Archive for May 2014

BIG NEWS: Microsoft & Annouce Partnership!!!!!

For those who haven't seen the news that is coming out of the US this evening, Microsoft new CEO Satya Nadella has announced a partnership between Microsoft and

This is really REALLY big news....and not particularly great news. For at least 4 years Microsoft have had SalesForce in their sights. In 2010 it really kicked off when law suits were filed for "patent infringements" To say SalesForce were equally "miffed" was an understatement

In last 2 years in particular, it seemed that Microsoft's singular commercial goal was to wipe SalesForce off the map. Even Microsoft's pricing strategy for CRM Online (MS CRM Professional Licence was priced the same as SalesForce "Basic" licence) seemed like an ironic slap in the face to SalesForce

Now Microsoft seem to want to play nice....

Don't.....quite....know what to say really....

On the face of it, this is not a smart move AT ALL. Integrating SalesForce and Office365 surely removes what should be a core USP of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Also, does Microsoft REALLY want to present SalesForce as a good solution to Office365 customers looking for a CRM Solution??

There is one possibility but it rely's on Microsofts new CEO Satya Nadella being sharper than initially appears. If this was a bold first move to an acquisition of SalesForce by Microsoft this could make for more drama than a CRM Industry version of Eastenders. Even without an acquisition, there could be a positive angle. SalesForce do have a significant customer base. Get them on Office365, impress them with SharePoint and OneDrive and...."oh by the way...did you know that Microsoft Dynamics CRM is way more awesome than this SalesForce rubbish????"

Am I trying to put a positive spin on this? Yes...but time will tell.

Needless to say this hasnt been met with much enthusiasm in the twittersphere...

Please feel free to use the comments section to discuss your insights/thoughts on this. 



The Million Dollar Question - How To Get Buy In! - Part 2 (End Users)

If you read the second article in our 3-part series on how to get buy-in for your CRM project. Part 1 of the series focused on getting management teams on board. If you missed it, go and have a look here. In this article we will discuss what is probably your toughest audience for getting buy-in…

  • End Users - Getting buy-in from the day-to-day users of CRM can be a huge challenge. Some users are very resistant to change. Others, are desperate to cling onto the existing system. Ironically, these users often are hugely critical of the way things are done, but when change is on the horizon suddenly the current way is the best way! Still, yet others are either "too busy" or just plain uninterested. 

Been there? Done it? Got the t-shirt? Like with management, In my experience there is no standard formula for success with getting buy-in from end users, and a tailored approach is a must. As they are probably your biggest group,  you may need to adapt your approach for different teams of users so you will need to be very flexible . So what measures are available to you?

Measure - Issue Initial Feedback Questionnaires

  • Who For - End Users

  • What To Do - Simply inviting users to a session to discuss CRM without any 'warm-up' will ensure noting other than a very dry boring meeting. To combat this, issue an initial feedback questionnaire to the team asking them questions such as, what do they currently do in their day to day job? What systems do they use? What would they like to change? Etc. The purpose of these is not for them to write down all their requirements but to get them thinking before they come into the feedback sessions, making those sessions much more productive

Measure - Empower Users To Take Responsibility

  • Who For - End Users

  • What To Do - We discussed this in our last article as a strategy that benefits the management team but in truth it is a huge way to get buy-in from end users too. User will feel much more engaged in the entire process and get on board with process changes quicker if they feel that they have the power to make suggestions and decisions that are taken on board. This can be done by asking Power-Users to sign-off functionality before it gets developed. This often also has the knock on effect of making these individuals an advocate of the system when it is deployed

Measure - Do What You Said You Would When You Said You Would

  • Who For - End Users

  • What To Do - We discussed this in our last article as a strategy that benefits the management team but in truth it is a huge way to get buy-in from end users too. Often a project of this size is the next in a list of IT implementations, systems, processes etc. and you may find that previous promises made that were never delivered can impact users view of your project. The simplest and quickest way to get round this is to do what you said you would when you said you would. Cancel/Rearrange meetings as rarely as possible.

Measure - Carry Out Dual-Phase UAT

  • Who For - End Users

  • What To Do - UAT is essential and yet it can often be where a project really slows, sadly so close to the finish line! To combat this, carry out 2 phases of UAT. The first phase should be carried out with the project lead with the purpose of verifying that what has been delivered meets what was requested in the documented solution. The second phase is where the system is verified with the end-users, checking that nothing major has been missed or not delivered.

Measure - Process Oriented Training Materials

  • Who For - End Users

  • What To Do -Avoid simply handing users manuals that cover only the basics of CRM or worse the detailed minutia of how to administer CRM. This will bore your users and turn them off your system. Instead, create manuals and training programs that focus on how the user groups will follow the company process. Accompanied with screen-shot manuals, this approach will make users feel empowered to do their job confidently in CRM from day 1.

