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Five jobs for your December CRM worklist


Here we are once again! Another year about to finish and everyone gearing up for the Christmas festivities and party season.

If you are a CRM Administrator, then this can be a reasonably quiet period from mid-December until the first week in the New Year. And if you are in B2B, then you know most email campaigns and other sales/marketing activity won’t really be that effective in these three weeks. So, we can use this period as a great time to reflect and plan as well as perhaps catching up on those posts or articles you bookmarked, and meant to read!

And of course, with any CRM system, there are always a host of ‘admin’ type tasks that you’ve been meaning to do but had to put off in the last few months. These tasks that need doing, but they shouldn’t just be for you to do. Use this time to galvanise your sales and marketing team to maximise their use of this period in helping you in fine tuning their own part of the CRM system with activities ready for 1st January.

The key, in my view is to have a list and to plan out the key tasks over these next few weeks, so there is meaningful activity each day.

Key Tasks for next three weeks

You can choose your own priority list, but my suggested order is as follows:

1. Data Data Data!

My own top priority is to start with Data integrity. This is where you need to review all those ‘orphan’ records, perhaps where data has not been entered in or updated in a while. E.g. recent Contact with little information on Job or Contact details.

To do this systematically, first look at your Leads. Start with say Leads created in the last few months, this makes it more manageable before going back further, plus you will get some quick wins and get a good idea of how big a task this may be. You can then go further back depending on the time it takes and your time available, perhaps setting aside an hour per day. It is also important to make sure any ‘referral sources’ are updated to enable you to review your campaign effectiveness over the last few months. Many in the sales team may not attribute a ‘source’ to the Lead or new initial Contact.

Next look at your Contacts. Again, working backwards for a few months, check you have good profiles, so as a minimum, I would focus in ensuring that you have phone numbers, especially mobiles as well as the Company and just as useful Job functions or Titles. Make sure you have no orphan records where a contact has been created but is not linked to a company or account. Also, if people have left an organisation, make sure you flag this in a consistent way, so it is clear they have left and Marketing don’t carry on sending messages to get bounce backs.

Accounts. Again, ensure Customer and key Account information is up to date. Check the primary contact as many CRM system will show a primary contact and make sure they are still important and your main day to day contact.

Then move on to your Sales Pipeline.

Make sure all your Opportunities or Deals, have their core information updated and your important key fields are up to date, especially those fields and your custom fields used for tracking or analysis, so ‘close by’ dates, ‘source campaign’, ‘stage’ or ‘next step’ and any key stakeholder information, including your own sales team are aligned with the record.

Sharing this Task

Whilst the Leads and contacts and Accounts are important, for most Administrators, you may want to commence this process yourself first and enable Sales Team to put their effort into their own Sales Pipeline and their own Contacts as their primary focus.

Make sure they run through each of their opportunities that are still open and really give it some thought as to the viability of winning and when, plus adding in any missing information, ‘next steps’ perhaps. Modern CRM systems enable you to do this quickly with editing in a List view, so Reps should be able to do this task quite fast without diving into each Opportunity as a “first pass” review and edit.

A “second pass” may involve looking at individual Deals or Opportunities, perhaps with a focus on those closing in first quarter or first six months of 2024.

Tracking progress

Make sure you have created a Report to track progress made each week and maintain the focus on progress made by Rep. For example, number of records updated and reviewed to spot weekly any ‘gaps’ or missing core data. You may want to send reminders out here each day and of course ensure you have Sales Management Support on these tasks.

2. Look to start to use your CRM systems new AI features

All the leading vendors, Dynamics 365, Salesforce, HubSpot etc have made great strides this year in bringing AI into their applications. However, likely as not, you may still be catching up on what this means to your own CRM system.

Set some time aside to research any new features and how this can be used to benefit you and your Sales and Marketing Team. You need to view these new features in my view as a specific new wave of changes and thus plan how you will introduce these and get your team using the best AI features. Many may have seen new features, but possibly ignored this.

Looking at introducing these features, my starting point is always at the top of the sales funnel or journey. Again, you need to work systematically from initial Website Forms etc improvements through to Lead (including contact/account creation with for example, better auto-completion of data). This aligns with first task above in trying to improve quality of information captured and consistency, plus helping to reduce Sales Team workload. Then move onto Sales Opportunity or Deal creation and finally through to your After-Sales processes, for example for Contract Renewals.

It may make sense to introduce and do training on these new features to the sales and marketing team by the step in the journey, so this is easier to absorb.

The key as always is looking at the time blockers in the same process so. A key AI improvement common is call or meeting recording. So, look at how recording meetings and calls can produce transcripts to enable your reps to quickly generate key notes and create email summaries.

This is just often a question of training in using your CRM own AI /ChatGPT prompt functionality, since in some form this functionality is now appearing across most leading CRM Vendor systems, although it may just need turning on.

You may need to plan training sessions for the Team on these new AI productivity enhancements early in the New Year, if you’ve not yet adopted this already.

With follow-up Team meetings perhaps in January to embed the usage and give confidence in these features.

Many clients may be reluctant to see or meet with Reps in that first short week in January as they themselves get back up to speed. This gives you a last chance to do some training or refresher sessions, especially for those people who maybe took the full two weeks off, to enable them to catch up.

3. Automation and Process Review

Review your automation processes. Are these still current and useful?

Are your customer journeys or ways of engaging changing. For example, has there been more usage of Webchat this year. Should you investigate the new AI enhanced Chatbot features being rolled out by most vendors to improve this process and engagement.

Then consider are there now other automations you can put in place to enhance productivity and help give your sales and marketing team more time back to focus on higher value work?

It is good idea to talk to people to uncover their pain points and then you can investigate and show how simple automations can help your sales team and remove some tedious task such as sharing key fields across processes or records.

4. Reports and Dashboards.

Review if these are up to date.

Should you be looking at creating new Dashboards or Reports or do you now need to include or track new metrics. Review the trends year on year, what is changing?

This is my final CRM task and this is something you can dip into and out of.


5. Begin your New Year Kick-off meeting planning.

Most organisations, especially those with calendar fiscal years, will be looking to inform the team of their budget etc and targets for the forthcoming year. Whilst a lot of this may be content driven (again AI can help here) in finding industry trends and impacts, the key thing here is how CRM can help.

So, this could be a great time to investigate the use of Goals and Forecasts if you’ve not used before. These features are now common to most CRM systems and can help and support the Sales Team to show them where there are situated. These features now show their status or progress and forecasted achievement through AI projects and through great report visualisation options.


A shorter post this month. After all, we all have a lot to do in December and this time goes by very quickly. As I hope I’ve illustrated, I do believe these next new two or three weeks offer a great opportunity to be able to catch up on those things you meant to do, but business as usual got in the way!

As a guide, assign some quiet time in your diary each day, I’d suggest a minimum of one to two hours in the same focussed slot, to run through these tasks, with the Data Task being every other day. This can be your coffee and mince pie time!

By giving a focus and short timelines to these jobs, this will give you and the team some impetus and enable you all to enter the New Year, both fresh and with some of those nagging tasks completed and behind you.

Importantly by embracing other team members, you are able to divide some of this workload across the whole team, helping to ensure your organisation is moving forward with confidence and a newly cleansed and more up-to-date CRM system ready to support the business from 1st January.

Merry Christmas to all and thanks, if you’ve got this far, for reading this month’s post.

18th December 2023

How AI is impacting CRM


You won’t have failed to notice that everyone, but everyone is now talking about AI (Artificial Intelligence) and this is partly as a result of the surge of interest and sign-ups to the now famous ChatGPT from Open AI launched in late 2022. This has now over 100 million and counting subscribers. Indeed, it reached 1m users in just 5 days!

I was introduced to this by my tech savvy son last November, signed up and started to do a few queries myself. It really was impressive and astounding, but this appears to be just the tip of the iceberg and over the last eleven months since ChatGPT’s launch, this has resulted in a seemingly mad rush for embracing generative AI across all business sectors which is really the next generation AI.

But what is the current impact from AI in the day-to-day environment for the typical Sales Rep using their CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system?

Why introduce AI into CRM?

A key metric here helps to give some context to what is driving the desire to invest in generative AI within the CRM industry,and this is Selling to Non-selling time.

The average sales rep is still spending too much of their time on non-selling activity. Sales Rep productivity studies I’ve read, consistently suggest that average time spent selling can range from only 30% according to a LinkedIn Sales 2022 report to the best I’ve seen recently is 45% across multiple industries.

All the studies are saying that sales teams are still spending far too much time in non-productive administrative tasks such as note taking, adding basic information into their CRM (e.g. job titles, telephone numbers, email and address details and any relevant coding such as Industry for new contacts/new organisations) and then creating new records e.g. Sales Opportunities and adding activities and follow-ups etc.

This administrative part of CRM has always a bane or chore for many salespeople, and many an article has been written about the need to fill in core information correctly to ensure there is good data integrity, but now with AI there is both increased assistance, but more importantly a genuine reason since AI is helping to formulate new benefits and save reps time. For example, with meeting third party AI apps such as adding Attention and Fireflies Fred with CRM and with MS Teams/Zoom now means that these apps can record a meeting, provide a transcript and at click of a button, can summarise key points and follow-up actions from a prompt and then create email templated summaries with these actions, all with only a small amount of configuration and set- up.

So, for the major CRM vendors, the key driver behind AI is this drive to maximise Users productivity and reduce the number of mundane tasks needing to be performed by the typical Rep, helping them spend more time on their core focus of selling and talking and listening to clients and prosects. The added advantage is that this should also help drive User Adoption, something that has been a challenge for many a CRM project over the years.

