CRM Industry in General

New Business Process Flows with 2015 Release

Improving functionality to make it easier to configure your system right out of the box is one of the benefits of the new Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 update. A feature I am finding great value using is the business process flow (BPF) display of a set of predefined steps for users to follow to achieve a desired outcome.

 

Microsoft Dynamics CRM v2015 offers a method to create these complex BPFs in a Single Edit Experience! Now, all the improvements made to BPF in v2015 such as stage and step configuration, selecting entity relationships and new branching capabilities are all performed in the same process edit window. Let's take a deeper look into these new features on the Single Edit Experience as compared to CRM v2013!

 

There is now rule based branching. In CRM v2013, the BPF were new and were liner: you had to complete one stage before you moved on to the next one. In CRM v2015, it is now possible have BPF to change to the next stage or to future stages depending on the actions and input of the user. This enhancement displays the most relevant information to the user and ultimately allows them to create more complex BPF. The instant feedback allows for users to be updated in real time, improving the accuracy of direction while performing their tasks. Dynamically changing BPF are enabled by the new branching and merging features, which now include the conditions if, else, and else if for business rules logic.

 

These conditions are just one of the updates to the entities in BPF. You can create a branch with a single entity, or now with v2015, you can cross the branch with multiple entities! In the previous version, only certain entities were allowed to be included in BPF, now you can choose any custom entity to be involved as long as you've enabled the BPF capability. Another improvement in 2015 is the ability for the BPF to go in and out of the entity loop as many times as necessary to complete the action; opposed to v2013 where you could only loop back to the primary entity once. The relationships between entities has also been updated and a 1:N relationship with the associated entity is no longer necessary. In v2013 there was a predefined set of entities and relationships that could be used, now you get to customize your relationship by choosing "Previous Stage", "Entity", and "Relationship" on the Edit window.  While a relationship is not required anymore, it is recommended to use relationships to allow data to more easily flow between records.

 

At the end of your BPF, branching will come to a single merge step, which is the condition after the else statement. With the new feature to select the "Previous Stage" at the end of a stage, you now have the ability to create a unique relationship with different field mapping depending on the actions of the user. This is useful in that is allows you to dictate a relationship based on the branches that merge to verify that the correct data is being mapped over from one stage to the next.

 

These enhancements to Business Process Flows are just a part of the all that is new in Microsoft Dynamics CRM v2015. Check back for more blog posts regarding the newest release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM!

 


History is in the next Cube

One of the amazing things about technology is that the "Grandfathers and Grandmothers" of the industry might be sitting in a cube next to you happily working away.

Time is so compressed!

When I saw this post on the evolution of CRM Systems I had to smile and share!

https://community.dynamics.com/crm/b/crmsoftwareblog/archive/2013/10/31/the-evolution-of-the-crm-system.aspx 


Welcome 2014

A big welcome to 2014. In my world there are two key phrases that are bubbling up as big picture goals this year.

1) Building and Leveraging Bridges

2) Cross Product Technical Solutions

Bridges of connection have long been a wonderful resource. I find that listening to needs and then connecting two people who can click two needs into some awesome solution(s) has been a whole lot of fun and I don't plan to stop leveraging that awesomeness now that I work within the world of Microsoft.

Cross Product Technical Solutions have also always been my focus, but unlike the days when Small Business Server combined products to meet all the needs of small businesses, we now have combined products to meet complex needs within Enterprise. Take for instance the current version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM v2013. It is not just CRM or xRM, now it also has Social Insights, Yammer, SharePoint and soon to come Social Listening and Dynamic Marketing. Sprinkle in some ISV love and you get Portals, Community, Complex Ordering, Graphical Analytics, Integration bridges and so much more!

It really is a world of frameworks, integration, social and the new features of v2013 process and automated business rules and the toolsets just keep expanding.

So reach out and put on that learning hat, open your mind for some right shift perspective changing and dive in. Oh and don't forget to park egos, negative attitude, doubt and frustration from change at the door. They will just get in your way as you learn to surf on the changing waters of this new world.


Why I use Yammer (#yammer)

My Top 5 Yammer Value Adds

1) Bridges to so many people all within the corporate world in which I work. People who I would never meet, talk to or get to know without the tool.

2) Realtime discussions and debates on issues being faced today, segmented by subjects that I care about.

3) Answers to any question I can think of from a global perspective (if you work in a global company)

4) Access to a large library of already created work - Don't reinvent just improve

5) Opportunities to meet my goals and to help others meet theirs


Purchasing CRM? Style considerations

Thinking on CRM : The last time you purchased a TV, did you purchase it because of the new features? The better picture quality, the smaller form factor, perhaps even a new connection or cutting edge bling?

OK so that is how you buy a new TV, but this mindset does not work as well for the purchase of a new CRM System. A CRM System is not the solution to your business process problems, it is the empowerment of your decided upon business process. Perhaps even new business processes. It is a new road with growth possibilities and potenial. It is a new culture.

You might be limited today by technology, but the technology that you buy for tomorrow should not limit you and your business processes.

Needless to say why I am a big fan of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Microsoft Dynamics CRM is as much a development framework (xRM) as it is a product. Those who are masters understand not only the features they get out of the box, but also the strengths, weaknesses and when to use which feature. They also understand the age and maturity of each feature. Knowing if the feature can easily be used outside it's designed purpose or if it needs to stay in it's comfort zone. They understand when to configure,  when to customize and when to extend using standard Microsoft Development methodologies.