Measure - Make Good Use Of Videos

  • Who For - End Users

  • What To Do - It’s a nightmare getting all the individuals you need together for training. Using screen capture software to create short videos that demonstrate how to use certain aspects of the system can be a great way of not only mopping up those who couldn’t attend but also providing a first stop for users wanting a refresh on something from the training. Top Tip: Keep them short! Users are much more likely to watch a video if it is 3-5 mins. long

Measure - Run Project Feedback Sessions

  • Who For - End Users
  • What To Do - Throughout the project, run project feedback sessions to not only gather feedback from end users on how things are going from their perspective but also to give them feedback on how the project is progressing. There can be quite a gap between stages for the end users, particularly during the development phase. Keeping them up-to-date on progress will reinforce that their hard work and input hasn’t been forgotten.

None of these alone will guarantee success. Much depends on the size of your organisation and a realistic view of what is achievable. However, using a combination of these will really help your users feel engaged with and when end users feel like they have a say in the project this is only a positive thing.

But what about getting buy-in from an often forgotten area, the IT department? This will be discussed in the final article in our series out on Tuesday

If you are struggling with user adoption and would like some help and support, we would welcome the chance to discuss this further with you. We have worked with thousands of users over the years and we are confident that we can help support you. To arrange a discussion, please complete the Contact Us page

Hope this helps, please feel free to add any comments below.

Joel Abbott - xRM Consultant.

The Million Dollar Question - How To Get Buy In! - Part 1 (Management)

I recently attended the CRM User Group at the Microsoft Campus in Reading (UK). If you haven't gotten involved with the CRM User Group yet I would thoroughly recommend it. It is run by a Microsoft  MVP  called Adam Vero. Adam is a top bloke and fantastic MCT so definitely worth attending as this event attracts a good number of users, administrators and CRM Consultants too, all looking to share their knowledge.

Anyway, back on topic….

We had a round table discussion about managing CRM projects and the issue that kept coming up again and again was the age-old question for any Microsoft Dynamics CRM Administrator……..

How do I get users, management, even IT to buy-in to both the product and the project?

Now, anyone who has ran any sort of software implementation project  will have faced this challenge before. The reason for a lack of, or perceived lack of, interest from your user base can be for different reasons depending on the users:

  • Management - The VAST  majority of successful implementations I have been involved in were lead from the top. Far from just ensuring that the project is delivered on time and signing the cheques, a good management team will support both the project processes (detailed scoping & requirements gathering, development etc..) but will also be fully engaged in any  changes to business process. Without this level of backing, delivering a successful CRM project (i.e. one that delivers real, tangible business benefits short and long term) is incredibly difficult.

NB: This is also true of Users & IT but we will be discussing this in Parts 2 & 3 of this series.

Ok, so with that thoroughly depressing picture what can be done? In my experience there is no standard formula for success with this, but a tailored approach is crucial. Depending on what issues you are experiencing, you can create a strategy of measures that work for you. This can be flexible also so that as the user adoption issues change, your strategy for dealing with it can too. So what measures are available to you?

Measure - Establish A Project Board

  • Who For - Management

  • What To Do - Managing a CRM project can be a very lonely place, whether you are an outside consultant or an internal project lead. Every project will have its ups and downs and support from senior management is absolutely essential. Forming a Project Board is different from your project team. The project team will consist of individuals at all levels. However the Project Board will generally consist of (1) the Project Lead, (2) the main Project Sponsor and (3) at least 1 other member of senior management (director level). This means that when high level strategy is being discussed, a fair and accurate picture of your progress is given. In addition, when the project slows due to a lack of a decision being taken, you have individuals with the authority to either make the decision or take the delay on the chin on your behalf.

Measure - Control The Message

  • Who For - Management

  • What To Do - Ensure that very early on you identify the objectives of your project from the perspective of the management team and ensure that progress on these objectives is regularly measured and reported on. This can be a challenge, particularly when you have issues but control how those issues are communicated. If they have no impact on the deliverability of the management objectives don’t open your mouth unless necessary.

Measure - Issue Weekly Project Updates

  • Who For - Management

  • What To Do - Any CRM project will ebb and flow when it comes to progress. Meetings with users to under
    stand feedback, getting documentation and sign-off and overcoming technical issues can all seem to take time with not much to show for it. This is why
    issuing weekly project updates is so critical. This allows you to front-up to the management team exactly what IS being achieved and where there are sticking points can be an excellent way of demonstrating the impact of these. This means that management are far more likely to support rather than question your progress.