Now we can better answer the classic ‘What’s in it for me’ question often asked by Reps after being told to record lots of critical information on their Leads and Deals or Opportunities. The benefit goes straight back to the Rep, and not how it has been seen in the past, back to their Management, to enable them to provide key reports and dashboards, sometimes seen by Sales Teams as a stick to be hit with!

Key Day to Day AI benefits for Sales Reps

Currently, for the average day to day Salesperson and this post is focussed just on a typical Salesperson’s working day, then improving that 30-45% selling metric upwards is the key to better productivity. The core themes I see across the Sales function with the launch of the various AI or ‘ChatGPT’ suffixed Sales modules from many vendors are broadly:

1. Enhanced data entry and profile building

The ability to add in and fill core data which can be pulled directly from say a contacts details in emails for example is in my view one of the key day to day benefits. As mentioned above, having the AI within CRM create records quickly, pulling in core details and other additional information about the contact/company to rapidly build a profile enables better, more consistent segmentation and is a real time saver. Whilst this sounds a simple benefit, it is a key area since for many Reps it can be a time consuming and mundane task, with many a rep skipping useful key details and only entering in the minimal data in order “to get on with the task in hand”. This improves data value, data validity and integrity and ensures a more consistent approach for better profiling and segmentation.

2. Sales Activity productivity boosts

This theme can be divided into a number of a few productivity boosters for the average Sales Rep. For instance:

Conversations. Be this in online meetings or calls, a core function for Reps is time spent in talking and meeting online. Since Covid, for many Reps, most of their meetings and often the all-important discovery call or meeting is likely to be online through MS Teams or Zoom. The ability for AI to record and transcribe these calls and meetings with key notes and actions again helps to save valuable time. Transcripts can be quickly turned into meeting summaries and analysed for key points and key information auto-added to the relevant Deal or Opportunities.

Follow-up activities. Creating actionable and high quality, but realistic email drafts for example in a short follow-up email from these calls/meetings, for example a ‘Meeting summary and key actions” template enables these to be quickly generated, scanned for adding anything extra in to make it more personable and importantly sent soon after the meeting concludes. This is another big-time saver and doubtless, will save Reps and Managers countless hours over the course of a year of meetings.

Then follow-up tasks/activities can be auto generated as well with reminders for the Rep.

These are just two core time saving boosters for the day to day operations.

And with the abundance of rich data now being fully captured, additional benefits now become available:

3.  AI Insights

Record Data Insights. Whether this is some form of sentiment analytics or with better more consistent data entry, AI has the capability to give deep data insights, for example on sentiment from either conversations and emails and use this alongside historical data to help in for example predictive Lead scoring and Opportunity Scoring. This benefit is based on the fact that AI it is able to process and use such a large volume of data and make sense of this data across your CRM system records and engagements to give real insights into say the match and likely viability of a particular Lead or Opportunity as well as providing recommended actions and guidance to improve Sales Rep performance.

Collective Conversation insights. For example, Attention, a leading sales enablement AI tool that works with vendors such as Salesforce and Dynamics 365, the AI app records meeting conversations across multiple reps so this can then be used for analysis. For example, an AI prompt could be entered asking the question “What were the top five issues or challenges/pains experienced since X date for our Automotive industry prospects?” Being able to do this across a group of conversations for a particular timeframe and customer segment can give both the Sales Rep and Sales Management meaningful and accurate feedback and understanding, which can then be used to both improve training and feedback to reps, but this can also help and support Marketing in creating more meaningful and relevant messaging content and campaigns.

4. Other benefits

With these added AI capabilities to CRM and with a focus just on Sales Reps and Sales Managers, other benefits include:

Training and Feedback. As mentioned in the example above, the ability to share key themes and learnable actions, be that in prospecting or questioning skills is another key benefit. Again, prompts from conversations recorded can generate insights. All of these insights can help Managers with better guidance and focussed training for their sales teams based on meaningful up-to-date data from within their own CRM.

Automation. Various automation routines can be created and automated based on AI, for example, the updating of more recent company profile data, identifying which workflows are leading to the best results. E.g. Follow-up task from a meeting in 3 day or 5 days for example.

The overall aim is still in relieving reps of many these mundane, but critical tasks and activities and giving them relevant insights from their own CRM system and so giving them back more time to enable them to do the creative thinking so they can better target the best Leads and Opportunities and increase their conversion metrics.

All of these benefits help to make the typical Sales Rep a lot more effective and help to put the Rep back in control of their own CRM system.

And the cost?

Investment cost. In the race to add in this functionality into their applications, many of the leading vendors such as Salesforce and Dynamics 365 with Copilot for instance, are already including varying degrees of core AI or ChatGPT type functionality into their latest offerings with extra AI modules often available for added enhancement.


Ultimately, all this focus on generative AI still comes back to a key business driver which lies behind the original adoption of CRM for many companies over the last 20 or so years. That is the focus on increasing both individual Salesperson and Sales Team performance.

The pace of change and creativity unleased last November has literally moved us all onto a new digital wave.

And with this rapid pace of change in this last year, now is a good time to meet with your own CRM consulting partner to better understand how you can specifically benefit your own Sales Teams performance and embrace this new technology.

30th October 2023

Ten Data Import Challenges in CRM


It has now been quite a while since I last talked about importing data and so I thought this may be an opportune time to revisit this perennial subject, which impacts pretty much every CRM project to a greater or less extent.

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems are designed to help businesses manage their interactions with prospects and clients (and sometimes suppliers). One of the most important considerations in setting up any new CRM system is in importing data, such as contact, company details, opportunities or other core information from your old system or from new lists.

Top 10 Data import Challenges

However, importing data into any CRM system can be challenging, and there are a number of these you are likely to encounter. So, in no particular order, these are my top ten challenges with some examples:

1. Data duplication: A major challenge is that data may be duplicated when it is imported into a CRM system. This can happen if the data contains duplicate records, or if the data is imported multiple times without being properly cleansed or de-duplicated. With every project we undertake, we always stress to the client at the outset to allow ample time and resources to review their planned imported data. This is an ideal time to check and cleanse this data, of which more later.

2. Data format incompatibility: Another common challenge when importing data into a CRM system is that your importing data may not be in a format that is incompatible with the new system. For example, the data may be in an older file format that is no longer supported, or it may be in a format that the new CRM system is not able to read, or it may need to be changed. Good examples of this include Date and Telephone number formats which may need to be carefully considered on export and re-import.

3. Data validation: Ensuring that the data is accurate complete and up to date is a critical step in the data import process. This can be challenging because data validation checks should be done before the data is imported. So, for example, making sure addresses, websites etc are up to date. Taking the opportunity to verify email addresses is a key task here since inevitably you will have old email or invalid email addresses and is usually quite cheap to do.

4. Data mapping: This is the process of aligning the data fields from the source file to the fields in the new Target CRM system. This can be a tough task when data fields have different naming conventions, or when data fields are missing or incomplete. So, many system need exact matches on the dropdowns for instance before you bring in data. My advice here is to always have a clear Data Mapping document created which is reviewed carefully, especially if some fields are being transposed or re-mapped to new options, this document must always be signed-off and approved.

5. Privacy and Security: With the rise of data privacy laws like GDPR in UK/EU, businesses must ensure that the data that is actually imported, is in compliance with the regulations. So, make sure you are clear on data that has been opted-in and you are compliant with your importing policies, especially when dealing with B2C and older data sets, where there may be time limits on importing this data. Also, ensure if you need to send data to external parties, say for cleansing, then again this is removed and not held on local PC’s for example. If in doubt always check with your GDPR advisor here on your policies on data retention and ensure they are aware of this project and involved from the outset.

6. Data Cleansing: Data Cleansing is the process of removing or modifying data that is incorrect, incomplete, irrelevant or duplicated. This is a critical step before importing data into a CRM system. This is probably the biggest challenge for many companies. As mentioned in some of the challenges above, time spent on this exercise is time well spent. Don’t underestimate the amount of time needed or leave it too late. My view is this should be started as early as possible. Again, this comes back to the importance of a clear Data Mapping document. Doing a test export early to review core data can help here in planning.

7. Activities importing. For many clients there is often a desire to import numerous activity data, such as tasks, calls and emails, whether these are historic or just the ‘open’ items for the future. This can be a danger zone and considerably increase the cost and complexity of any data import project, so needs to be deeply thought through. For example, taking from an existing system, you are likely to need to import old or left Users of the system, or to re-map their activities to an new generic user, (many CRM licences are based on per User) which can then create more issues. If there are ‘open’ activities or tasks, then quite often this may include again a lot of activities which were created, but may never have been closed, or even mass created at some time. Just from these few examples, you can see how this can become a bit of a minefield. Generally, as discussed above, the cleaner the data, the better and activities can often include dirty or poor-quality data, so as far as possible, try to avoid this, unless it is deemed to be critical to the success of your project. Within this, also consider again the impact on storage of importing large volumes of activity data. My view here is that if it is not adding value, then it is possibly adding cost and using up your database space, so just think carefully about this and if you truly need all these activities. If not look at alternative options such as a back-up of old CRM for x months or running just a single licence in reserve for a cross-over transition period.

8. Testing. This is a very simple one, but do allow time for some Test imports. Invariably issues may crop up here, so as before, the earlier you consider this the better.

9. Scalability: I reference this earlier, but as time moves goes by, so does the database grow. Your CRM system should be able to scale to handle the increasing data volume. With data now getting more expensive, you will need to check this on a regular basis. Most cloud CRM systems have an in-built data storage limit built in, over this limit you may have to pay for more storage per Gb. Be aware of these potential costs, plus how you can manage them and what is the impact of your data retention policies.

And finally, don't forget about...