 As a business owner stepping into the world of implementing and incorporating technologies into the heart beat of your company you need to think flexibility. Change is constant, but the change of technology is so fast that you need a product and a partner that offers you choice. Constant choice. Microsoft Dynamics CRM has a long history (10 years and counting) of not only offering you choice , but of also staying current with the latest technologies and not removing all that has been an incredbly solid framework since 2003.

Choose carefully your product

Choose carefully your partner

and you will have an engine behind your business processes that helps keep you consistent, organized, empowered and current.


2013 is a Big Happy 10th Birthday to Microsoft Dynamics CRM

In 2002 Microsoft developed and in 2003 released Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Dynamics CRM v1.0 Released January 2003

Dynamics CRM v1.2 Released December 2003

The product team has also had an INCREDIBLE Record for announcing and releasing updates and upgrades with precise regularity.

BIGS KUDOS to the present and previous developers who have worked on this product and who continue to work on the product.

Another incredible in this crazy world of technology change! The core foundation of success, the building blocks and the feature sets keeps growing and expanding with little need to remove anything. Mastering the incredible tough task of staying current with all that is great while also never needing to totally reinvent the wheel. This little discussed value to long term clients is a real win and one of the reasons I continue to be passionate about the product.


Within the world of the CRM Industry there is a cutting edge ...

Within the world of the CRM Industry there is a cutting edge ...

AND when it comes to the cutting edge pushing the design of data consumption is right up there with tying the use of CRM to employee motivation. As in they get more motived the more they use the internal CRM application. (yes, really, but I will save that for a future post)

Thanks to Mark for sharing this great post and a free solution on data display design - Perhaps take a few minutes to check it out and comment.

 http://markmargolis.wordpress.com/2013/05/13/crm-timeline/#comment-500

 

http://markmargolis.wordpress.com/2013/05/13/crm-timeline/#comment-500

 


Convergence: It is that time of year again! #CONV2013

I won't be at Convergence this year, but I wanted to go ahead and share some getting the most out of the event tips and tricks. because Convergence isn't just about great sessions and learning, but it is also about

 

1)      Networking

2)      Meeting the Third Party Providers and ISVs who partner with Microsoft on Dynamics CRM
and add value add

3)      Meeting the Microsoft CRM Support Team and technical resources (bring your questions)

4)      Meeting the Microsoft CRM Developers and development team (there are new faces to watch for)

5)      Meeting other Microsoft team members

6)      Communicating with other CRM users (Look for CRMUG)

7)      Listening and learning from Authors, Field Experts and great consultants

 

So In my many years going to and presenting at Convergence I offer you the following

Tips

 

1)  Know which sessions you want to go to before you go and have a backup option
(sometimes sessions are sold out)

2)  Know who the speakers are: Ask or search the net or read their blogs, being great at what you know doesn't mean you are a great speaker. Look for both!

3) Use Twitter during the conference to keep up with the live session buzz and to connect with other CRM tweeters. My guess is the tweet tag will be #conv2013 or #conv13

4) Know the level of the session: They can range from 100 to 400 and have a lot to do
with presenter and audience. Convergence has both sales sessions to show what is new and deep technical sessions to get you up to speed fast so you have to know how to pick them.

5) Go to the parties and don’t stay at one. Roam from one party to the next and check out the culture, the mood, the tone, the side talks, the buzz

6) Talk to Strangers

7) Eat with people you don’t know and when you sit down, talk to them

8) Make time to visit the bookstore (even if to just see what CRM books are available)

9) Make time to visit the booths (I have had more great technical talks with CEOs at
trade shows than anywhere else)

10)  Go to some non-CRM Sessions such as Office, SharePoint and BI – products that work
great together with CRM

11) Go to some business sessions – they have some incredible leaders presenting on
leadership, change management, etc. Many are well recognized business book
writers. (loved hearing Malcolm Gladwell a few years back)

12)  Setup a Meet the Expert Connect session and have a one on one with a developer,
business leader, or other resource. A few years back I met with the development team working on a key feature in the newest version of CRM. What a blast to get their perspective.

13)  Attend the Pre-Convergence CRMUG Day, the sessions are smaller and the content incredible.

14) Bring business cards, share your business cards, collect business cards AND schedule time when you get home to follow up. Not just the week after, but again two weeks after and a again after 2 months, etc. Networking is about meeting and then building relationships that offer win/win value to both people.

15) Share what you know! Evaluations make a HUGE Difference in the world of Microsoft. Peer to Peer sharing makes a HUGE difference in the success of Dynamics CRM.

16) Attend the last session of the day and the event. Those speakers are sometimes the best, because they draw out the day.

 

Social Tips

1) It is New Orleans! Get up on the balcony and share the fun of throwing beads at people.

2) Plan to eat incredible food.

3) Don't plan on sleeping too much, but don't burn up all the brain cells so you don't have time to learn.

 

 


And here it is 3 years later

So in 2008 I posted the below and just out of curiosity I checked out the hyperlinks today. A few of them were 404'ed so I deleted those, but I was pleasantly surprised that the following still work.

Ah the Beauties of the Web

One of the beauties of the web is that much of the valued work that was
released over time, is still available today. 

