Archive for 2013

New Beginnings...xRM Consultant (UK) Ltd

Big news for xRM Consultant this week. After over 4 years spent at Chorus I am leaving to focus my attention fully on our new business xRM Consultant (UK) Ltd. I offer the following services:

- Business Systems Analysis Services
- Detailed Requirements Gathering & Documentation
- Customisation For Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4, 2011 & 2013
- Reporting, Dashboard and BI Services
- Custom Training Course Design & Delivery including Course Materials
- Certified Microsoft Trainer Delivering Microsoft Curriculum

I love working with clients directly and bringing my business analysis and technical experience to help them
overcome their business challenges, building
innovative solutions that achieve this. I have managed a number of CRM 4 and CRM 2011 projects (looking forward to getting going with CRM 2013 projects asap!) and there is nothing better than the moment when you see users get excited by the benefits that CRM can offer.

I remember with one project, we delivered CRM 2011 to a team that had been working 3 months behind with their workload for over 2 years. 2 days after go-live the manager came in and told me that they had cleared their entire workload....in 2 days! He walked towards the door, turned around and simply said "I really don't know what to do now?!" Delivering efficiencies like that, seeing the users realise the benefits is why I do this.

I started out at Chorus really as a Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4 user and no more. Working with my good friend Robert Peledie (now Head of IT at GDS International) as a team we built a solid customer base at Chorus and delivered some great projects. Over the last few years the team has grown and we have delivered even more excellent solutions for customers. This has given me excellent experience in all elements of the lifecycle of  CRM Project and now i am bringing that knowledge to my own business.

If you would like to discuss your business needs please contact me on 07414 669307 or email me at Joel.Abbott@xrmconsultant.co.uk. Alternatively please feel free to connect to me on LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook or Twitter.

And off we go.....




Tuesday, 5 November 2013
Posted by Joel Abbott

What Makes A Successful CRM Project?


How would you measure success in your CRM project?....For many of us that, contrary to what Mr Shakespeare would have us believe, is the question.

The answer? Well, in truth, this is no single right answer. Often each department, or even individual will have their own idea of what a successful CRM project look like for them.However, what fascinates me is that so many companies often embark on large scale CRM projects without taking the time to truly outline what will be viewed as success. The management team see a business issue, perhaps relating to cost or efficiency, and jump for a quick "fix". "Hey, everybody is using this CRM thingy....we should do that!". The only trouble is that partner's are enlisted, budgets agreed and scope documents signed off before anyone has actually asked "Why do we actually need this again?".

This probably sounds very much like an odd thing to say for a CRM Consultant who spends his life encouraging people to implement CRM. However, implementing it for the right reasons, with clear business objectives is essential. Only then can you truly define true success, see measurable improvements and significant ROI.

What does failure look like? Now that's a different story! Everybody has clear in mind what failure is (Going over budget, missing deadlines...) but that too is often very subjective and is often nothing to do with the objectives of the project. So, without getting any more philosophical, what can an organisation who is implementing a CRM solution do to ensure that their project is successful?

Take Your Time

I chaired a discussion with over 30 delegates at a UK Housing Association conference last week on implementing CRM. When asked what they wanted to get out of our session, one delegate commented "To get it right first time with our CRM deployment".....Good answer

The only way to achieve this is to take your time in the first stages of any project. Rather than coming out of the meeting where you have identified your issue, reaching for Google and searching for CRM companies, take the time to really think about what the issues you are facing are. Identify the issues clearly and the solutions become more defined. Then, document what you would like to achieve from deploying a CRM solution, even writing a list of 2-3 key bullets of what are must-haves for the project to be a success.

Reaching back for Google yet? Hold on! Take the time to think about the wider business. If you are going to invest the time money and effort into a CRM project, why not see what else you can achieve whilst doing it? Can you bring teams that are working in disparate systems together and enable information sharing? Can you drive efficiency in areas that perhaps you would not expect (i.e warehouse, accounts dept...). Doing all of this takes time, time you may not think you have. But take it from one who has seen CRM projects rushed through by managers desperate to resolve their issues, if you don't take your time, you will pay the price down the line.

The time spent at this stage will save days even weeks of time resolving issues during or even after go-live.