10. Training and Support: You need to be able to train your employees on how to use the new CRM system and have access to support if they run into any issues. This is all about User Adoption, and having good clean and accurate data can help tremendously in getting your Users to embrace a system fast. Nothing is worse for a User than seeing poorly imported or aligned or missing data on their ‘shiny new CRM’.

Final Thoughts

Remember, you can never start too early in giving deep thought to the challenges you may face, and this list above may serve as a useful reference point. Too many times over the last twenty years, I’ve seen clients only start to embark on reviewing their data late in the process and not allowing sufficient time for diligent data cleansing and reviewing.

Don’t underestimate the time needed for dealing with these Data Import challenges. Really, you should begin reviewing as soon as you can, since oftentimes, issues can be spotted in the likely quality of data even in simple test exports into Excel. At the very least, these test exports can give you a flavour of the size of the task ahead and help you with your planning.

With proper planning and attention to detail, businesses can overcome these challenges and reap the benefits of having a well-maintained and well-adopted CRM system. As always, in my posts, I would recommend working with an experienced consultancy such as ours who are involved in these projects every day. Working with experienced practitioners can help save you stress and many wasted hours as these are not always simple projects and data migration is just one aspect of a CRM project that does need to be carefully managed.

30th March 2023

First Steps on the Road to Omnichannel


In my November 2020 post, I touched on Omni-channel as a topic with the introduction of self-service portals.

Reflecting on what a typical SME customer service operation is aspiring too, this is, however, just one of the contact channels that staff and clients are increasingly looking to utilise. Reviewing this and some recent Omni-channel presentations with clients, I thought it would be good moment to explore and attempt to demystify this topic since, myself included, it has been a confusing term and at the same time to give you some concrete first steps you can take to move towards this ideal of giving your clients multiple channels to work with you.

In these last few years of dramatic change and with the possible loss of staff and ongoing staff retention issues, due in part by the so-called Great Resignation, now possibly reducing, Customer Service/Helpdesk departments have found they are under increasing pressure to do more and more and in todays climate, never has customer service been so important. Maintaining both staff morale and efficacy is a key objective in helping to both attract and retain clients in the 2020’s.

Until the last few years, Omni-channel was seen to be an expensive investment and really only affordable and easy to implement in larger organisations, typically with retailers and B2C brand names often leading the way.

This post focuses on how SME’s can now take advantage and look to implement their own Omni-channel in a step-by-step approach giving the CRM vendors software enhanced capability making this now so much more affordable and easier to implement for SME’s.

What is Omnichannel?

In my view, simply put, this is just one way of saying you have a multi-channel customer engagement model. These channels could include phone, email, self-service portals, communities, knowledge bases , Live or webchat, SMS and increasingly social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and other apps.

The choice of channels through which you want to be contacted and how many will depend on the type of customer facing organisation you are, for example a B2B business may not need to include many social media channels whilst a retail brand such as Marks & Spencer or Next may need to embrace a wide variety of social media channels. As ever, much depends on your client profile.

Recent reviews by Microsoft, Salesforce and Bain and Co have shown that on average, a client in a B2B or B2C situation is now using a wide variety of different channels of communication to engage, ranging from 5-7 channels on average.

A report from Bain and Co in 2020 highlighted the impact on the new set of tools to enhance both Customer Experience and company revenues. The key is having a connected experience and a seamless experience for the customer or to put it another way, no more silos!

So, Omni-channel just means in this post’s focus, that SME’s can leverage their core CRM system to work with these new channels from within really just one platform with the aim of having a central single view of their customers engagement with the business. Customer Service Agents, in this post’s focus, are thus able to use a variety of channels to engage in a dialogue with their clients. How these are used and how you organise these is very much dependent on your organisation and your market.

For many, as the proliferation of contact channels increased, these engagements were resolved using a variety of different software applications which were often early to market and meant that for many organisations, whilst they may think they are operating an omni-channel, i.e. giving their clients a choice of channels, many of these applications were not integrated or remained in their own silos.

My best example for this, is that we introduced LiveChat as web page contact channel way back in 2015, but at this time it was independent of our CRM and again, at that time there was no integration available to that platform. This meant we engaged in productive web dialogue, but every dialog then had to be ‘cut and pasted’ into the CRM after talking to a client. This was not of course very efficient, but did ensure we took that important first step in opening up our channels of communication away from just the traditional phone, flat web and email channel interactions. We were available to instantly communicate with clients as they browsed key web pages, and this definitely improved both our customer service and our lead generation metrics.

The Goal of Omni-channel

Let’s not forget what the key goal is here, often overlooked, when we focus on rolling out additional functionality and channels, and that is to enrich and give our clients as far as possible this all important seamless and connected customer experience, but this is also to enable our own agents to have all the information they need at their fingertips.

However, the customer engages, the Customer experience should be both user friendly and consistent across all your contact channels. It is not just a case of having multiple channels, but in having those channels your customers wish to engage with and giving them a unified and ultimately more personalised experience.

“Customers are moving from channel to channel because they can and they want to. They are selecting the most convenient and accessible channel that serves them. This means to serve them, companies need a centralized view of the customer and their interactions throughout their journey with your company.“ from a recent Pointillist Blog.

Typical channels

What does a typical Customer Service Omnichannel comprise of?

Depending on your industry sector, and whether you are in B2B or B2C for instance, then there could be host of inbound or outbound options you use or could use when you map your customers journey and interactions. Although, this post is focussed on a typical SME and looking at what would be a good starting point to introduce more channel options, this list can grow as new channels evolve and your clients evolve, but we always need to remind ourselves of the ROI and Use case for each channel we offer and that this needs to be of interest and relevance to our clients.

Before reviewing this, first start by looking at the typical customer journey and also possibly survey your clients to see what their preferred contact channels are. Not surprisingly, in the last few years, you may find that increasingly, some form of digital engagement is now a preferred option.

In addition, your Customer Service or CRM Application ideally should be the foundation for any other apps, so having a strong Customer Service or CRM application is a key consideration. Additional functionality to be added then, depending on your marketplace and audience could include:

Portal or Self Service. Enabling customers to create their own ticket and check where they are as well as possibly accessing a knowledgebase and even a community.

Email Queues and routing. Often a key is the ability of email correspondence to be filtered and queued and if need be, escalated to the right agent.

Click to Dial and Voice recording. An ability to record voice calls and create and record voice calls, again if this is right for your channel. You may need to think deeply about data storage if this is a requirement.

Web Chat and Web integration. Often one of the first engagement channels and available in many CRM applications now as an in-built or easily integrated add-on app.

Bots. Closely linked to webchat in many instances to help guide and answer before a human agent is needed, if at all. Almost a separate topic for a post in itself.

SMS. This can be as simple as sending reminders to clients and you need to consider if you require 2-way SMS which is not always as easy to achieve.

Social Media channels, such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter etc. Again, understand and explore how your customers want to talk to you, B2B customers may want different channels to B2C customers

For many customers, reading through the literature, a webchat and some degree of self-service capability are often the first items on their list.

First steps on the Road to Omni-channel

So, as mentioned earlier, the key to looking at taking that vital first step is to ensure that you understand the resources and time you have available since as an SME, rather than an Enterprise level organisation, who will have the resource capacity and budgetary limitations which may preclude a big bang type of approach.

Reflecting on the fact you may not want to do a big bang approach or are able to manage a cultural change in one hit, then you may want to do this in a phased or gradual approach, partly to manage investment cost, but also to ensure these new channels are relevant to your client and to better manage your training and buy-in from your staff.

So, these are my recommended steps:-

Step 1: Mapping your customer journey and interactions

There is no point in creating a Facebook channel or WhatsApp channel for instance, if your customers are not actually engaging in this way or indeed have no desire too. As always understanding and even asking (using customer surveys) your client base into how they would prefer or how they would like to engage with you and then importantly trying to qualify this requirement is often an important preliminary step. Afterall, this Omnichannel strategy is and should be in large part driven by your client’s desire to engage with you in multiple ways.

From this exercise, you will be able to understand the order of priority and if done right, gauge the likely volume of interactions per channel. Having a CRM system with good reporting statistics here, for example, number of cases/tickets created by these customer types can be a good starting point in helping you to review, budget and build that ROI Use case.

Once justified, you can set about step 2 with confidence.

Step 2: Choosing and prioritising your Channels

This really can be dictated by both budget, CRM application constraints (remember, ideally you want a seamless approach) and by the first step in identifying what your customers are looking for. Of course, the next key element is budget availability and the ability to train your staff and the cultural change they may need to adopt if for example, Webchat or Facebook was introduced. This may require a rapid answer, even if Bots are used in initial stage, transfer to agent needs to be seamless. So, a lot to think about.

Here are perhaps what I would consider the top five channels to consider, but these need to relate to your own research findings. Typically, in my view these are:

1/Email channels routing

Often overlooked, but a queue or inbox for easy assignment, nearly all CRM Customer Service modules from the leading Vendors now offer this as an option which may just need to be configured and deployed. Email in my experience, especially for B2B technical support is often the easiest starting point for many clients.

2/Self Service

Next and for me, possibly the best first channel is introducing a Self-Service portal. Why? Well, this serves the function of not only gaining plenty of information on an issue, but the ability to also automate standard responses such as logging the case and giving clients a reference number, plus more often than not, you have the ability to build Knowledgebases, so clients are able to resolve simple problems themselves, see step 3.

At one point, I was tempted to look at webchat as an easy first step, but thinking about this, this means more potential pressure on your customer service team, they have to monitor the chats and be able to respond and also log or create ticket in the CRM system if this is not fully integrated. It is useful, but my first thought here is in in taking pressure off the Customer Service team and again, according to the Bain report in 2020 mentioned above Self Service is often preferred first step for many clients.