Articles

The Discipline of CRM, by Anne Stanton and Herb Rubenstein,
iSixSigma Magazine http://www.isixsigma.com/library/content/c040323a.asp

How much do you invest in Mastering your Accounting
Software?
by Anne Stanton, Accounting Software 411 http://www.accountingsoftware411.com/Press/PressDocView.aspx?docid=6460

Accounting Software, Maintaining Control, by Anne Stanton
and Joel Eisenhandler http://www.accountingsoftware411.com/Press/PressDocView.aspx?docid=6613

Software and Systems
Instant Messaging: Why communication needs new tools
, by Anne Stanton,
Accounting Software 411 http://www.accountingsoftware411.com/Press/PressDocView.aspx?docid=5900

Other items of Interest

Utilizing Technology to Market Smarter by Melissa Farmer,
Accounting Marketing http://www.accountingmarketing.org/images/2006_UsingTechnology.pdf

CRM making life easier for CPA firms, by Lisa Spinelli,
WebCPA http://www.webcpa.com/article.cfm?articleid=20645&searchTerm=spinelli

5 signs that it's time to automate your customer data, by Jo
Anna Krotz, Microsoft Small Business Center http://www.microsoft.com/smallbusiness/resources/marketing/customer-service-acquisition/5-signs-that-its-time-to-automate-your-customer-data.aspx#signsthatitstimetoautomateyourcustomerdata

 


Klout, Social Media Experiences

As a hobby I spend time learning about new social media trends, technology and tools. I tend to try many of the new products out and then personally judge if they are valuable to me and sometimes perhaps not valuable to me, but good to know about when talking to others.

If you are following me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or any of the other various roadways I drive upon, you might have seen some new shared posts on Klout. I am testing and using Klout to learn about this new technique and tool.

Share your thoughts and comments!


Sharing CRM, Sharing Contacts and Collaborating

CRM is highly personal just like each of our own direct relationships. It must also meet corporate and team shared needs. This post dives into this concept.

Take for instance the tracking of details on a relationship between two people. The USER of CRM (such as a sales person) and their prospect or client (such as a key contact at a prospect site) 

Some details of a relationship are as unique as each person within that relationship and others are common for all relationships with a specific person no matter who is in that relationship.

These details of a "relationship" can include an incredible list of variables.

What would be considered common and easily shared and valuable to a team? Personal characteristics such as a specific job title, the contacts features (height, gender, eye color) or perhaps even the name of a contacts spouse and friends.

Other variables are unique to a specific relationship and might or might not be valuable to the team.
 
What would be considered unique? The level of trust between two people, an inside joke, their shared history, perhaps a specific experience and shared networks. This could even extend to likes and dislikes that a person has and their level of likes. A person who is great at skiing might love skiing with a person at their same level, but hate it with a beginner. We could even go so far as to look at other unique traits such as what job or what role is taken as part of a specific relationship. If I think of one person in my network as an example, this same person is a contactor, a developer, a senior software developer (language being a factor), a software engineer, an architect (role being a factor), a speaker, a reference, a father, a son, a coach, a builder and more. So how are all these different variables tracked and shared?
 
Within the world of Microsoft Dynamics CRM these variables are handled in a number of different ways and at various different companies extended with different styles. Partner extensions to the software, customer driven extensions to the software, base use of already available features. This one subject is a great one for the user group! (www.crmug.com

Depending on the version of the software choices within the software change significantly between version 4 and verson 2011.

In the world of Microsoft Dynamics CRM v4.

Contacts are people who have a set of shared fields and these include not only what shipped out of the box, but also any other fields you wanted to add. Out of the box fields include title, gender, e-mail addresses, and how the person likes to be contacted. User defined fields might include if they are a referral source or if they are an influencer within a prospect account.

Microsoft also offered a table in v4 for relationships. This is a two column list where a CRM user could custom define that a specific person (such as person A) was a vendor contact and that a specific second person (person B for instance) was the customer of that vendor contact. You could also choose a company and put it in this relationship table such as company A was a vendor for person B as the customer contact. This relationship feature offered both company and contact cross reference choices. 

The feature had/has an interesting set of powerful potential, but it also had limits and I would dare to say it is under utilized inthe field and as such in the world of Dynamics CRM version 2011 a whole new world of options was born under the CONNECTIONS umbrella. Relationships exists in 2011 but has been retired and replaced with connections.
 
If you have not discovered CONNECTIONS then you want to take time to REALLY understand the power before you architect it into your business process.

So with those thoughts and my writing time ended I open up the idea for discussion and perhaps a few more posts over the next few days.

How does your company track all the variables between all the different relationships for each prospect or client contact that you have?


My world of field notes: the blog vs. twitter

I just had an incredible four days at the Microsoft Dynamics Convergence Conference. The time was incredibly well spent and included a huge amount of value. What fascinated me however was that unlike in years past, instead of capturing my notes here on the blog I was tweeting them in real time.

So now I have a dilemna - I would like to capture and save those notes. The wonderful #conv12 and #conv2012 items, but how to get them from there to here?

Looks like I am about to embark on a bit of research. Stay Tuned!


CRM and the Holiday Opportunities

Now that it is the holiday season and everyone is distracted with high stress, extra after work errands (or lunch time runs to the local toy store) perhaps utilizing your CRM system is not top of mind.

BUT

there are a number of different opportunities that are not present (or presents) at other times of the year.

Take for instance sending out holiday cards (either electronically or via a hand written note) an address is needed (e-mail or postal) and what better time to confirm that all your addresses are correct then right before sending out a caring thought.

