients/peers and avoid misunderstandings as regard requirements, deadlines, testing and delivery is uncanny!  This includes communicating changes in timeline, training non tech users on new software, and translating complex business concepts to our dev team.

Your other skills might include:

  • experience with Beverage Alcohol depletion data and reporting. An Ideal candidate will have knowledge of BDN, VIP or competitive data and at least one reporting solution using same.
  • experience with collecting/managing/reporting-on large data stores of some other nature – we deal with a lot of data, and our ability to be well versed and facile with this information is a strong part of what makes us an asset to clients.
  • Advanced skills in Microsoft Excel, Access, PowerPoint, SQL, BI tools

About GreatVines:

We are an established startup tech company providing beverage selling solutions for wine, spirits and craft beer.  As a technology partner our cloud-based solution set utilizes the platform, for business analytics and Amazon Web Services for infrastructure and data management.

Our customers include a range of marquee alcoholic beverage brands from niche producers to global behemoths.  We enthusiastically deliver custom configured solutions to meet their sales automation needs.

Submission Instructions

Please respond via email only to with some information about yourself, your background and why you feel you are a good fit for the position.

Include your resume and any desired cover letter or references saved as a single document with the following filename structure:

Role works from home, must have suitable work environment and internet connection. Must live in CA, OR, WA, no exceptions.

Do not call, no recruitment professionals please.

GreatVines National Account Authorizations and Mandates

February 13, 2012 · by Jim Thompson · General

Welcome to the first in a new series of website posts dedicated to cutting-edge new features of GreatVines and in 2012. Hopefully by now you are already aware of and utilizing our new “Account Call” capability, affectionately referred to as the “Mega Call”. This significant upgrade in 2011 allowed GreatVines users and managers to log visits, tasks, update objectives plus log any relevant brand activation and visibility data gathered during the visit, such as Tastings, Events, Wine and Cocktail Menu Placements, Off-Premise Displays and much more. This new single page reduced unnecessary clicks and page loading by 200 to 300% per visit.

Up next in our first Spring 2012 release is the much anticipated National Account Authorizations module. Building upon the flexibility and configurability of “Mega Call” this new feature lets Key Account users who focus at the National, Regional and Chain level to log product “Authorizations”. In most Suppliers, these take on many forms and names such as “Distribution”, “Mandates” or even simply “Programs”. We use the example internally of selling in a “Drink Feature” at a chain like TGI Fridays. Each customer can drive the data they wish to gather including Authorization or Mandate type, approval status, start and end date, plus very specific data about each “Placement” type such as Backbar, Menu or Limited Time Offer.

Example Distribution Grid

This feature is typically enabled only on “Chain HQ” pages within GreatVines, although it can support any valid Account Type including Distributors and Retailers. Support is included for Chain “Objectives” which result in new Authorizations, combining current, expiring and targeted placements into a single report or grid. Once these multiple authorizations are logged across all of the Chain accounts, users can quickly generate a grid, export into Excel or Email a summary of the data to selected Contacts.

This powerful new module of GreatVines will require your team to perform a quick review and update of your applicable Labels and Items, as most customers may want to limit the “Products” available to the Authorization module. And as previously mentioned, your Administrator can rename virtually all the descriptors on the Authorization pages and emails into terms that you choose!

Please work with your System Administrator to review whether this new Module should be activated in your GreatVines Account, and let us know what you think of this great new capability!

CBA and Craft Business Daily [Beer]

December 5, 2011 · by Jim Thompson · Clients, Sales Strategy

We are thrilled to be highlighted by one of our craft beer suppliers today in the Craft Business Daily email newsletter! Thanks to Marty, Andy and Jenn for the love.

One Winner on 2012 Execution

December 5, 2011

Dear Client:

The end of 2011 is nigh. Planning for 2012 is [or should be, mostly] done. Now comes the hard part: Execution. The execs at CBA are in the thick of that, and have been all year. For it took more than lofty brands and plans to start the turnaround of Widmer, and kickstart Redhook full-year growth after 5 years of relative languish. It took technology. It took speaking Wholesaler. It took turning branding into something tangible. It took, to be emphatic, execution.

Here, the leaders of CBA on how they did it, and how they will continue to do it next year.

TERRY AND MARTY ON EXECUTING WITH THE RIGHT TECHNOLOGY: “What it takes is the right people, the right structure,” says CEO Terry Michaelson. “The fact is this business is getting more complex. Craft used to be about taking draft craft to on-premise accounts, and relationships. Honestly now if you’re going to be successful in any scope, you’ve got to have technology too. We’ve got CRM systems that allow us to track what we’re doing with our customers, our planning process; our people all sit down, marketing and sales, to talk about how the brands come alive.”