Measure - Empower Users To Take Responsibility

  • Who For - Management

  • What To Do - An approach that is often taken by management teams is the sledgehammer approach ("Your having this system whether you like it or not!"). This often ends in wasted money, time and enthusiasm. Empowering users to give input goes a long way to ensure this doesn’t happen. Make it clear to end users who are involved that not only is there feedback welcome but it will have a direct impact on what the system looks like. Let them have considerable input into decisions, particularly around business process.

Measure - Do What You Said You Would Do When You Said You Would

  • Who For - Management

  • What To Do - This is probably the simplest of measures but is so very important. Set realistic deadlines, push back if you feel expectations that are being put on you or the team are unrealistic, even putting your concerns down in writing, but then when you commit to a date…meet it. Trust is a key issue in any project as you need the management team to trust your view on how the project is going. If you make promises that go unfulfilled this trust will evaporate. On the other hand, if you do what you said you would when you said you would, it will engender support from those overseeing the project. 

As we said at the start, none of these are the proverbial silver bullet, nor will using all of them guarantee success. Much depends on the size of your organisation and a realistic view of what is achievable. However, using a combination of these can get you a long way towards delivering a great project. Microsoft Dynamics CRM is by far the best CRM solution in the marketplace. A great project delivery will only enhance the way your organisation views it and you!

But what about getting buy-in from End Users? This will be discussed in the next article in our series out on Friday

If you are struggling with user adoption and would like some help and support, we would welcome the chance to discuss this further with you. We have worked with thousands of users over the years and we are confident that we can help support you. To arrange a discussion, please click here 

Hope this helps, please feel free to add any comments below.

Joel Abbott - xRM Consultant.

Service & Case Changes…Small But Mighty! Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 - Spring Wave

As part of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 Spring Wave there are a whole host of updates to different areas of this fantastic solution. To get more information on all the changes, you can find the release preview guide here.

In this blog I just wanted to focus on a few of the changes to the Cases entity. There are a number of changes but I am focusing here on the 3 that I believe will have the greatest impact as customers have continuously asked for them:

Finding Similar Cases:
On any support desk, knowledge is power and sharing that knowledge is key . There are a number of ways you could do this but what has been lacking from the Service offering Microsoft Dynamics CRM is the ability to quickly, efficiently and easily find cases similar to the one you are currently working on. This has been included in the Spring Wave. Without leaving the case record you are working on, your service agent can click on the Similar Cases lookup and find a list of suggested cases. From here they can link these or other cases they know to be relevant to the case they are working on. Perhaps the issue was handled in 3 or 4 different ways in the past. No problem, link all the cases and your agent will have all the information at their fingertips.

The suggestions that CRM makes are based on the related "Subjects". I would like to see this work a little smarter as I know that the subject tree hasn’t always proved to be effective for my customers but it’s a great start.

Merging Cases:
For some time in CRM there has been the ability to merge records. However, the ability merge cases is extremely useful. Not only does it merge all activities and associated records from your merged case to your new one but it allows you to merge more than a single record at a time. This means that, for example, if you get a user who is very "enthusiastic" about their issue and calls through to your helpdesk 4 or 5 times logging the same case, these can be merged into a single case very quickly and easily. Brilliant!

Parent & Child Cases:
This feature has been a LONG time coming. I have often had to build this manually for customers who were bemused at the fact that they couldn’t do this "out of the box". So it is with great delight that we see the ability to have parent and child cases in the Spring Wave. There are two main scenarios were this is invaluable:

One issue from same customer and work needs be done by other teams

Same issue effecting multiple customer from same organisation

How is it done? Very easily in one of 2 ways. First you can click on the "Create Child Case" button on your "Parent" case. This will create a new case that is already linked to the parent one and visible as such. 

Secondly, you can associate other pre-existing cases as child cases. Not only can this be done by using the Child Cases Sub-grid on the Parent Case form but it can also been done in bulk by going to a view of cases, selecting those you wish to make child cases, clicking on the "Associate Child Cases" button and selecting the parent.

Its important to note that you only have a single "level" in the parent/child hierarchy. If Case B is a child of Case A then Case B cannot be a parent of any other case. If you delete Case A but leave Case B in place, then this can become a parent case but not otherwise.

I know these may not be as razzmatazz (I should get an award for getting that word in a blog post!) as Social Listening or Microsoft Dynamics Marketing but these changes, small though they are, have been well thought through by the dev team and Microsoft and will deliver real tangible benefits to our customers. 

My information is based on the following information eBook provided by Microsoft and as such may be subject to change as but it matches up with all we have told already so we have no reason to doubt what this information tells us

Please feel free to comment below


Joel Abbott

xRM Consultant

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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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