There is also the tracking that you sent something, as there is nothing more embarressing (or perhaps more business limiting) then sending the same card to the same person twice. You definitely want to complete and activity once you get those messages out to your audience. Lastly well how about those great responses or the people who send you a gift or card who you did not send a gift or card to!! A thank you note, a reach out or even simply adding them to your list for next year.

CRM is not just about management or BOD statistics, it really is about helping you to be more organized, more connected or simply a bit kinder because you can remember the small details a bit better.  


Utilization and Dynamics CRM

You have rolled out your project or you are working on it and that "I hate change" and "What? I have to learn something new?" are tripping you up and getting in your way.  These mindsets create speed bumps and the more speed bumps the harder the change.

So what can you do and if you know what to do how can you get the attention of your users in this noisy, noisy world so that they understand what is available to them?

The Top 7 Ideas

1. Using an experienced and trained Dynamics CRM resource, present Dynamics CRM regulary. This does not necessarily mean training, this is much more focused on sharing ease of use and the potential for the tool to meet an existing needs. Only present what you have delivered or are delivering.

2. Present audience specific information that meets the interests and needs of a very defined small audience. Don't try to meet the needs of customer service, sales and marketing or the needs of managers, sales people, marketing experts and developers all in the same 1 hour presentation.

3. Adopt the DRIP mindset. A one hour presentation a few times a month, focused on two specific features, is much more powerful and useful than eight hours of overwhelming rain showers.

4. Listen to your audience without trying to change their opinion. Different functions are easy or difficult depending on the user's perceptions. It might be easy for you, but it could be hard for them. Avoid that word EASY. Do you Golf? Consider how hard it is to change your golf swing if you have been swinging it the same way for 10 years. It might improve your game BUT

5.  First impressions are not usually lasting impressions particularly when it comes to Dynamics CRM and the flexibility and multitude of choices it offers. Offer as much training in as many different formats as possible.

Consider that anyone over 30 was trained on applications that let you do one thing at a time. One open account record for instance. Dynamics CRM allows you to work on 5 Accounts at the same time. It fits in your kids world - You know the world where kids have 5 IM windows open on their machine which are current conversations and they are working on their homework and they are listening to music. Dynamics CRM offers the flexibility to fit in this multi-tasking world. Choice makes for more complexity, raising the learning curve. Allow people the time to adjust off of their first impressions through good training.

6) Try to discover mindsets and relationships with the software that cause frustration. "I just tolerate that it has to be done that way" applies to many different tools in use today. Just as in Outlook people fall into pattern and habit which is not necessarily the easiest or the best way to use a tool. Watch how your users use the software to do their tasks. Be a detective, document that business process and then step back and consider and discuss with management what the best options are. Many time these options do not require dollars or huge effort.

7) Remember that in the world of technology and business software the tools and base foundation never stop changing. It is our habits, training, busy lives and reluctance to change that delays the goal of the highest utilization possible with the tools available in any given point of time.


The Grace of an Olympic Star

"I am going to give you just enough information on evaluating a customer-driven architecture to make you want the IT Department to do it" Paul Greenberg from CRM at the Speed of Light

There are so many things that you can do easily within the world of Dynamics CRM that it is easy to forget how much experience is built into the solution and some of the Extension architectures. Just consider how easy those Olympic dives or ski jumps look with the grace of a professional and yet I suspect that one might kill oneself if they climbed the ladder and tried to teach themselves.


Feedback

Ok I admit it, I did give the Speakers of the general sessions a hard time yesterday! I have high expectations when it comes to spending time at a conference because there are so many opportunities that even one hour of lost value hurts my soul.

Here is the thing: it is not all about me and with years and years of both Convergence and Microsoft Dynamics CRM experience it takes a bit more to teach me something new and to impress me.

And yet of the 20 hours a day that I spend awake and aware this week I am continually impressed and I am continually learning. So how can I really justify unhappiness over a little bit of prospect bling?

So Kirill, Bill and Steve I apologize for putting a bit of cold water on your fire. Connect, Discover and Exceed are much better mantras than Easy!

For success with Dynamics and Dynamics CRM is not always easy, lots of people do it the hard way, but it is worth it and it does offer discovery, excellence, growth and profit!


CRM Industry News and Cloud Debates

Lauren Carlson, a CRM Market analyst over at The Software Advice blog, recently shared a number of new videos that some of you might be interested in.

The first I watched is an up close and personal interview with Brad Wilson answering the question

"What percentage of [CRM] customers choose the Cloud?"

To watch the full video click here !

A few interesting points from the video and from my thoughts for debate.

1) The cloud offers smaller customers the option of an instantly available application without any of the server installation or support requirements.

2) The cloud offers larger customers the option of an instantly available application without being queued up in the often over loaded information services department list of tasks.

3) If you pick the cloud and want to switch to OnPremise, the Microsoft Dynamics CRM code base is the same for both environments, making a switch in the future an option.

4) .NET extensions and plugin options are not (easily) available in the cloud. If you want to extend Dynamics CRM beyond the power of Customization and simple workflows, you potentially need OnPremise.

5) Smaller customers often need as much power (or more) as larger customers when it comes to traditional CRM. Relationship building and management of prospects and support handling and management of customers. Why? Because they have fewer people with more titles and responsibilities. CRM can greatly supplement human resource time constraints.

6) Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online does offer a bit more out of the box marketing functionality (web lead capture, different analytics), but the OnPremise ISVs in this arena really kick some tail. If you need advanced marketing features, such as click through analytics, then there are additional variables to consider.

7) Data matters, Security matters:  but who has better security? A professional hosting company whose reputation and business is on the line every day when it comes to their business model or your computer room or data center where the network administrator (s) live? The debate and history shows an even 50/50.  There are weaknesses in both arenas

To summarize the perfect CRM environment is different for each customer as each comes with positives and negatives, so I have to give Microsoft kudos for choice.

Despite the overhead of keeping two offerings current and defined (and yes there are significant overhead costs), Microsoft made the right choice in giving customers options.

These include Microsoft's Dynamics CRM Online, partner hosted Dynamics CRM and the OnPremise "customer hosted" Dynamics CRM.

Not only did they give customers the option of choice, they also give customers the option of changing their mind.     


The slow and fast pace of technology change

Technology moves so fast! and as someone who has made technology part of their life for the last 28 years it is amazing to me to once again realize that my habits have shifted with the change in technology without me paying much attention.

I have been using Twitter and Facebook on a daily basis, but often forgetting to share via the blog. Sharing via the blog adds to the knowledge base and it also updates Twitter and Facebook. So why the change? A slow change in habit (BUT take a trip above the trees and what I was doing last year is significantly different than this year).

I have also been continuing to do trial runs with new applications. Foursquare, Hootsuite and Twitterific get regular attention and for weekend fun (when resting from the New England heat and garden work) a whole variety of iPad applications. (if you have an iPad check out UZU - mind blowing advancement in technology, but so simple)

LinkedIn has added a ton of new features lately. They have been trying out incorporating SCRM tools and techniques and yet still they honor their culture and remain focused on business and business use. Group functionality has been expanded and a new feature to follow changes at specific companies has been added. These are two areas that are definitely worth checking out. The integration to Outlook is also nice as pictures get downloaded.

Plaxo is still around. This application has a "grey" area to it when it comes to helpful vs. irritating, but I have recently been working with their latest improvements. There are things that I like and things that are still well irritating. I am glad I have patient friends (thank you)

And a foundation to many, the partners are doing some amazing things with Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Next week is the Microsoft Worldwide Partner conference and already many of the ones I follow and appreciate are being honoroed. If you are in Washington D.C. next week or if you need a little adventure and escape you might want to fly in and go check it out. You can even look into an Exhibit room pass for the day only, a great way to get a flavor of some great things happening!






ADX Studio and Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Have you checked out the Dynamics CRM news today? Have you noticed that a new Microsoft Dynamics CRM SDK has been released?

Well there is more behind that than meets the eye. A big kudos to ADX Studio and their development tools.

Microsoft Integrates Adxstudio xRM Technologies

"Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, April 29, 2010 - Adxstudio Inc. has announced the inclusion of their xRM web portal technologies into the Microsoft Dynamics® CRM Software Development Kit (SDK). The development software enables Dynamics CRM solution providers to integrate web-facing portal features with Microsoft's customer relationship management tool. The new SDK includes an advanced web portal framework with web content management capabilities and a new LINQ-to-CRM provider which dramatically simplifies the effort required to develop CRM-connected applications using ASP.NET." ... READ MORE


David Yack also offers his experienced MS Dynamics CRM developer eye and perspective on the whole subject here.


Microsoft Convergence: The beginning of the last day

The last day of Convergence and I must admit it has been quite a conference. What has been interesting, to an old timer like me, is that the whole feel of the event has evolved.

With 8,500 users, a great green bent and the economy considerations it is amazing how things change.

The sessions I attended yesterday were good interactive events. In fact during one hour I double dipped and attended two and still got a ton of GREAT input from each. Now given I was only in each session 50% that is saying a lot. (Perhaps next year technology will allow the true multi-tasker in me to watch one while I participate in the other. (yes, I can do that don't argue) )

I have to reach out and give kudos to Ben Vollmer who managed to not only present a technical, non technical with just the right amount of each session (and no canned koolaid) but who also did it from 4:30-5:30 before drinks/dinner, after a long three days with his usual sense of humor. And although I will probably regret posting this - he also allowed me to paradigm shift back into a real appreciation for senior CRM developer mindset.

Thinking CRM successfully is a hard skill to master and should never be underestimated if and when you are ramping up any new staff. (no matter how young, old, experienced or what their background)

The other sessions I attended yesterday included

  • IDCRM05 Marketing Automation
  • IDCRM06 Integrating with Microsoft Dynamics CRM
  • CSCRM11 Driving Business Success with xRM
  • CSCRM08 Extending CRM to fit your business

and I presented with IDCRM03 Is the Customer Always Right? with Heather Thigpen from IHS

After sessions it was the more traditional vendor, partner customer and/or prospect appreciate night. I started over at the Core Motives cocktail meetup because I have been meaning to get to their booth and spend some time with them. Thanks to Scott Sewell from Customer Effective for alerting me to where they were. Not only was it a great place to connect with other CRM peeps and get answers to tough technical questions, but I even managed to get to see an informal, impromptu demo on the product. Usually a big (what at a party!!!) but handled so well I was appreciative. Thanks Rhett!