We can point to their use of as a primary example of what Terry is talking about. The CRM tool helps CBA leadership track sales guys in the field, grab national and custom reports like shipments and STRs at a glance, and share notes among themselves and with linked-up distributors. All in a social-media friendly, non-invasive layout reminiscent of a Facebook wall ticker. The field sales team are all plugged into this matrix with laptops, iPads and smartphones.

VP of sales Marty Wall says the technology is of utmost importance to their small but far-flung company. “I believe that we need to push use of technology to be on the leading edge and to attract the type of people that can be nimble and innovative enough to grow in a competitive marketplace,” he says.

They just recently got all the pieces of the puzzle. “We use GreatVines, a software provider, which has a platform that integrates with to work efficiently in the 3-tier system, accessed through any internet portal,” Marty says. “This is important because I tried to use other CRM software over a 7-8 year period, but we could never quite get it right until we started working with a provider who understood 3-tier. The distributors are our connection to retail and we needed to find a solution with a provider that actually understood [that].”

Their supply chain logistics have become more efficient and service-centric as well. Last year CBA hired supply chain director Kyle Jennings to help nail special programs and seasonal fluctuations for their almost 500-strong seamless distributor network. Potential out of stocks are supposed to be pinged before they come to fruition. And there’s an emphasis on fresh beer, more than ever – distributors’ cash isn’t tied up for long, and neither is their warehouse space. That’s the goal, anyway. Service orientation all around. The big craft guys are realizing they need to think this way if they’re going to lead.

REDHOOK AND THE IMPORTANCE OF PROPER BRANDING EXECUTION. Says president of commercial operations Andy Thomas: “We’re going to be doing more with Redhook bottles because we believe that what makes Redhook different is the personality [wait for flippant billboards and POS next year. One ad: 'Unlike your ex, it won't get fat and bitter.']. The personality doesn’t come through unless you hold the bottle, see the label, see the funny things the weatherman is doing on it. If we don’t get the bottle into people’s hands, they’re not going to get the joke. Because we’re speaking someone else’s language. We’re trying to get them to understand why this blonde kind of lager is better than this blonde kind of lager that is $2 cheaper. In any category, people drink the brand. They taste the beer – that’s critical to that higher-end consumer – but they drink the brand. We’ve got to get wholesalers and retailers to understand what makes us different too.”

ANDY ON EXECUTING ON THE RIGHT LANGAUGE IN 3 TIERS: “We hammer the whole gross margin point. We’ve got a slide that shows what $48 in gross margin looks like for a wholesaler. These numbers are directional, but it’s something like 34 cases of Natural Light 30-packs, or 20 cases of Bud Light 30-packs, or 9 cases of one of our core beers, or 4 cases of the [Widmer] 924 series. Or 1 case of the Brothers Reserve.”

Andy also tells the story of a Northern California wholesaler with whom CBA had to overcome a sort of dialectal barrier: “We weren’t speaking the right language. He was about gross margin. We were allowing him to talk about gross margin in terms of front-line pricing, when our whole thing was about mix. So we didn’t do a good enough job translating that high-end product mix equals gross margin. Because he lived in the world of higher front line, higher per-case margin equals gross margin. It was a matter of us [all] understanding that.”

EXECUTING ‘BIG’ CRAFT’S BIG TASK. “We have to figure out how, as we grow, we continue to do the things we need to do to be competitive with big boys but not lose our soul,” Andy says. “Kurt and Rob [Widmer] are critical to that. Folks like Mattson [Davis, of Kona] are critical to that. Understanding the origins of Redhook and letting it be quirky is critical to making sure our brands stay as crafty and small and soulful as they can be while our company continues to get bigger and more efficient. It’s about separating CBA from CBA brands. CBA brands should always be small, soulful, crafty, authentic. Our company should turn into a pretty well-oiled machine. We understand the trade, we can go toe-to-toe with big guys in terms of the way we work with people; we should be able to be more flexible because we’re smaller. But the combination of those two things is what should distinguish us: The CBA model.”

CEO John Collins on Advanced Analytics from GoodData

November 7, 2011 · by Jim Thompson · Analytics

At Dreamforce 2011 our CEO John Collins recorded the following testimonial for our partner GoodData. Let us show you how GreatVines Advanced Analytics can transform your business.

“The difference between Cloud Analytics and Traditional Analytics is amazing. We are able to bring customers online in almost no time.”

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