Now you can look webchat as some time has potentially been freed up, this is my logic


Often seen as Livechat, embedding chat into your website pages to be able to offer advice in particular areas or on particular pages such as a helpdesk page, enquiry page or on a particular product/service or pricing page is now much easier to do and to integrate with your cloud-based CRM platform. A word of caution here is in terms of not underestimating the training and cultural change required here. Humans expect a quick response in seconds when interacting with Chat. This chat can be expanded to see if Bots could or should be used, again this really depends on the volume of traffic and affordability, see item 5.

4/Self Service Knowledgebase and Communities pages

Offering the ability in customer service role to either raise a case or ticket as well as having the capacity to be able to search for self-help articles from a knowledgebase of approved articles, relating to common questions. Again, self-service has the benefit of enabling clients to create and track their cases and upload additional information as well as searching for their own answers. Usefulness of this will depend on your customer

4/Social Media Engagements

Recently, especially for B2C brand engagement from various social media platform, with Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook being the favourites, these can be useful additional channels of communication and most CRM customer service platforms will now offer this capability to some extent. Again, don’t underestimate the cultural change and training needs of staff when working with social media.


Involving more time and investment and a deeper understanding of client’s needs, chatbots can do some of the initial ‘heavy lifting‘or engagement with customer but the key to their success is the ability to swiftly escalate to a human, especially in a B2B situation. Interestingly, studies have shown, especially since pandemic that clients do not mind conversing with a bot, even when they know it is a bot, as long as the bot is effective.


Finally, don’t forget this last item. How and what are you going to report on. This is something to consider from the outset, how you report and measure interactions across these many channels.

Step 3: Choosing your Platform

As mentioned previously, in the early days of omni-channel for most SME’s the choice was in finding and binding together a CRM system possibly with customer service functions with a range of other apps to create your own omni-channel approach for your customers, although in many ways this may have created a hodge-podge of apps linked together with different integrations, it may at least have served functionally.

In the last 5 years, especially with the rise in CRM cloud and application vendors, through acquisition and through development, most vendors have now evolved their own offerings, so you now have a rich choice from the leading players to be able to create an Omnichannel experience for your customer and ensure everything is within one platforms application suite, greatly easing both deployment and training and also importantly seamlessly capturing the data to create the 360 degree view of the customer as well as enabling a much easier reporting and data collection.

So, what are key decisions?

In my view, probably the key item before you embark on this process in earnest is ensuring you are on the right CRM platform for you. Time taken to investigate the omnichannel capabilities is time well spent if this is going to be a critical initiative. Not all CRM platforms are alike or work as well in a Omnichannel approach, so as far as possible you want a single platform suite. The degree of fit with your future requirements will to a large extend emerge from the first two steps, but the key here is to remind ourselves of that desire for a seamless, connected customer experience. You may need to take a deep and hard look into your CRM capabilities to fulfil your vision.

Step 4. ROI Justification of investment

Mentioned earlier and something to come back to now, is that sometimes one of the key items overlooked is if this journey is necessary? Can you justify the cost, time and effort in investing in a full and rich Omnichannel approach. For this, the key is in gathering the facts beforehand on the likely volumes of calls, how many agents are needed, what channels would be used. It may be a good idea to have a pilot project first if the cost is going to be significant. In any case, you need to plan. After all, this type of project is most likely to involve new training and new skills for your agents, possibly acting and working in a team for example with social media channels, all of this needs to be taken into account.


Having been involved with many CRM projects over the years, sometimes hard questions need to be asked which is why I have ended this post on considering the Return on Investment (ROI). Just because you can or want to implement something new, this still needs to be justified with facts as far as possible.

As always with any type of CRM project, you need to consider not just the technology and the processes, but also the people. By this, I mean the impact on training or adjusting to new possible ways of working. Underlying this, a key theme should be making the organisation more efficient but in also where possible, taking away some of the low-value added or drudgery tasks that your agents see as possibly wasting too much of their valuable time. As always, it is vital to run Business Process workshops with your Users/Agents to get their input and ideas, as well as helping to engage their enthusiasm for change. This will also help to embed ownership of the project as well as allaying fears about task replacement, often a key concern for personnel in today’s environment.

Again, this is why a Step-by-Step approach can often be the best way forward, since you can implement, measure the effectiveness and track key statistics and your user’s engagement before planning the next stage or channel. And as the list above shows, the more deeply you embrace Omni-channel then the more time and investment is required. So for many SME’s a big bang approach is often not the best use of money or resources, unless the volumes are considerable and you can clearly understand the benefits and ROI of each channel before implementing it.

As always, these are my personal thoughts, based on the last 20 years working in the CRM industry and working especially with a wide variety of SME’s.

31st October 2022

Dynamics 365 Licence changes and Insights


Last year, Microsoft announced major changes to their CSP (Cloud Service Provider) licence provisioning and pricing model for Office365/Dynamics 365. CSP’s are effectively distributors or wholesalers for Microsoft products. Many of you reading this may be impacted here since your own Microsoft partner, of which there are thousands, will in all likelihood be provisioning your licences through a CSP.

This post is intended for those involved with the CSP model. i.e. If your MS partner invoices you themselves, then this is probably the model they are using.

This new licencing provisioning model is being called the New Customer Experience or NCE and all clients currently with a CSP provider, either directly or indirectly will have to move to this new licence provisioning and pricing model by February’23.

Before going further, at the time of writing, these changes only apply to commercial pricing and not to academic or charity/non-profit organisations who for the time being will continue to be on the old model.

These changes announced with the NCE have potentially a big impact on the ways of working for many commercial SME clients and to be fair to Microsoft are, I believe, their first pricing increases in nearly 5 years during which many new features have been added, not least of course the ubiquitous MS Teams.


The CSP Model

Microsoft licencing options can mean a PhD is required to understand the various pricing models in place. However, for many corporate and many SME organisations (both private and public), this was a great concept.

The CSP (Cloud Service Provider) model was based on providing licences on a monthly or annual paid basis, as a monthly pay-as-you-go, with the ability to flex your licence count up and down which helped client planning and cashflow.

This was of great benefit during the recent pandemic. We had one great example of a client in the travel industry who had sales staff go into furlough, so their options were either to temporarily remove licences or convert full Dynamics 365 Enterprise Sales licences into Dynamics 365 Team licences for example, so training could continue, saving them at a critical time, hundreds of pounds in their monthly licence costs and importantly helping them weather the pandemic storm.


The NCE (New Customer Experience) is Microsoft’s new licence provisioning and management platform for CSP partners and their Microsoft partner clients to order and change (add/remove) licences.

Until early next year, there will be in effect two parallel platforms through which your MS partner can order products for commercial clients.

Timeline of changes

This may help explain to some extent why you may have had mixed messages from your Microsoft partner over the last few months, since this has been a somewhat confusing time.


New Commerce Experience announced for Dynamics 365/Office 365

The original rollout date of this platform was in October, but this was then postponed to January’22


10th January

NCE roles out in the UK for clients looking to move to the new experience and for new clients.

31st January

Announcement that monthly rolling prices will carry on, with a 20% price premium over annual pricing. This was a volte face caused in part by partners reaction to the removal of this option in the first announcements and client upset.

1st March

UK Price increase for following Office365 products (Microsoft365 on monthly CSP pricing) (ex VAT)

Microsoft 365 plans

Business Basic from £3.80 to £4.50

Business Premium from £15.10 to £16.60

E3 from £28.10 to £31.70

Office 365 plans

E1 from £6.00 to £7.50

E3 from £17.60 to £20.20

E5 from £30.80 to £33.40

You can avoid and maintain your prices by moving quickly to NCE and moving to minimum 1 year annual commitment plan for this year. Speak to your Partner first.

End of March

Any new Client are auto-enrolled in NCE.

End of June

Look at switching to NCE before this date.

Existing clients are unable to add new licences from this period.

1st July

New Monthly Premium starts to take effect from end of your annual provisioning period


End of February

All commercial clients must have now transitioned to the NCE platform.

Dynamics 365 Clients Impact

So, lets look at impact now on Dynamics 365 client of these changes, which is the main focus of this article.

These are two-fold and are a big change from the current model, and we expect more changes to take place.

1. You must be on NCE model by Feb’23. Really you need to look to move by the end of June to safeguard current pricing levels until your next provisioning period.

2. Migrating to NCE model you now have a choice of options for your licence term and price level to consider:

a. Dynamics 365 on monthly commitment only price. This will have a c. 20% premium, from 1st July or the end of your provisioning period. With this option importantly you can still flex up and down your licence count.

b. Dynamics 365 on annual commitment. You must pay for this whole period, even if it is on monthly for the whole locked in term period. You cannot flex down your licence count through the year, only within 72 hours of the annual renewal period. You can, of course, add licences at any time!

c. Dynamics 365 on three-year commitment. This is same as above apart from the term.

You can have a mix of licences since each is a different SKU or product item.

Who owes the money?

This has been a bone of contention, but your partner will now effectively be taking on your liability to Microsoft, so it you went under, they have to pick up the whole bill for the remainder of your contract. This also means you cannot change partner mid-term. This has been, shall we say, somewhat controversial! I expect then there may be some impact in terms of changes to your payment terms, for example you may move more now from in arrears to more advance and upfront payments, particularly for new clients in their first year, but this will be depend on your partners approach.

Dynamics 365 Price increases

Dynamics 365 apps will continue to be available on a monthly pricing, but the monthly premium protection stops on 1st July or your provisioning anniversary. At that time, those continuing will be on a new 20% pricing premium when their annual provisioning date expires.