Heading from Slice to hook up with an old associate, Joe Stuckey, a couple of us went over to the Client Profiles event. Kudos to Client Profiles for encouraging knowledge sharing even with those not directly in their prospect or customer audience. Client Profiles is the company behind CRM4Legal, a Microsoft Dynamics xRM product that meets all the CRM needs of the big legal firms.

Time for another full day!! Hopefully my voice will hold out through the time I am presenting later this afternoon.






Microsoft Convergence

Day Two of Microsoft Convergence and as I look at the schedule there are so many sessions to choose from.

How do I choose?

  1. I look at who is presenting and if I have heard them before and if they add above and beyond value.
  2. I look at the subject matter and weight based on my depth of knowledge and my recent experience with that particular set of features, that industry or that focus.
  3. I balance total potential learning versus what I can bring back to the office as new knowledge to tap into.
  4. I attend as many sessions as I can even if a certain slot does not jump right out as a perfect fit for what I am trying to do. The knowledge from these "not sure apply" sessions always has proven to be useful.

Lastly I leave a little bit of room for agile changes.

Attending sessions, interacting with my peers and the great hallway conversations add significantly to the total value I might get out of one session over another.




A Smile for a Saturday

One of the reasons I started this blog was to share information on Microsoft Dynamics CRM with those who might also share back.

It gives me great joy to find answers when I am stuck with a question on Microsoft Dynamics CRM and the fact that I can easily share that joy is something I can't resist.

What I wasn't expecting was some of the other side effects. Today I had a little surprise. I was listed as one of 27 CRM Thought leaders to read and follow. Definitely added a smile to my wintery, yet sunny Saturday morning.

http://www.marketingautomation.org/2010/27-crm-thought-leaders-to-read-and-follow/.


Thinking about Social? or Intranet or Internet Content?

One of my goals in life is to continue to invest in improvement as opposed to reinvention. Needless to say when I see something that makes a great foundation I tend to capture into my library of thought.

Here is a great list about capturing or assigning content responsibilities.

7 Principles for Decentralizing Publishing


It is not always about numbers

Crazy times often increase anxiety and anxiety in the sales management world has often been reduced by more numbers (more leads in the pipeline for instance) and yet this article makes some great points on taking the numeric approach to reducing sales anxiety.

Why Generating More Leads Isn’t the Answer to Greater Sales Revenue 

I particularly like these statement from the article:

"Initial segmentation requires basic research to weed out the prospects that really aren’t a match for your offering, and to group others into related categories you’ll want to target in similar ways."

"By nurturing quality leads over time, companies can forge deeper relationships that ultimately translate to business."


The Future of LOB

Does the future of line of business applications require that you have or have access to developer skills? I would lean towards hoping that this is a temporary phase when it comes to LOB. 

As developer languages have matured they were moving to a level of user friendliness. Moving away from being masters of the language of 0s and 1s to a place where common english such as if-then-else statements allowed you to do some powerful things. As the programming languages mature will there be or has there been a roll back to a time where more specialists are required? Where the sophistication of options is so detailed that you need a masters or doctorate just to get a piece of the pie completed? 

And if you have a masters or doctorate in a specific language is there time to also be a generalist when it comes to various industry mastery? From the mastery of a specific industry vocabularly to the mastery of how the "tool" and the skills around a tool would be utilized to meet some other goal.

It bends the mind a bit.


Time for a Shift in Team Structure

The combination of Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Microsoft SharePoint is powerful - Mix in Silverlight, scriptlets, good CRM, web and workflow design techniques and a dash of JAVA and pow and yet I have yet to totally see adoption and the right buzz around it. For instance I have seen Microsoft regional offices doing SharePoint and Office Demonstrations without CRM (confusing for this CRM Lady)  

 

Is some of this because the bundle's icing often takes a developer in addition to other very different team members? 

 

Is it because the vendor culture leans towards Microsoft Partners  "getting it" and "doing it" and bring it together? Yet the requirements push the envelope when it comes to traditional Microsoft partner structure on either the Dynamics or the Information Technology consulting firm (ITC) model. 

 

This new team culture could easily consist of a melding of: 

1) Developer (.Net, JAVA, able to see outside their former development focus to adopt a mixed development platform.  They need to work with built applications (XRM) and they should think like an ISV building libraries of scriptlets, living code that will take care and feeding and source potentially impacted by releases to the XRM platform)

 

2) CRM Industry expert (knowledge and understanding of the CRM industry and what a highly adopted CRM application can do for a business, as well as insight into failures and experience helping to move a company in high technology adoption) Sales process and Sales "think" and/or Service process and Service "Think" understanding is a very valuable addition.

 

3) Web Page Focus (background in the web page industry  - knowledge management, search content key word placement, search engine optimization, usability, serving up )

 

4) Marketing (new edge graphics understanding, Depth of around what Silverlight can do, understanding of what publishing tools are available, Creates graphics and color mastery, creative)

 

5) Project manager to set expectations and who understands the first four backgrounds, skills, habits and how much time it takes for each to do what is requested. Sets budgets and time....

 

6) Business Process Engineering, Usability, Workflow development around how data flows from point A to point B and the corporate asset potential around the time management and data management of this data. Similar to the Manufacuturing process engineers of earlier days.

The new team is different than anything Microsoft has done before and very different from many of the partner cultures.


The To-Do

Jim Glass posted his to-do list today with a question regarding what some of his friends were focusing on. I managed to get so much insight into his world that I thought it was only fair to return the favor. So here are things on my radar and on my to-do.

