Thursday, June 21, 2007

Microsoft’s Sure Step

The project approach is always a hot topic from very theoretical to more practical methods. Personally, I prefer to use the practical approach for (smaller) projects while implementing Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Quickly roll-out the out of the box system and then start to customize to the customers whishes.

For the larger projects, firstly the business processes should be analyzed and the scope should be defined. Also here it’s good idea to have a pilot up and running, so the customer can see how it’s going to work and how processes will be made available in the crm application.

Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step Methodology

At my work we use in general a combination of Prince II and ITK of Microsoft. Now there is new methodology called Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step.



This methodology is created for all Microsoft Dynamics and only available for Partners with Service Plan.

The Basics

Sure Step defines 8 phases: Diagnostic, Analysis, Design, Development, Deployment, Operation, Optimization and Upgrade. Each phase has it owns activities, processes, deliverables, roles and milestones. In every phase is defined what have to be accomplished to go to the next phase. Also some ‘cross phased processes’ are defined, this are processes that need to be maintained during the project and cross the border of a phase.



Quote:

“Designed to enable you to better serve your customers by helping reduce their Microsoft Dynamics total cost of ownership, the Sure Step Methodology can be used for projects ranging from large, medium, and small end-to-end engagements as well as optimization and upgrade projects. Presented through flowchart diagrams, you can find detailed information associated with each step within an implementation, optimization or upgrade project. The content in this Sure Step Methodology provides detailed guidance on roles required to perform activities and proven best practices. Flowchart diagrams within this implementation methodology point you to tools and templates that can be used at different phases during an implementation project from diagnosis, analysis, design, development, deployment, operation, and also through an optimization or upgrade project. The content tools and best practices of this implementation methodology help you increase the quality and success of your implementations. - Source: Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step”

Interface

The methodology has a web interface and describe every step to take in detail, also template are available e.g. CRM Configuration Data Collection, Test Plan, Data Migration Design. You can easily find details you would need for each phase, activity, template etc. just by clicking through the website or use the navigation tree.

Templates

After installing Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step you get only 133 templates  These are separated in different documents (Excel, Word, Visio, Projects, PDF etc), which can be used during your project. And yes it seems a lot of templates, but it will make you work easier and more organized. Of course you’re not the only one, but your team members have to fill in the docs in different phases of the project, so everything is well documented and knowledge can be easy transferred to other team members.

In the end

You have to invest some extra time to get used to the way of working and how to fill in the templates for your project. Of course you can adjust the methodology to your own needs where necessary. Nevertheless a very good base to build your project. More information is available at PartnerSource or contact your Microsoft Client Manager.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Positioning Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Since the start of my career I am always interesting in development of software like Office, OS, MS SQL Server etc. In the developing software of Microsoft you see the movement to integration with Visual Studio interface. The biggest change in MS SQL 2005 was the new UI and of course everything was renamed to Studio.
In the Dynamics products you also see same kind of developments for example the UI of Microsoft Dynamics CRM is also now available for other Dynamics products like: AX 4.0 with SP2(if I am not mistaken) and NAV 5.0.

The last couple of years I visited many conventions, seminars of Microsoft and the strategy presented was a central application with other application around it. Of course I am talking about Sharepoint. At the conventions I attended few weeks ago about Dynamics (CRM, Ax and Nav) at every stand data from these three applications were shown in yes… Sharepoint.

Personally, I think that end users would like to have one tool available, which provides all the data they need, with emphasis on need. Too often I see in CRM projects that screens are overloaded with data, like in the old days, while most of the data is not used. The lesson learned is the common quote “less is more” at seminars, meeting etc.

The latest release of Sharepoint, Office, Exchange and also Vista show that data can be presented in many ways like dashboards, pivot tables, Outlook and gadgets. All very interesting developments which offers new opportunities and challenges while implementing Microsoft CRM.

It gives us food for thought, but won't all these enhancements turn out to be too overwhelming..

Alternative for import data in Microsoft Dynamics CRM, or not...

Last week I received some questions about ImportManager Studio from CRM Extensions.

The name didn’t ring any bell, so I started to gather some information about the company and their products. The company is based in Copenhagen Denmark and is specialized in add-ons for Microsoft CRM.

First impression of the website is very good. The site looks very smooth and navigates very easy. You can quickly find your way around their products, find prices, details etc.

Today I received the trial version of the product and going to install it on one of my images. The review will be published in a couple of day, depending on my available time :-)

UPDATE

As you could read in the anonymous comment. It's indeed the same tool as C360 offers only branded differently.

Too bad would have been nice if it was different, but saves me some writting :)

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Microsoft CRM Events

One of the nicest excuses to leave your office and still get paid is to attend an event. Last month Microsoft The Netherlands organized partner event where the guest speaker was Christian Pedersen.

The topic was of course Microsoft Dynamics CRM current version and also some highlights about the new version. Unfortunately no new things about titan, it was what we already know about the newest release (see also posting of Ronald Lemmen).

Interesting about the current version, where some examples about CRM Analytics and some integration possibilities with Vista gadgets and of course Sharepoint. I already saw at earlier event that Sharepoint will be the central application and other products will be positioned around it. Nevertheless was nice to see some examples how all was integrated with in one application… yes MS CRM.

Many questions from the audience where about mailing functionalities and if this gonna be extended in new version. It’s was also no surprise, because this is of course where consultants always run into. It would be nice if this functionality will be enhanced, but we’ll have to wait for the upcoming release if and how it will gonna work.

My personal question was about integration with ERP like software as Nav and Ax seems no real focus is on this integration yet. I expect some connector will be released and probably the UI of Ax will change to Nav 5.0 and CRM 3.0. The integration could be realized with (the new) Workflow Foundation or Biztalk or third party tools like Scribe.

Tomorrow I will attend new event at Utrecht (Netherlands) where all products in the Dynamics suite will be presented, curious what that will bring...