An example is below for those wishing to stay only on monthly payment option, from 1st July

Dynamics 365 Enterprise Sales moves from £71.60 per User to £85.92 per user per month

Dynamics 365 Sales Professional moves from £49.00 per user to £58.80 per user per month

Dynamics 365 Team user moves from £6.00 per user to £7.20 per user per month

You can mitigate this by moving to NCE before the end of June and so will maintain your current monthly pricing or until the anniversary of your NCE provisioning. You have choice then as well of moving to either an Annual or Three year contract, still available with either upfront or as a monthly plans. Remember, you are committed to that whole licence count and payment term.

If you are not on an annual NCE plan by the end of June and remain on the original platform, then this means from July (or your provisioning anniversary), your Dynamics 365 monthly payments are going to go up as the premium is applied across all monthly items.

From next February, every licence will only be able to be provisioned on the NCE by your CSP in any case and from June this year, you can’t make licence count amendments anyhow.

A key point to repeatedly stress is you can only revise your licence counts within a 72-hour window of either provisioning a new licence or at the annual renewal. You can, of course, add licences any time.

What should I do now?

This is the critical question:

For Office 365 clients

Really, by now you needed to have moved to NCE to give you some price protection, but you should already have been speaking to your MS partner.

Dynamics 365 Clients

This is now a bit more complex, but you do have a few months to do some planning. So, I am assuming here that most of you interested in reading this post will be on monthly pricing, so your next steps in my view are as follows:

Step 1: Contact your Dynamics 365 licence provider (whoever invoices you) for guidance and check your provisioning dates to find out when your locked in price expires

Step 2: If you want to protect your current pricing for the rest of this year, then plan to move to NCE with the CSP before end of June so you can keep monthly price as they are until next year.

Step 3: Review your current and planned licence mix

This is the most critical action, as you need to review your licence requirements expected for the year from say June’22 to June’23.

So, key questions from this are:

1. Review how many Licences you will need on annual commitment and remember you can have a mix of monthly, annual and even 3-year licences.

2. Consider if, even with the monthly premium (it is 20% as you can see from example above) if it is worthwhile keeping a number of your licences on this monthly premium option to give you flexibility to go up/down at certain periods.

3. Start your licence mix budgeting process for June’22 to June’23

As I said at the start of this post, this has been a somewhat confusing process to understand, particularly with changes being made by Microsoft even as recently as a few weeks ago, as welcome as they were. For many it has been hard to comprehend the changes and impact, hence this post attempt to clarify this.


Whilst regrettable in many ways as a price increase always is, as I’ve said, for those of you using this CSP model its inherent flexibility has been and continues to be an attractive model for many businesses, especially proven useful during the pandemic when users were being furloughed. It is then that this flexibility really came into it own.

On a personal view, it is a shame these changes have been made so soon after the worst of the pandemic, since businesses will now need to look more closely at their licencing model and their commitments and undertake much more careful planning, narrowing one of what I think was Microsoft key licencing model advantages.

But the key now is to start planning and reviewing what licence mix is going to be ideal for you and to start to work closely with your Microsoft partner.


This post is I believe correct at time pf publishing, but as pointed out in this post, there still seems to be changes being made, so you need to work closely with your own partner to get the latest information. All opinions are my own, but are based on my 25 years in the software industry.


25th February 2022

The Hidden Gem in Dynamics 365

Introduction…back in the day!

For many years, whilst running my own consultancy, I used to have any new staff and Interns learnt our CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, at the time we used GoldMine, by conducting a relatively simply Customer Satisfaction Survey (CSAT).

This was a phone-based survey, and we would use a simple Likert scale (1-7) question on our past performance over the preceding months. To be clear, this was an ad hoc survey, but regularly conducted once a year as a benchmark and more importantly a feedback tool for myself. The idea was that since the interviewer had had no previous experience of working with the interviewee, the result should be unbiased. Apart from the score, I was interested in the ‘comments’ section.

But that was then, GoldMine used a simple ‘Other’ task activity type so I could track this type of survey per client, per contact over the years. Simple, but effective.

I applied the same approach whenever, I've taken over a role and in 2019, my assistant conducted this survey again as a quick introduction to Dynamics 365 to get accustomed to using CRM but also to give me a benchmark of our clients opinions in my first weeks in this new role.


However, whilst that was a great first benchmarking process, alongside many other clients, we are getting more sophisticated in our needs for feedback from our clients. And with Dynamics 365 we now have the toolkit to get this information.

Nowadays, customer surveys have got much more complex with metrics such as NPS (Net Promoter Score) and Sentient analysis for instance and whilst there are a range of off-the-shelf packages with Survey Monkey and Qualtrics to name just two, which are effective.

Consequently, talking to clients, it is no surprise these applications are generally used in their own “silos” with data extracted from the clients own CRM or held as lists in the app and although may have integration options, many times your data is disassociated and not dynamic and there is no single view over time of survey information being built up. Most clients tend to not go to the extra trouble or costs of integrating into CRM, instead relying data extracts and separate reporting of results through the survey app.

But this can be limiting and as clients have increased their survey usage cases (e.g. CSAT, NPS, client and staff onboarding, order feedback and the list goes on), this has meant departments want to utilise these numerous types of survey with consequent increase in creating separate “silos” of information away from CRM.

The rise in importance of Customer Experience (CX) and digital transformation strategies, embraced more widely since the start of the pandemic, has meant that these surveys of customers, suppliers and staff is now also a more regular activity then the traditional once or twice a year CSAT surveys conducted by my team 10 years ago.

A Hidden Gem…Dynamics 365 Customer Voice

Working on a current project with a client has shown me how far we have come in these few years in terms of this functionality being included in the Dynamics 365 platform, as long as you have an Enterprise licence.

I term this a “hidden gem”.

It is not always known to clients since most times it tends not be a key requirement at the outset of a project, but will come up post sale and in Account Reviews. Clients will often pigeon-hole functionality requests based on their own knowledge, so NPS/CSAT surveys don’t often appear in tenders or RFI’s.

Dynamics 365 Customer Voice is now the in-built survey app and all clients having Enterprise licence Users will have access to this module. Included with the pricing are up to 2k responses per month, so 24k over the year, but more ‘responses’ can be purchased as required (in 1k response increments) through the CSP (Cloud Service Provider) monthly pricing model for anticipated larger audience responses.

What can it do?

Customer Voice builds upon the earlier versions, known as Forms Pro and this is now a very powerful tool and has been heavily invested in as part of the Dynamics 365 platform roadmap, so will continue to evolve and expand with two major updates per year.

Whilst not diving into too much detail, Customer Voice has the capability to do a multitude of survey type questions with different formats of answers together with the ability to do branching questions.

Multi-language (currently there are up to 23) as well, to help you get started, there are 7 templates with the top 3 here probably having most relevance to readers of this post.

• Periodic Customer Survey-based on Forrester CX best practices, 3 question survey, probably most nearly reflects my old CSAT survey.

• Service Visit-after an onsite visit.

• Support-experience with support.

From a visual design perspective, you can choose fonts, theme colours and add branding.

Importantly, these Surveys are Mobile responsive as well, displaying on your mobile phone or tablet.

Key benefits

Whilst not an exhaustive feature-based list, some of the core reasons for having and using Customer Voice if you are looking to survey your clients, staff or indeed your suppliers on a regular basis for me include:

• Maintaining a single source of truth inside of MS Cloud

• Same domain for sending will help your response and email delivery rates.

• Ability to automate survey sending with Power Automate or Dynamics 365 Marketing

• Ability to show results in real-time.

• Includes 2k responses per month (you can buy extra 1k responses as required)

• Ability to create segments and Customer Journey using the Dynamics 365 Marketing App integration

• Integration with Power BI for more complex reporting requirements

How to deliver these Surveys and automation

One of the weaknesses in the past is that these surveys have tended to be quite static and are manually sent out, usually after a email list has been compiled, but these can become quickly out of date and still sit in their own ‘silos’.

With Customer Voice and automation (e.g. using Power Automate (Flow) and Dynamics 365 Marketing app) you can make these a lot more dynamic and timely.

Responses Rates

Rates in Survey can vary and often depend on the questions, the audience and of course the design and relevancy of the survey. According to Customer Thermometer, typical response rates can vary from 5-30%, and this site offers some good tips via an Infographic for both design and for improving your response rates, so well worth a quick read. As always, a lot depends on you, your industry and who and what you are asking and not least how long it will take to complete the survey.

Another aspect is ensuring the survey is timely and at present, I am working with a client to send a number of surveys to their End User clients and prospects on their customer experience and this will go out automatically based on a timed trigger event.

We are then combining the power of Customer Voice with Dynamics 365 Marketing, its personalisation, segmentation and the ability to build Customer Journeys and this will give the client some detailed analytics over time enabling them to identify to improve their own customer experience. Which leads me nicely to…


Again, within Customer Voice there is a built-in Dashboard and in-App Reporting tool. This gives you core metrics.

These reports can be complimented by gaining insights from Power BI using the Dataverse / CDS (Common Data Service) connectors, although you may need some help here reviewing where data is sorted in CRM and translating this. Certainly, at this point, reviewing some of the tutorials, my suggestion is that you need a skilled Power BI person, but these results once done, can of course by shared within the organisation and cross related to other key information, for example by Industry type, geography etc.

All in all, a rich blend of powerful reporting options to choose from, but for most of us, the core Survey information is pretty much out-of-the-box, until you need a deeper, more complex analysis.

Some final thoughts and call to action!

So, now you know more about this hidden gem, why don’t you activate this and give it a go?

The first steps in my view can be a sending a simple survey to your staff/users to give you some meaningful data and practice prior to trying this out on your customers. Then a Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) survey is usually quite easy to send out as an initial email and more importantly this can give you a benchmark for later surveys.