..... 1 month later .... ok all with the best intentions, but this landed in draft and managed to get stuck. So I am finishing it up with today's to-do flowing into this evenings tasks

1) Update the Business Requirements/Functional Specifications document with input from the technical team meetings completed yesterday

2) Add mocked customizations to vanilla environment for a more bundled reusable package

3)  Finish this mornings draft blog writing and post

4) Review/Confirm join requests for Linkedin Groups

5) Work on chapters

6) Gather more information on CRM Help File structure for extending (anyone want to pipe in on this one?)

7) Tweet


Quotes of the Day

"Understanding is increased when you wear the same brand of shoes and you use the same tools to get your job done" - Anne

"It is one thing to eat your own dog food and quite another when your life depends on the substance it provides." - Anne

"It is easy to design, invent and create without practicality, quite another thing when practical is required" -  Anne


Microsoft Dynamics CRM vs SugarCRM

Although I read a number of blogs I have to admit that I can't keep up with all of them and as such I have been leaning on Twitter (in the CRM world) so that I catch items that my fellow CRM passionate enthusiasts might catch and share.

A few days ago this little tidbit hit my radar and I just had a chance to go look. 

Agree that there are some interesting points to Why Dynamics CRM vs. SugarCRM within this post on a totally different subject so am resharing here.  


Capturing Culture

Two things on my mind tonight.

1) Twitter is proving it's value in a key area. Immediate alerts to information long before I pick it up on the blogs. For instance the new Microsoft Dynamics CRM v4.0 2009 VPC has been posted and I found out about the final post via Twitter.

2) Outside the box Customer Relationship Management thinking (while traveling). Each area has a certain feel, a certain culture, a certain tone. What are people's thoughts on capturing this information as a variable in approaching contacts or customers incorporated into different communities?

Certainly this comes into play when the International variable comes into play, but even within the US - each town, city, state and community have a particular flavor.


What is CRM?

Wikipedia has a very interesting article that starts like this

"Customer relationship management (CRM) consists of the processes a company uses to track and organize its contacts with its current and prospective customers. CRM software is used to support these processes; ........................."     Read More

but goes on to really look at many different perspectives on this powerful three letter term and the industry surrounding it. It is worth the reading time.

A Key Thought: "CRM" has been around for a lot longer than technology and the number of white papers, discussions, disbutes, successes and failures offers a very rich history. As you tackle diving into the world of Microsoft Dynamics CRM you might want to take a bit of time to also look at the entire CRM industry space.


Considering the CFO's focus

I read the below article, provided by Craig Bailey of Customer Centricity, Inc. in his eNewsletter, and I had a major aH Ha moument. The material just rang true with some of my experiences over the years. I realized that a paradigm shift for many departments could solve some pain in the field and offer some clarity and as such with Craig's permission I am resharing the article.  Take a minute, Open your mind and consider 

To the CFO:

Listen to the Voice of the Customer by Tim Althof

The Opportunity

"It is not always a natural act for the CFO to have direct contact with customers except perhaps as part of negotiations or contract discussions. Sometimes it's just not a priority in the CFO's packed schedule, and sometimes it's simply that customer contact is viewed solely as the purview of sales and customer service. In this environment, customer satisfaction feedback reaching Finance is indirect at best. Many issues can be lost in translation or their implications not fully appreciated. "

Read More


Why?

The battle continues as Microsoft dives into branding what they have had for a number of years. xRM, both a development platform and a CRM Application.

Can you using Microsoft Dynamics CRM without writing one line of code? Oh definitely!

If you write code are you strapped into a box limiting the tools you use and the creative juices so often found in the 20 year programming veterans? Definitely NOT!

Are their competing products with different zing? or the same xRM concept? Of course.

So why Microsoft? One simple word: Choice

Choice of partner

Choice of where you place and manage the actual software

Choise of where you put the data

Choice of internal staff with skills that can be utilized as it applies to the platform

and the list can go on ...


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CRMLady News 

December  2008                        Issue: VI

Warmest Holiday Season Thoughts to all the readers of the CRMLady eNewsletter.  There are many things to think about with regards to  CRM during this time of year and this issue will be focused on some of those items.

Enjoy ! 

 

Holidays offer a rare opportunity to have an excuse to reach out and connect with someone, and why not be wise and jump at this opportunity?

As you think about reaching out to your contacts perhaps a key consideration is can you offer a tiny bit of value add to your connection?

Do you have knowledge that would benefit someone else? (One small tip can save a company thousands of dollars www.freeconferencecalls.com)

Do you know someone who would make a good introduction to someone else you know? (Do you DR/BC - have you seen www.frameworkitllc.com?)

 

Are you involved in a project or community event that could benefit another business?  (maximize all the time and investment - personally invite a B2B CxO to participate with you)

Have you enjoyed the benefit of someones good work? (send a referral, post a reference or comment on their good work - www.linkedin.com

Five Reasons

Five reasons for using the Dynamics CRM framework for development as opposed to just writing it all from scratch.

1. You don't have to program, design, and write the sophisticated: enterprise and SMB flexible security role system. CRM offers both a Team Security framework and a Business Unit framework.
 

2. You don't have to program, design, and write the sophisticated: toolkit for  managing the core relationship data including bulk edit, delete vs. deactivate, and convert from prospect to client.

3. You don't have to program, design, and write the sophisticated: integration solution to Microsoft Outlook, Word, and Excel.  CRM has a very sophisticated tie to Outlook, Word and Excel.  

