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How to reduce your CRM Licence footprint

Introduction

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

Finally,

• 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?

Finally,

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.

ENDS

* 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

Introduction

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.

Conclusion

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.

ENDS

Picture credit: Photo 204902783 © Nicoelnino | Dreamstime.com

30th January 2021

Self Service portal support Customer Engagement

Introduction

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

Introduction

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.

How

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

or

• 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.

Salesforce

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

Hubspot

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.

Zoho

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.

Conclusion

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

How the CRM vendors are helping in this pandemic

Introduction

At the risk of over saturating everyone with news of the COVID-19 virus, I thought it would be very useful to outline what some of the top CRM vendors are doing to help in these strange times.

My thought is that if ever there was a good time to move from your old on-premise CRM system, if you still have it, then this is it!

With everyone now having to work from home on their or a company laptop, Tablets and smart mobiles, this is where cloud based CRM is really coming into its own and I wanted to see how the software leading vendors are making it easier to migrate with possible roll-out offers and packages.

Furlough Impact

With Covid-19 and many staff going into furlough, then they are not able to work, having a single cloud view of the customer is now more important than ever as those colleagues helping out will be expected by clients, to know their account and their business, so having an up to date CRM has never been so important for businesses.

Trends since 2010

Whilst this is not the time to dwell on this, recent stats have shown us that in the space of 10 years, we have moved from 20% cloud based CRM in 2010 to a staggering 87% of all CRM being cloud hosted in 2018. However, this still means that possibly 1 in 5 companies have a legacy on-premise CRM which may not be cloud facing, possibly more in UK as this was a US based source.

So, back to the question, how many of the key cloud vendors are recognising this and putting into place some offerings to take advantage of.

This post is based on what I listed as my Big Five in a post from a few years ago (time for an update?)

Let’s look at the key platforms first.

The “Big Beast” CRM Platforms

These are the major cloud based CRM vendors in the UK identified in my post, offering a wide range of modules from Sales, Customer Service and Marketing to full E-commerce and Customer portals on the same platform.

You just need to choose and add the module that will best fits your business. The real beauty of course is everything is integrated, so choose the application modules you want to start off with and then add as you require. A big change in functionality really since my last post has been the advance and integration of AI or Machine Learning into many of these applications, but that is a theme for another day.

Each of the platforms have their own eco-systems of tactical applications to meet particular requirements, for example e-signature.

So now let us have a quick overview and for each application and in each I will highlight if and what their Covid-19 inspired offer is currently, although this is of course subject to change fast.

Starting with the two leading platforms as identified in my post from 2018 which reading this again it still relevant.

Dynamics 365 platform

With so much money being spent on this application suite by Microsoft in the last few years this has now rapidly expanded to now offer a full CRM/ERP suite. Recently, a branding restructure relabelled the suite into the Dynamics 365 and Power applications, all of course integrated with MS Outlook/Office 365, so you now have the following applications available on a CSP or monthly invoicing option. Core modules for readers of this post would possibly include:

• Sales

• Customer Services

• Marketing

• Portal for communities and self service

• Finance via Business Central

• Power BI –for reporting

With the new UCI (Unified Client Interface), the look and feel is the same on all devices (desktop, Tablet and Mobile) making this easier to adopt if you are used to O365. In addition, LinkedIn was acquired by Microsoft in 2016 as well as a point of interest.

Whilst, not of course CRM, with so many modules, the Dynamics Business Central is the finance module for small to mid-sized companies and if your finance team are still on legacy desktop or server based system this is well worth a look.

Covid-19 Offering: Some add-on capabilities, for example Remote Assist for field based technicains is being offered free for 6 months to client with Customer Service module. This module is also available for certain sectors as well, e.g. HealthCare, Charity. For the day to day headline module pricing, no change.

Note: If you are on the Dynamics platform and are using the CSP (Cloud Service Provider) offer enabling you to pay monthly, don’t forget that if you have people on Furlough then you could move those affected with say Full licences into Team (at c.10% of licence cost) licences or remove and reactivate these licences later. Check with your CSP provider on your options here.

Salesforce platform

Salesforce has been the leading proponent of cloud CRM since 1999 so were early advocates, now of course known as one of the leading CRM platforms. This platform continues to grow and has made major acquisitions in the last few years. Core modules for this post audience are likely to be:

• Sales

• Customer Services

• Marketing.