Establish A Project Team


Now you have a clear view of your requirements. Ready for Google now? Not yet! Armed with your requirements and project objectives, establish an internal project team. I cannot emphasis enough how important this is. A good, well balanced (we'll come to that in a moment) and engaged project team can literally be one of the biggest factors in the success or failure of a project.

But who should make up this team? Your first inclination may be to involve all the people who have been involved in your discussions so far, or people who agree with your view on things. This is not always the best selection criteria and really any project team should be balanced. Your project team should have people from all areas and levels of the business with varying experience. Fresh ideas can come from the most unlikely of places. At a high level any project team should have:

A strong, driven Project Lead - This individual will be the first to read the documentation cover to cover and the last person to leave the night before go-live. They will get to know the system and therefore your business process inside out. They need to have the skills to draw out of people what they need and the strength to say no when asked for things that could derail the project. Clearly, this person is the most important member of the team and wouldn't normally be a member of senior management (trust me, you wont have the time)

At least 2 members of the senior management team as Project Sponsors. There is nothing more frustrating for this team of individuals who are working hard to make the system a success if there is no buy-in, perceived or actual, from the people at the top. They need to know that their hard work, often on-top of what they do as a day job, will not be for nothing. The individuals chosen to fulfill the project sponsor role must also have a key quality: They must actually care about and be invested in the project aims. I mean no offence, but there is no point in asking the VP of manufacturing to do this if the project will not impact his area of the business in anyway. In addition, even though as senior management they will be extremely busy, they must commit to attending the project meetings. This is crucial if the project is to be a success.

Project Champions from each affected department. These also must be chosen carefully. You are looking for people who are "up for it" and willing to really get stuck in and provide good feedback. These individuals need to know the processes carried out by their area of the business inside out as you need them to bring to the team all the scenario's and "What if's" that everyone else isn't aware of or would forget. In addition, really investing in these people, getting them involved in revisions of the scoping documentation and even asking them to sign-off the relevant parts will give your project a strong presence in each department meaning when things aren't going to plan post-deployment (which always happens no matter how good you are) your project lead isn't running around the building having a meltdown.

Getting the right people in place will be a major factor in a successful implementation.

Chose The Right Partner

Choosing the right consultant/organisation to handle your project is crucial. This person(s) is going to be your guide on so many things for what could be up to a year, the relationship needs to be strong. You need a partner who will support you through the changes that your business will go through during the project. You need a partner who will take the project as seriously and invest as much of themselves as you will. Obviously this comes at a cost, but a good partner can be worth their weight in gold.

What should you look for? A good partner will have a strong track record of delivery and be willing to let you talk to previous clients. They should also be able to assign you a main contact who is technical, who you can bounce ideas off when you need. They should also be easy to get along with. I know that sounds strange, but you will be putting these people in front of a large proportion of your staff. They need to present a positive and supportive attitude and, where possible, be easy to engage with. Your not looking for a partner who wants to make a quick buck and run.
Your CRM partner will get to know your business processes better than you do and going forward as your business develops your solution can do so to with the support of a partner who knows you and your ethos.

Chose The Right Technology


There are plenty of CRM solutions out on the market so how do you chose? Your partner can be helpful in this but of course they may be aligned with a particular vendor. Whatever solution you need to be know firstly that it will fulfill your expectations technical. For example, will you have remote workers who will need mobile capability? Do your process allow for your to fit with what the solution offers or is it crucial that it can be customized to suit your processes? Do you have the infrastructure to host the solution or are you looking to go into the cloud? Are you looking to replace other solutions and bring them into a central solution which may then require integration with other elements? All of these questions must be answered clearly before you can proceed. If your reading this you know that my focus is on Microsoft Dynamics CRM and it truly stands apart in this regard. Sales pitch aside, you will need a technology platform that can deliver not just today's needs but tomorrow's. It needs to be able to be flexible and grow with your business, as you change, it changes. Microsoft Dynamics fits this perfectly and with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 it takes it to a whole new level.

So, how do you measure success in a CRM project? Actually, only you can answer that. However, what is clear is that answering that question, setting your critical success factors before you do anything else, is almost the answer itself.

xRM Consultant (UK) Ltd provide consultancy services in all areas of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Projects. If you would like to discuss your requirements please contact us - enquiries@xrmconsultant.co.uk

Joel
Tuesday, 29 October 2013
Posted by Joel Abbott

MS Dynamics CRM and Supporting Customer Processes - Disabling The Save Button On Duplicate Detection Window

Hi All,

Recently our customers have been looking into additional ways to customize Dynamics CRM 2011 to support the processes of their teams. For certain customers, those who have exhausted all the options of "supported customization's", this requires some creative thinking.