4. You can focus all your development effort on the industry specific niche needs of your client.   

5. You will have resources and potential funds for extra development effort for seemless integration with other company applications. 

Sincerely,

Anne Stanton 


Anne Stanton, MCP-CRM

The CRM Lady 

The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions. All postings and code samples are provided 'AS IS' with no warranties, and confers no rights. - Anne Stanton

© Copyright 2008

 

 


Beauties of the Web

One of the beauties of the web is that much of the valued work that was released over time, is still available today. I was recently asked for some links to some of the articles I have written on the CRM niche.

Articles

CRM Software, An Accounting Firm's Perspective, by Anne Stanton, The CPA Technology Advisor http://www.cpasn.com/article/article.jsp?id=196 

The Discipline of CRM, by Anne Stanton and Herb Rubenstein, iSixSigma Magazine http://www.isixsigma.com/library/content/c040323a.asp

How much do you invest in Mastering your Accounting Software? by Anne Stanton, Accounting Software 411 http://www.accountingsoftware411.com/Press/PressDocView.aspx?docid=6460

Accounting Software, Maintaining Control, by Anne Stanton and Joel Joel Eisenhandler http://www.accountingsoftware411.com/Press/PressDocView.aspx?docid=6613

Software and Systems Instant Messaging: Why communication needs new tools, by Anne Stanton, Accounting Software 411 http://www.accountingsoftware411.com/Press/PressDocView.aspx?docid=5900

Backing Up Data, Hardware and Software Options, By Anne stanton, The CPA Technology Advisor http://www.cpatechnologyadvisor.com/print/The-CPA-Technology-Advisor/BACKING-UP-DATA--Hardware-and-Software-Solutions/1$267

Other items of Interest

Held Into Account, by Dan Neel, CRN Magazine http://www.crn.com/managed-services/193100545

Utilizing Technology to Market Smarter by Melissa Farmer, Accounting Marketing http://www.accountingmarketing.org/images/2006_UsingTechnology.pdf

CRM making life easier for CPA firms, by Lisa Spinelli, WebCPA http://www.webcpa.com/article.cfm?articleid=20645&searchTerm=spinelli

5 signs that it's time to automate your customer data, by Jo Anna Krotz, Microsoft Small Business Center http://www.microsoft.com/smallbusiness/resources/marketing/customer-service-acquisition/5-signs-that-its-time-to-automate-your-customer-data.aspx#signsthatitstimetoautomateyourcustomerdata

Vendor Community Building, by Anne Stanton, The CPA Technology Advisor http://www.cpatechnologyadvisor.com/publication/article.jsp?pubId=1&id=1062&pageNum=1


Dynamics CRM Videos

For those of you who did not get a chance to go to a Microsoft Conference yet and for those who have yet to hear some of the big picture talks on Microsoft Dynamics CRM and the Microsoft Dynamics suite take a peek at these videos.

Additionally there are a ton of other related videos right at your finger tips.

Jonathan Perera, ike Ehrenberg - Integrated Innovation with Microsoft Platform

Brad Wilson, Bryan Nielson - The Power of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 for Customer Choice

Bryan Nielson, Jon Bell - Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0:  What's New 


It is not just the software, It is also the VAR and Vendor

When selecting a CRM Solution one of the key factors you need to consider is both the vendor and the partner. The vendor is important because of some of the historical yuck that has happened in the marketplace.

Take for instance that FrontRange Goldmine was the premier product of the 1990's, but through poor channel management and internal corporate battles the product went from peek of 1999 to struggling through 6-8 years of management issues.. These vendor issues impacted every partner and the product growth and development. Needless to say Goldmine today still looks a bit like the 1999 product.

You also have to take into consideration the VAR! unlike some other applications CRM is a business changing application. When adopted and installed correctly (yes big when) it can make a huge difference to the plumping and functionality of any company. A good CRM VAR insures adoption, helps with product understanding and has configured, modified and extended the solution for many other businesses. They also become a huge value add through their connections to other resources in the CRM Niche.  It is such a thrill to meet with prospects, because many times these meetings are businesses expressing interest and a need already solved in other locations.


Getting It - CRM

Microsoft loves to count total number of licenses, but when it comes to ERP solutions there is another variable and that variable is long term success with the solution. I would even go so far as to say it is the more important variable. 

If you look at all CRM rollouts over the last 10 years, across all vendor products, you get a very high percentage of failure. This single statistics should not generate fear to move forward with the tool, but should be a key alert to increase training for all staff using the product, to increase training for all management leveraging the tool and to increase communication with all vendors and VARs offering the solution.

This failure rate can be ignored, brushed off as related to poor features, software, partners, business or other comforting variables, BUT the reality is that correct adoption of CRM and long term continuing to work with CRM correctly in a learning/modifying/using and mastering the tools to increase business and fine tune business best practices is important.

AND despite any marketing  it is not easy!

Just as being the CEO or CxO of a business takes years of training, practice, successes and failures so does the proper mastery and adoption of a CRM solution.

What is the ultimate goal? The ultimate goal is to have a software product (tool, core plumping application, something you depend on) that allows you to go beyond any limitations in practice that not having that application would create.

I chose to focus my application expertise, experience, sales, marketing, development and passion for technology on the CRM niche. Why? Because no other application that I have mastered (and that list is not short) is as important to me as my CRM solution.