• Communities (Portals and self service)

• Ecommerce

• Tableau for reporting as well as Power BI (with standard connector to Salesforce)

In addition, for existing customers, they are some add on modules which are free to use, helping to support co-workers internally. There are also Trailhead e-learning modules specially to support this.

Covid-19 Offering: Offering small businesses a pack of information, including an extended, 3 month trial sign-up to Salesforce Essentials package.

Zoho

Another consideration for smaller companies on restricted budgets may also be this product which has a wide suite of add-on modules, but is not as well-known. Certainly over the last few years, my personal experience has shown that this tends to be for smaller organisation since I have not come across this much in the mid-sized market as frequently as say just 5 years ago. Module of interest are likely to be:-

• Sales

• Customer Service

• Marketing

• Omni-channel or Self Service

Again a wide variety of add-on and eco-system of associated apps

Covid-19 Offering: Current offer is for up to 3 users FOC plus a new low priced simple solution, called Bigin for those moving away from Spread-sheets.

In fact, as I pointed out in a post a year or so ago, the last five years have seen the Top CRM vendors focusing a lot on improving their eco-system of partner and third party app that can integrate into their system, for example many client have integration now with e-signature and CPQ software apps

Niche Applications

Within this group, are the niche players which whilst they may not offer a full platform approach, but are able to offer strong Sales and Customer service functionality as well as having partnerships with other strategic vendors, for example in Email Marketing Mailchimp.

Pipeliner CRM

Over the last few years, this has steadily expanded and last year, entered the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Sales systems. So if you are sales specific and keen to focus on this aspect, then this is an easy to use visual CRM with the key features you would expect as well as lot of integration to other applications through its eco-system. There is a nice ability for online and offline capability, useful for field reps with the app. A free 14 day trial is available

SAGE CRM

Since SAGE withdrew their SAGECRM.com offering which was pure cloud based back in late 2017, I have excluded this application since this is now only available as a Server based or Server hosted solution, which kind of takes us back to the start. However, SAGE CRM was always cloud facing and accessed via a browser, so as long as your system is maintained if you are on SAGE CRM then this post is unlikely to be relevant. Whilst there is a dedicated Covid-19 hub, this support appears to be mainly focussed around financial implication information and e-learning.

Hubspot

Within recent years, this has expanded from a Marketing Automation vendor into CRM and now offers a full platform approach. Recently launched its own Hubspot CMS as a rival to WordPress dominance and continues to attract new clients in the UK with attractive offers

Covid-19 offering. Has reduced its Starter Suite pricing for new prospect and clients by significant amount for next 12 months. It has also suspended email marketing limits and made an number of add-on features free to trial for 90 days

Setting up the new system

Whilst choosing the next CRM Cloud solution is only one key decision, and of course if you are not sure, then we are able to give you independent of vendor advice on which may be the best-fit solution for your business. That is just the first step. To get the most out of any CRM you will probably need help to configure and train your users.

And amongst the CRM consultancy community we recognise that you may need or want to get some set-up quickly so are able to offer tailored packages to both configure the system and migrate core data from your old system as well as being able to deliver online training and e-learning training for repeat use and reference.

Conclusion

This post is not intended to direct you to one application or the other, after all that was what my Big Five post helped with a few years ago, but if you need help and support choosing a CRM, or just in setting up your chosen CRM, then that is a good time to make contact since it is likely you will have other systems linked or needing to be linked in the future as well as part of your own business application eco-system.

Finally, my apologies if anything is already out of date when this is published, but as you will appreciate, this is a moving target and vendors are adjusting to the changes almost daily it seems since I started to write this.

29th April 2020

Is UAT the secret to CRM Adoption and Engagement Success?

Introduction

UAT or User Acceptance testing is widely used when introducing new software systems in large and complex ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) projects and in CRM (Customer Relationship Management) projects.

This post reflects on why in my view, particularly in CRM of all IT projects, this can be a crucial if not a critical factor in a projects success and in the subsequent roll-out and engagement of Users. Many authors over the years have noted a high failure rate in CRM projects and again, my view is that inadequate UAT amongst other factors, will often be a root cause, but why is this?

What is it?

First let’s just clarify what UAT is.

User Acceptance Testing is usually towards the end of a project and will pre-date User roll-out and full training delivery depending on your project methodology, for example ‘waterfall’ or agile.