As with anything if you are considering using any automation, do make sure that you do some thorough testing first or if in doubt, speak to your Dynamics 365 partner for support.

Action now

The Summer period I think whilst for many industries is relatively quiet, this can be a great time to conduct CSAT surveys to benchmark your client base and to help you gain key insights from customers and even prospects. So why wait?

Start looking now into how you can use Customer Voice make the most of the hidden gem.


30th July 2021

How to reduce your CRM Licence footprint


As a cloud CRM user, it is important to understand the differences in your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system licensing models and how these are evolving and changing and for many vendors gradually moving towards a consumption model in many areas, particularly in data storage.

This post delves into the Dynamics 365 licensing model as illustrative, although the principles and takeaways here are becoming more and more relevant to many of the core Cloud CRM vendors such as Salesforce, Hubspot and PipelinerCRM*.

Now, cloud benefits are now well known and widely accepted, such as:-

• Always on, often 99% plus availability 365/24 is built-in

• Fully managed back-up

• No hardware costs or maintenance

• Sandbox available for development

• No set-up or installation cost, just buy and configure to meet your requirements.

• Established eco-systems of linked 3rd party apps and partners

• Office 365 and Email such as Outlook integration


• Regular upgrades built-in

This last item is one of the keys to cloud CRM success. Your software is now always up to date. The key is often there is now for most vendors a major upgrade release per year and for Dynamics 365 there are two major feature releases per year, Spring and Autumn now known as Wave 1 and Wave 2, this compares to perhaps a major release at most once a year, but usually every 2 or 3 years for more traditional on-premise solutions.

However, with these benefits, there are also new challenges and new ways of working.

Managing your Subscription Footprint

What do we mean by footprint? When you move to a cloud licensing model, the old one-off purchase of software has been made redundant, now you buy on a subscription basis, typically either every year or every month depending on the CRM vendor licensing model you have adopted.

For most Dynamics 365 clients I work with, they have adopted the CSP (Cloud Service Provider) model where their subscription costs are calculated and invoiced monthly on the actual licence assigned.

This is an important point for Dynamics 365 clients. Since you are paying for your licences monthly, so you are able to flex these up and down on a monthly basis.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, this has been very useful since many clients have either had redundancies or have had people move onto furlough and have been able to reduce their licence count temporarily or move Users to a Team licence rather than a Full licence, saving themselves significant amounts of cash.

Part 1 Dynamics 365*

Understanding licencing models

With Dynamics 365, there are two core licences*:

• Full Licence. This has all the key user and full access rights.

• Team Licence. Typically for those users need more read only or limited usage rights, for example Senior Managers, non-business line staff.

*(there is also a Device licence, but this doesn’t concern us here)

You may also have other additional licences on CSP model, so for example Power BI for reporting /Business intelligence purposes and Power App licence for those users perhaps just performing a set of simple tasks and who don’t need full access to CRM. Whilst not the subject focus here, again, understanding types of licence and what licence is required can save you money.

Now a short note on Database Storage.

In 2019, Microsoft introduced a new data storage model, based on three core elements:

• Database. This is typically where most of your data is stored so consideration here would be based on number of user and amount of information per record plus number of records.

• Files. This is where files and attachment are stored.

• Log. The manage say an audit log of events, changes e.g. change of owner etc

For each Tenant, you have a 10Gb core storage Database capacity plus the number of Users you have adds 250Mb storage per user on these Database element and you can purchase additional storage. However, the price for this Database storage increased from around £3 to c.30 per Gb, so this is now an important consideration. This is further complicated by clients perhaps have multiple instances all using up this storage capacity, for example a sandbox instance for developing and a sandbox training. All these consume from the overall allocation.

Whilst sandboxes are critical, each time you create a new one it consumes a minimum of 1Gb. And whilst File and Audit storage is a lot cheaper, this still needs to be managed as it contributes to the overall total.

Reviewing this situation on a regular basis, at least twice year should be part of your standard procedures.

I have seen examples where this storage can become a big problem and needs to be addressed, for instance where Test databases containing data are not reduced or cleansed after Go-Live or where there are multiple sandboxes for test or training databases being used. After Go Live, you need to review this to pre-empt future problems and potential bills.

By monitoring this now, you will be able to build a picture of how much data, by type is building up on a monthly basis and can start to plan and forecast for the future.

This year may be particular relevant since many of you who have taken on Dynamics 365 subscriptions may be coming to the end of any fixed pricing and by taking action now, you may avoid an unpleasant surprise later in the year, which although well forecasted, may have been forgotten in the current turbulence of the pandemic impacting workloads.

Conclusion and key takeaways

The key thing here is to be aware that you need to be regularly reviewing your software subscription, not just on Dynamics 365 but on other applications so you can flex. This is very important on the CSP or monthly pricing, whether this is for Dynamics 365 or your Office 365 subscriptions.

My key five takeaways are:

1. Audit and review every 6 months at least. Include your Users licence mix, their usage and the storage capacity and growth by instance.

2. Monitor your usage of the system. We have number of reports that can form a template for most Dynamics 365 systems and be configured for your own system. There are also MS standard reports on usage.

3. Review sandbox size and number. Do they need all the test migration data in them still? Can you revert to the core?


4. Review Microsoft Licence guides or speak to your technology partner for up to date advice. Microsoft seem to be issuing new licencing guides at the moment every 2-3 months, so you need to be up to date. Book in a Licence and Storage Review if in doubt

We have come across reviews where we have been able to recommend moving users from Full to Team licences with little effort saving clients over £60 per user per month! So, the key and final 5th takeaway is if in doubt, always speak to your technology trusted advisor.


* Part 2 Salesforce et al. Having re-read this, I have decided it is probably better to look at Salesforce and other apps in a separate post so as not to confuse the issue here, but the key point to bear in mind is that many of the principles may still apply.

30th April 2021

Data Challenges for CRM in 2021


We are now deep into Lockdown 3.0 with many of us working from home and we have all experienced both with clients and suppliers’ massive changes to how we work and who we are working with. These are changes are likely to stay for the foreseeable future, but how does this impact on your Customer Relationship Management system and what should you be doing now?

Most economic commentators are continuing to forecasting, regrettably, that many thousands of jobs will continue to be lost in 2021. All of us will already know of people whose job has either massively changed, been lost altogether or who are on some sort of furlough. This loss of jobs and changes in jobs and roles and responsibilities is likely to accelerate once furlough ends and the post-Covid economic world is upon us from late Spring onwards. So, there are likely to be significant changes in personnel for many businesses during 2021.

This started me thinking in terms of what tasks we should be doing now during Lockdown 3.0. Recognising that 2021 will continue to throw up numerous challenges and continual changes, I wanted to focus on a plan for what I think will be a key theme for Sales and Marketing departments this year with your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems and this is the challenge of maintain high quality data.

Data Challenge

So, this data challenge will revolve this year around maintaining Data integrity and validity. With each quarter, and furlough officially comes to an end in April, then the remaining months will continue to see changes in staffing levels, and this will impact on roles and responsibilities with these changing or possibly roles being consolidated.

So, what can you do?

Planning is critical and I think we can look at three different planning phases or periods during this year:

• Phase 1- Now

• Phase 2 -May/June

• Phase 3 -Late September

Steps per phase

Within each of these phases there are a number of steps that need to be taken with escalating involvement from Marketing through to the Sales team. The Sales team themselves will be under immense pressure to bring in income and maintain existing client relationships, so starting with Marketing, the first relatively easy and cost-effective step is:

1. Validate emails. This is a quick and easy win for Marketing departments and can highlight invalid and problem email addresses. This can be done by Marketing themselves and surprisingly is not as expensive as you think. This can cost less than 2p per record for 50,000 contacts. This should be your first easy step in each phase since this gives you a great first filter, as you can see who has left, usually pretty quickly, although of course not 100% accurate or up to date (nothing is!) this is in part due to nature of email setup and policies across organisations, but still as a first filter this can yield great results. Marketing needs to do this as it will involve some exporting and re-importing of matching data, but a good System Administrator should be able to do this or speak to your CRM support helpdesk provider. Marketing metrics e.g. open rates, bounce-backs will be much improved just from this one exercise alone and any insights can be provided to Sales for further verification and investigation.

This step can be done in a few days. Even without using any external email validation service, a newsletter or some customer email activity can highlight bounce-backs at least for a quick review.

2. Deduplicates. This is a more involved process, since in my experience with the best will in the world, every system will have some duplicates which somehow always get in! Any internal CRM system duplicate routines tend to be relatively basic such as address fields, cities, first and last name, email addresses, but are unlikely to be include more complex duplication for example across different entities such as Leads and Contacts. Other duplicate routines such as phonetics are also harder to do e.g. First National Bank versus 1st National Bank. For this, you many need to use specific data tools to help identify and then get your Sales team to validate results. Using an external tool can be a slightly more expensive exercise, but if you have many thousands of records, then this may well be a worthwhile step since this can flag and filter duplicates as well as potentially merge these records again having a positive impact of both Sales and Marketing performance and metrics.

3. Ownership. By far the most effective and important step and this should be an ongoing process, but can be neglected or forgotten. The key is Sales ownership, something discussed in previous posts, after all, it is the Sales team system, this is most often the main driver in adoption. Sales need to own this system and ensure it is regularly used and updated. So, when they see a job change, especially, this should be updated. If someone has left, again, they need to quickly and update or change status. My view is to never delete someone who has left a company, but just flag this contact as ‘left’ somehow, since in most industries once established, people will tend to stay in an Industry and move around, so they may pop up later and you need to then track back to this relationship. A mistake sometimes made and easy to do in a cloud CRM is to re-associate the contact with their new company. Don’t do this as you can lose all historic context at the previous company and this can be confusing. My rule of thumb is re-creating the contact in new role and then link via a separate association. Most systems have a way of achieving this.