Its interesting as this desire for more quirky changes to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 is really a product of its own flexibility. CRM 4, while great, was fairly static when it came to processes. A lot of companies used it as a CRM solution in the more classic sense. Then came the big moon step forward that was CRM 2011. This gave organisations so much more flexibility in integrating systems and supporting processes. Trouble is, you give a customer a slice and they want the whole cake! For customers who have now been working with and adapting Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 for the last 2-3 years, the desire for configuring Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 to support the ever changing and unique processes of their business sometimes goes beyond what is possible under the heading of "supported customisations". The answer? Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 of course!!


In the meantime, when it comes to these sort of requests, we have to get creative! In line with this we had a customer recently who wanted us to remove the Save Record button on the duplicate detection window. The inbuilt duplicate detection, whilst it has its limitations, nicely gives you the opportunity to not save your newly entered record if a duplicate is found. However, you are also given the option to save the record even if a duplicate is found. This causes a problem when you have a large team of users who, to be frank, you don't trust to allow the to create duplicates. Thanks to a very helpful blog post from MS Dynamics CRM 2011 Tips we were able to disable the Save Record button fairly simply by taking the following steps:


  1. Navigate to your CRM instance on your app server.
  2. Navigate to \CRMWeb\Tools\DuplicateDetection\ViewDuplicates\
  3. Edit this file in Visual Studio or Notepad.
  4. Add this line to the ShowPage() javascript member or any member that is called by onLoad(): document.getElementById("btn_id_Ok").disabled="true";
  5. Save your change.


This will disable the button. If you would like to get clever (like we did) you can add some further script to disable this button for users with a certain security role.

Nice little bit of code that can help with the usability of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 in certain scenarios.

Thanks

xRM Consultant

Saturday, 31 August 2013
Posted by Joel Abbott

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 – The Next Step

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 – The Next Step

Microsoft love their "Codenames"....

However with "Orion", or what has now been revealed to be Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013, we can understand the secrecy.



Dynamics CRM has come a long way since the days of version 3.0 and even version 4.0 with version 2011 being a huge step forward.  It brought us dashboards, JavaScript and resource management as well as dialogues (We wont mention solution files).



However, in the last 2 years a lot has changed in the world of Dynamics CRM. Cloud based solutions have become a huge focus for Microsoft (step forward Office 365) and this has had an impact on CRM. In addition, Dynamics CRM 2011 achieved what so many other CRM packages had tried to do and failed.....it took CRM, or even xRM, as a concept to a much wider audience.

To have an industry leading line of business applications, completely customised to your business processes, you no longer needed to have an office in central London. Anyone, from an international banking group to a small animal charity, could easily and quickly have these solutions at their fingertips. 

This however presented some challenges. With a wider audience came a wider demographic of users and with that some resistance to the way a standard user would navigate through the system. In response, Dynamics CRM 2013 takes this to another level. The UI has been completely redesigned and is focused firmly on empowering users to follow the business processes built within the system. 

Using the new Process Bar adminstrators can enter custom steps that match the business process of the organisation and as such guide users through this process in a much clearer fashion. Dependencies can be setup so that users will be unable to progress without completing certain tasks. Your system will still provide a 360-degree view of your business, but for users who need to be focused on the road ahead, it will achieve this simply and clearly.

In addition, Microsoft is pushing the mobile market. Free custom apps for Windows 8 and the iPad will be released providing both beautiful and functional methods of using CRM on the go.



This barely scratches the surface of the changes in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 and we will discuss these in future posts here, but one thing is clear: Microsoft Dynamics CRM isn't just here to stay...it is here to dominate the marketplace. Microsoft are already releasing details of the Q1 service update ("Mira"...another codename!) and what it includes so watch this space. 

xRM Consultant

This blog was orignally published on the Chorus Solutions website. If you have a Dynamics CRM project to discuss please feel free to get in touch on 01275 398901
Thursday, 29 August 2013
Posted by Joel Abbott

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Having worked with Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 in a sales & development environment, my focus now is on customising this awesome solution and showing its true potential.
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