As a general rule, after any configuration or customisation changes to your system and internal supplier testing, time is then allocated to a select number of customer users to test what has been changed in context and ensure that this works or behaves in the manner which is acceptable and meets stated and documented requirements.

Usually scripts or usage cases are already prepared by the client or consultant to test the key usage scenarios effected by the change.

Any deviations are then fed back in some form of log, often called a Findings and Issues list showing items needing to be addressed/discussed by the Project sponsors. These findings may be rated by priority or impact and urgency.

How these are addressed will then be decided. But once these changes are made, these will then be tested again in another round of UAT until passed and accepted.

A simple enough process in theory and practice!

Why do it?

The core reason for UAT is to ensure prior to the new system or changes being handed over, there is a sign-off of the system to ensure it meets client specifications as shown and agreed in any Functional System Design documentation or Blueprint specification. Think of this UAT as the final check-list prior used and walked through when agreeing to accept a new car. In much the same way, often there will be a milestone payment associated with sign-off to focus all minds attention to the detail!

The focus on UAT is on how the system behaves. However, often during this process, a subset of real data may be added as Test Data prior to final migration and this may be tested too, but, I will touch on this aspect again later.

My experience shows that always there will be a Findings and Issues log that comes back from the Customer after their UAT. Often these findings may be minor and easy to fix, but sometimes major changes may be identified. These major changes are of big concern and a plan needs to be agreed and the impact understood in terms of the project plan.

Dangers and Risks

In many projects under tight time deadlines, the risk is this Testing and UAT period can be rushed or too short or that not enough trained personnel or not enough End Users are given the necessary time and tools to test and report thoroughly. How the feedback is documented can also cause an issue.

However, with good Project Management, these Risks should be clearly identified and early on in a RAID Log. This is simply a project planning tool, usually in Excel for identifying key Risks, Assumptions, Issues, and Dependencies. At start of any project, the Project Manager should identify any events, activities, resources that could impact on the successful completion of the project. This should be a weekly or monthly Update to project sponsors as the project evolves.

What to do what not to do

Any good testing will have a Finding and Issues log from UAT and don’t forget you may have more than one round of UAT. Some suggestions now on what to do and what not to do:

To do

• Selected Users need to undergo some form of system training before they are involved in UAT, so they must understand the system as if they were new Users, not come to this fresh with only limited exposure.

• UAT must be built-in with enough time for testing and a fixing allowance of time before Go-Live. Having it too close to this date runs risk of having to move it out the go live date which will not be welcome and impacts the business and the projects reputation.

• Have good script or usage scenarios available, easy to read and answer. Again, this requires adequate preparation time, don’t leave this to the last minute

Perhaps the most important point, but also one of the hardest to meet is:

• Allow adequate time for fixes. Most of the time, if there is a good cleat blueprint, good project management and enough resource allocation then many issues tended to be minor such as screen form design issues where users may want certain fields moved around or drop downs added too.

Also, it can be useful to split your UAT Testing into two work streams: User UAT and a separate Data Migration UAT team. They may be the same team but ensure different time is allocated or a different room, for instance swapping over. Trying to combine the two may result in missed testing since Data Migration UAT needs careful diligence and is not exciting, so allocate separate time to this. The quality of data can impact the project and I’ve covered this in other posts in the past.

What not to do!

• Don’t rush this process

• Don’t do a last minute allocation of resources with no adequate testing time in their diary

• Don’t forget these User need some Training first

• Try not to have your Testing by different people spread out. Ideally aim to have a minimum time in a “locked room” scenario. So there are no email or other distractions to enable people to focus 100% on their testing. Reflect on how best to achieve this in your project.

• Try not to do fixing “on the fly” before all your first round of testing is completed by all Users. This can just create complications…”Finish the testing, log it, fix it” is a good mantra.

• Don’t skimp on the Findings log detail. Ensure you are providing a good log and detailed description for everyone to be clear on the issue and for other to be able to replicate your findings. This will save time tooing and froing on clarification.

This is a short list, but no doubt experienced practitioners can add to this immensely, but for now let’s focus on the big picture still.

Resource Allocation

Choosing your Project Team and your internal Testing Team should involve a mix of Users and ideally at all levels and all impacted departments. If you can, you want champion End Users and sometimes, whilst it may be tough for ourselves, those Users who are the most vocal and even resistant to change can be your most effective champions if they can be turned around. In my experience oftentimes, they will also appreciate the fact they have been asked to contribute in the first place. More importantly, you want them onside.