This is probably the most important ongoing step and Marketing need to support and champion this to ensure Sales are aware of the impact of poor quality or out of date data. Really this is the key to CRM success and needs to be part of your CRM culture and onboarding training so that the Sales team think of CRM as their database, then you are on the road to success. Whenever they just think of it as “marketing database” or big brother, then this is a tougher call. If this is an issue, then time needs to be spent ensuring the Sales team can see and understand the value of keeping ‘their CRM’ up to date and relevant.

This is especially relevant if you are using any form of Stakeholder mapping. A tougher task to be fair, but with things rapidly changing, who is more important now IT or Finance? Who are now going to be the main influencers in your larger opportunities? Are they there or unseen? Either way, you need to understand how the buyer group dynamics will evolve. This will vary on your own buyer profiles, but I suspect that Boards and Directors will be more stringent . We have heard from large clients who’ve said that the only projects being approved are those likely to be income generating.

Finally a fourth  step, although this may involve additional costs in some form, consider:

4. Sales Enablement and Data Enhancement.

Here we are looking at using or adding additional sales tools to help to enrich your database, whilst this is UK focussed post, we tend to find that many of the Sales enablement tools work best in the US where there is more publicly available data. However, in my view the first and best sales enablement tool to use which we all know is LinkedIn.

LinkedIn Editions.

The most common are the Free or Premium editions and with these you have limited ‘saved searches’ you can set up to monitor your customer base posts and follow target companies, however, for serious prospecting and customer tracking, you will probably need to consider Sales Navigator. You can try this on a 30 day trial so this may be a useful starting point in Phase 1, if you can give this sufficient time to plan and test if this edition works for you. However, within your team, it may be useful that at least one person uses Sales Navigator for this year. This can help you to map the changes in personnel at client and target companies. Afterall, most people update their LinkedIn nowadays on a regular basis. For integration to the main platforms, then you need the Sales Navigator Team licence. Whilst this can be added to the Dynamics 365 Enterprise Sales licence to create a Relationship Sales licence for only around an extra £20 more per month, a minimum of 10 users are required. Sales Navigator Team also integrates to Salesforce, but this is costed separately.

Another solution is to look at add-on Sales Enablement Solutions such as Versium, but this may involve further investment, planning and training and is probably best left to another post.

Finally, let us consider using external supporting effort or Managed Services.

Managed Services

If you have small department or just need extra support and help, then look at Managed Services as an option. This is where many of these tasks or steps are managed externally, possibly by your CRM provider or a separate external service. As a full-service technology consultancy, we often perform these operations on behalf of our clients either on a project or retained basis or for those on our Platinum Support Plan (24 x 7 x 365 support), then this extra service is built into their plan with a number of days of Managed Services per month. Many other clients take advantage of this Managed Services on a project centric basis.

Back to the three Phases

I started off this post talking about three core phase or burst of activities. Three is a good number since it ensures there is some in-built momentum generated around every 90-120 days. To recap:

Phase 1. Now

Do this now. Don’t forget to bear in mind the impact already of the last six months, so this is the first challenge in 2021 and these first six to eight weeks in Lockdown 3.0 mean now is a good time to start these steps off since most business have stabilised after making any dramatic changes last Summer/Autumn.

Phase 2: Early Summer

Re-take the steps above during the early Summer, possibly within 2-3 months of furlough ending again as any more job changes work through. Again, there should be a continued or renewed focus on supporting and ensuring the Sales team are diligently tracking any job and role changes they come across.

Phase 3: Late September/October

With the focus on reaching end of year sales targets for many, then it should be a good idea to repeat these five steps. Since any other prolonged delays in business making decisions in the early Summer will by now have most probably have worked their way through, always assuming and hoping that this Lockdown is really the last one and that by early Summer the vaccination programme has met key targets and we are returning, probably still gradually to a degree of new normality.


Whilst this is a short post, 2021 really is going to be a year where for Sales and Marketing departments the challenge of data and in staying up to date with personnel changes at clients and prospects will be more important than ever.

Updating your stakeholder maps will also be critical, since past experience suggests that with any sort of prolonged downturn or recession, with cash being tight, then finance will hold an even stronger rein on other parts of the business and so you many need to factor this in and engage more closely say with the finance team in order to more deeply understand their influence and how they may be impacting purchase decisions.

So the big data challenge themes this year are going to be:

• Data integrity -making sure who information is accurate and relevant

• Data validity-making sure information is up to date and cleansed.

• Data ownership -making sure your sales team understand the importance of updating records such as new and lost staff, role changes and job title changes

• Frequent Communication between Sales and Marketing to ensure close alignment and an understanding of the impact on both departments shared success in 2021

The starting point as suggested in Phase 1 is in taking those important first quick and easy steps and beginning to create the momentum and culture you need to ensure that you can address the data challenges of this year. The key is you need to start now.


Picture credit: Photo 204902783 © Nicoelnino |

30th January 2021

Self Service portal support Customer Engagement


This post was very nearly entitled “Why are Portals not more common?” And this is a good question.

If you have a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platform suite, then adding a self-service element of some sort to your website to improve customer service is shown to be of great benefit and well-liked by clients, in fact in UK, 86% of clients expected this according to a recent Microsoft Report

On today’s cloud based CRM platforms from the leading CRM vendors, this is often just another module you can deploy.

Since March, there has been a sea change in how customers interact with businesses, especially in the B2B sector where from face to face meetings still being the norm with traditional customer visits/presentations now having long given way to Microsoft Teams and Zoom meetings. Whilst, in my experience nearly everyone misses this personal interaction, we have all adjusted to this more digital way of working.

This is part of a recurring theme which has just increased with the Covid-19 pandemic, since over the last five years we have seen a gradual digital transformation across many businesses, although this may not always be labelled as such, this transformation has now been greatly accelerated during the pandemic, with Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO saying at Insphire, Microsoft’s global partner conference in July, that in just 3 months, they had started more Digital Transformation projects than were predicted for the whole year.

This is much the same across all types of businesses and many types of consumer from ‘Millennials’ where there was possibly no change at all to the Baby Boom generation, many of whom have embraced, sometimes reluctantly, this new technology and have found themselves adjusting to using more and more apps from internet banking and contactless payments through to ordering items on Amazon from their mobile!

In this Digital Engagement world, the change is so big that in many areas, your customers now prefer to engage digitally first!  This really reiterates the need for deploying self-service portals and other digital engagement tools as an intrinsic part of your overall customer engagement strategy.

The role of technology to help support customer service has never been more important, a recent Harvard Business review study during the early days of pandemic and found a massive increase in customer demand and the number of “difficult” calls doubled from 10% to 20% whilst hold times ballooned 34%. This impacted agent’s ability to cross-sell or upsell and even to retain customers.

My belief is that you now is the time to start to embrace a key part of what is often called Omni-channel. This really just means that your customers are able to contact you across a variety of different channels from phone and email through new channels such as portals, webchat, Bots, SMS (text) and of course social media such as Twitter and Facebook. A key starting point or first step in moving to this more “Omni” or “Multiple” channel approach is in my view through the adoption of self-service portals.

Self Service Portals

According to recent Salesforce report*, Customer portals are the 4th most used channel after in-person, phone, email for customer service.

The rationale for any client portal is the ability for your clients or Users to self-serve and for them to either easily find or add information to your CRM system. Typically, the most used example is for customer service with a client adding or logging their own case or searching a knowledgebase.

Example Use cases

As an example, in 2007/2008, we were deploying the SAGE CRM Self Service portal, since this was one of the few CRM vendors which had its own built-in Self Service module at the time and which was very configurable.

We had a client servicing cameras at railway stations and their own client could log a case at any time 24 x 7 x 365 via the web portal. Once the case was logged, then a series of escalation rules relayed this via SMS text and email messages to on-call engineers and also up the chain of command eventually to the Managing Director on a complex SLA depending on the nature of the camera/number of cameras effected to ensure an engineer was dispatched and the issue fixed. This fix was then updated from site via a mobile phone app. At the time this use of a standard mobile was way ahead, but today using something like Power Apps on a smart phone this would be so much easier to accomplish, back then it needed some coding. Once proven, this effectively saved a whole night shift of someone just on stand-by awaiting a call or email. The client then had resolution statistics available next day, but importantly customer service massively improved since so much was automated and the ROI was less than 4 months!

Another use case was myself for using a self service knowledgebase. In 2009 a client’s on-premise CRM hit a problem on Boxing Day and I was on call. I resolved this case simply by looking at the internal knowledgebase in less than 10 minutes and that included starting the laptop and sending the details across to the client!

Portals Features

This examples above are classic self-service support use cases driving portal adoption. For Customer Service there are usually at least two core requirements:

• Users ability to raise and see status of a case. This enables Users to describe and raise a case 24*7 adding all relevant information such as screenshots in an IT example or even photos nowadays.

• Knowledgebase article library. Enabling your end users to find information and resolve their own problem before requiring help from an agent.

According to Microsoft’s Report “Global State of Customer Service”, in UK, 90% of customers now expect there to be a self-service function which is actually higher than the US at 85%!

Deployment Considerations

So what do you need to consider and how easy is it to deploy a portal? In my view a portal needs to be:

• Easy to use to create cases/tickets

• Easy to navigate

• Include some simple automation (e.g. acknowledgment of case raised, status change)

• Populated with well written knowledgebase articles (which are up to date)

• Easy to find information already submitted (e.g. to add or see progress on your case)

• Integrated into your website (e.g. a Login icon somewhere)

• Piloted or trialled with a few selected clients

Prior to deployment of a portal, it can be useful to do a quick survey to make sure your own clients actually want and will use this channel. You can then to further reinforce this engagement include some clients in your testing to get buy-in at an early stage and provide some useful stats and references.

After mapping out your detailed functional requirements, don’t forget that a Portal UX (User experience) and its design can be a critical factor in adoption according to the same report “Self-service”.

In addition, the success or failure of a self-service knowledgebase rests heavily on the relevancy and accuracy of the topics and articles, and the ability of Users to quickly access this information. If the information is difficult to access or is infrequently updated or not well written, then the knowledgebase can quickly turn into a liability.

The ROI Case

Setting up a self-service portal Return on Investment (ROI) business case can actually be surprisingly easy to make and build. So, here are some recent stats from a study by Metronet:

• Average cost of service raising a IT ticket (2017) was around $22,

• For a self-service ticket this was around $2, or just 10%.

• If this case was escalated to say desktop, then price increased to $70.

However, in deflecting away the lower value or easy to resolve items you are enabling your support desk to focus on resolving the more complex cases and possibly being able to uncover new opportunities for the Sales Team to up-sell or cross-sell.

Another key point made in the study above is that Users should be able to resolve their issue in less than 10 minutes. In my experience over last 10 years, the time taken to document a case, ask some simple questions alone can be 5-10 minutes, so having this task completed online by Users helps to reduce time spent on the call, but also helps to increase first time resolution time since Users tend to diligently follow on-screen instructions and provide more information compared to a quick email/call to the Helpdesk to ‘just fix this issue.’

With no apologies for mentioning this again, don’t underestimate the importance of website portal design. At Dogma, we are in the enviable position for a technology consultancy of having as part of the group, Sirius Apps, a company focused on and staffed with designers and UX consultants used to creating mobile apps and websites. Having an internal group of website designers, familiar and used to working with CRM can speed up project delivery and communications.

This was something in the past both myself and I know other consultancies struggled with, having to use either a client’s own website designers, who were not always fully engaged, or instead find a reliable freelancer since CRM consultancies don’t on the whole employ full time website designers.

What to do next?

You need to have a reasonable volume of cases/tickets and to be able to gather a few statistics. First, if you are not already doing so, track some metrics in your CRM over a week or better still a month, so you have a short time frame to focus. My thoughts are you should include:

• Number of cases, by type and agent

• Review any recurring themes

• Measure resolution times, again by type and agent

• Track if you can, time spent on the case, ideally at each stage (e.g. case creation, investigation, resolution), ideally by agent if this is possible

• Agent level. Know your costs here.

You should be able to build a picture of costs per case resolved, by level of agent and by type of case Do some analysis, for example would any of the themes be suitable for your Knowledgebase articles? Are the problems and resolutions of these themes or article easy to describe and is the resolution easy to follow, as simple as 1, 2, 3?

Clearly, your method of capturing data should be realistic, but the prime intention here is to give you some sort of benchmark. This can then help to structure the business case. And it may even be that a self-service portal is not right for you at the moment. If not then revisit these metrics in six months.

And finally

A key aspect of customer service in 2020 for clients is their ability to get a first time fix or resolution. Self-service portals are able to contribute to this as well as having the ability to deflect pressure off the Support team enabling them to focus higher value or more difficult cases. With more time to possibly spend on these more complex cases, then your customer service agents have an opportunity to uncover potential up-sell or cross-sell opportunities as well and become more revenue generating.

Giving your clients more channel options to get in contact with you and engage is seen as the key to Omni-channel success. The challenge for many businesses is in deciding how you want to develop your engagement and how to build a plan that enables you to move your customer engagement to next level. Implementing a self-service portal can be an effective and efficient first step on the ‘Road to Omni-channel digital engagement’ and if done right will improve both your client’s perception of your business as well as enhancing your overall customer service operation and effectiveness.


26th November 2020

Kanban in CRM


Kanban is nowadays a well-known concept, originally developed by the Japanese in the 1950’s for moving items in manufacturing through a series of stages or process steps, but having complete visibility of what items were needed in each stage. The key was and is visibility.

Kanban literally means signboard or billboard in Japanese. In the West, this concept was widely adopted in Europe during the 1970’s and 1980’s by many manufacturers.

This Kanban concept has in the last few years been widely adopted by Customer Relationship Management applications, particularly for sales Opportunity Management, but also elsewhere including Project management.


Kanban’s biggest benefit is it provides a clear visual presentation of what “stage” of your opportunity process you are and so this concept has been applied by a number of vendors with the first software application vendor using this I came across being Pipeliner CRM, which used this view as key differentiator to highlight their very visual representation of data and this was back in 2014.

For CRM apps, the most common use of Kanban visualisation is still in helping to manage Sales Opportunities (although it is widely used for Cases and Activities) but my focus in this post is purely on managing the Sales Pipeline. In hindsight, a weakness of many CRM systems at that time was that to view your opportunities you really could only do this in two ways:

• Clicking into the Company/Account and Opportunity record itself to see the active stage


• Looking at a long list of the opportunities, possibly sorted or filtered by their stages but still only in a grid format

Of course, you could usually extract and manipulate data to present information differently, but again this was not so easy with the reporting tools of the time, such as the current in-app reporting or even using Crystal Reports, the reporting formats and visuals were limited compared to nowadays with say Power BI reports.

The Kanban view as advocated by Pipeliner CRM back in 2014 meant you had a clear view of all the opportunities in terms of these being able to be grouped visually by their stage and more importantly you could easily ‘drag and drop’ any onto the next stage on the screen. This visual view focussed the mind on how many opportunities were at each stage, whilst adding another filter say by close by date for your next target period could also be used. Later, this was the refined to show your average time in each stage, drop-off ratio and other metrics such as showing your sales velocity (I have covered in a previous post Sales Velocity).

For Sales Reps and Sales Management, knowing where your opportunities are in your sales process and at what stage is critical as many sales people will have 30, 40, 50 or even more opportunities open at any one time to manage and prioritise.

Other vendors took note and whilst I may be wrong which CRM first introduced this*, it wasn’t long before this was being widely introduced.

So why is this Kanban view so useful?

In my view, using Kanban for managing your opportunities offers the following five key benefits:

Visual: The clear, often colourful visual representation of opportunities is easy to absorb compared to the traditional standard List view. You can see the number of opportunities in each sales stage instantly.

Understanding: Reps can instantly understand that all things being equal, they need a balanced pipeline, more at the front of their funnel and so there is likely to be less at the end stages. In addition, it can become quickly apparent which opportunities may be ‘sticking‘ at a stage for example.

Filter capability: In most systems, it is easy to filter say by close by date or other criteria, such as value, again helping Reps to decide on which sales to focus on say this month, this quarter etc.

Drag and Drop. It is easy to update and ‘drag and drop’ selected opportunities into the next stage or even back a stage ensuring for Management a more up to date and possibly more accurate and realistic sales pipeline.

Reporting and Coaching: Sales Management like this view since it can make it easier to see where opportunities may be sticking or needing to be moved along and they can feed this back to a Rep as well since this can be easily communicated in any coaching or review meeting.

There are other reasons, including often the ability to review your Sales Velocity by seeing how many days an opportunity is in a stage against your average for that stage for example, but I covered this concept in my detail in a post a while ago (link), still these are my top 5 benefits.

Kanban Adoption by major Vendors

Talking of the Top 5, let’s review the progress of this adoption amongst my Big Five CRM sales team focused applications:

Dynamics 365

Kanban has been introduced as part of the new Unified Client interface in 2019 for new clients, whilst existing clients are able to use this as soon as they upgrade to this new ‘look and feel’, although this will be applied globally from 1st December. In my view, this is one of the major reasons for adopting this new interface, not least that it is more attractive and easier to work with.

Users can now pin to show the current opportunities key fields and change this as for a quick review as well.


Kanban has been around to my understanding now for over five years, since the introduction of the “Lightning” interface which modernised the look and feel from the traditional “Classic” view which had been around for a number of years. Only available in this new release, the Kanban view was originally known as the “Opportunity Board” before being renamed in Spring’16 release. By now, almost all clients, certainly in the SMB sector will be on this interface, first launched in 2015.

For their Summer’ 20 update Salesforce have announced they will be adding to this so Reps can edit a record’s key fields inline, without leaving their Kanban view. Also, as with Dynamics 365, you will be able to open and close the details panel by clicking without opening full record to show key fields for faster on-the-go update whilst still staying in Kanban context


Primarily a marketing automation provider and market leader in this segment, the company has expanded its offering over the last five years as well and recent reports suggest large numbers of new users for its core CRM have been added over the last few years. As part of this CRM core platform expansion, within the Opportunities or ‘Deals’ view, again Kanban is offered as standard.

Pipeliner CRM

Since I first came across the software in 2014, what struck me was its visual focus aimed at the sales team and this is still the apps core niche today. With added functionality and filtering on sales velocity for example, they have now added a Bubble chart view as well, showing opportunities filtered by stage across a timeline of months, quarters etc which is a new and innovative visual presentation of Kanban.


Originally open source and this was widely adopted from around 2009 onwards by SME’s although not something I encounter as much anymore in talking to clients and prospects, again Zoho has adopted the Kanban in its opportunities or ‘Potentials-Opps’ view.


Kanban from the main CRM vendors continues to be developed with additional functionality making this easier for your Users to find, filter and to clearly see their opportunities and more importantly encourage them to take action. The Vendors continue to evolve and improve what is possible to be shown and worked on in their various Kanban-type views, but at heart, the concept remains the same as does the goal of clearly representing key information, so 40 years after it first was adopted, Kanban is very much here to stay in the world of CRM.

*A Note on Dates. Often, the dates of Kanban introduction are based on my own first encounter with functionality by app

31st August 2020