As mentioned above, for data migration testing you want people who are very detailed. Data migration issues can really deflate a new project rollout, so attention to detail when reviewing is a vital skill. Hence I think this should be considered a separate work-stream.

A final note here, which is if you are struggling for resources, don’t be afraid to ask others including your consultants for help.

How to recover?

But what happens if for whatever reason UAT has not identified all the key issues. You then either go to User training and find out problems during the training, not the nicest experience for a Trainer or later only after Go Live.

This can still happen. Often the root cause is traceable down in my view down to three core reasons:

• Usage scripts not having right information or enough scenarios or being well written and easy to follow, or no scripts at all!

• Not enough adequate Testing time. Rushing the test time or just not allocating enough time or people not being disciplined to use this time. Again, having a whole dedicated day and ‘locked room’ will help here.

• Right mix or level of Tester. Possibly the Testers were not familiar with all the processes they were testing, it can happen, especially if time or resource is tight.

To recover the answer is pretty simple. You many need lots of bodies and take action early and fast to get back to a recovery position. I’ve said it many times in post before, but I believe the first 90 days after roll-out are critical.

But you need to see the signs, so if your users begin to say things like:

“It takes longer”

and more importantly can prove it, take this as a good sign! It is feedback at least and concern for the business, or:

“I can’t easily find what I need “

This last is often easier to fix, where often it is a question of improving the screen design and layout.

As in all things it, prevention is easier than cure

But act fast and recognise you have a problem and don’t blame the Users.

They are simply trying to do their job. Your job is to listen and validate first, not moan at the Users, whatever they say there will be kernel of truth there, the key is in then finding how big the impact actually is. Ignoring these warning signs will lead to a system with poor User adoption or worse a reluctant adoption and can lead to lost data, wasted time and eventually even employee de-motivation and churn.

Benefits of getting it right

Rather than me, I think, it is worth noting this comment from a leading CRM Project Manager with 20 years’ experience.

“Good UAT and the resultant follow-up and fixing is one of the key ingredients to successful adoption. Avoid ‘rushing’ it, but remember this also needs a strong Project Management focus on both sides here…

Let’s not forget, this process is all to do with User Adoption and User Engagement. And the key to any CRM new project is this User Engagement in my view. This means that not only do your Users embrace the new system and can use it well, but they develop a strong a sense of ownership. Any ideas that come up then will be for positive improvements rather than just negatives.

Failure in that first 30 - 90 days can kill a system and is probably single biggest source of system change and failure in CRM projects.

And finally

So, don’t underestimate power and importance of good UAT.

This post is really all about appreciating just how important this stage can be to your User Adoption and Engagement success.

Don’t rush it!

Ensure as a client you do give this process the necessary resources, ‘time to test’ and allow for ‘time to fix’.

In essence, this all comes back to good project planning and choosing a Partner with the skills and project experience to deliver your CRM Project on time and on-budget.

28th February 2020

12 CRM tasks to do this Christmas

So, we are now at the end of another year. The next few weeks until end of the first week in 2020 are a great time to reflect and plan for the New Year.

For many of us working in Sales and Marketing, those who are working will likely have some additional time on their hands as meetings start to dry up from today, so this can be an ideal time to look at how you can get your team to update and fine-tune your CRM to maximise those first few months of 2020.

The Tasks

So, I have chosen 12 key tasks that I think you should look to complete over these next few weeks across both Sales and Marketing departments and in no particular order:

1. Top 20 Accounts key contacts. Ensure that the team have updated who is still there or who has left and flag this fact. Make sure for at least your key contacts that they have their correct job titles (use LinkedIn to confirm). At the same time make sure you have their first name in correct. Personalisation continues to be a key themes in marketing communications and you want to be accurate here.

2. Leavers as Prospects. Those contacts who have left, make a list (this should be easy enough to do with a tag or flag (speak to your Administrator on the best way to do this). Review and make a short list if they are worthwhile contacts to follow or contact or indeed connect with. Next find out where they have gone. Most people update their LinkedIn profile when moving to a new job within the first 30-90 days. Now these could be new Leads for the New Year or ‘low hanging fruit’ as they say.

3. Account Profile enrichment. Make sure you review all key information and that your top Accounts and indeed all your Customer Accounts have accurate up-to-date information. So, again using LinkedIn, you can review their industry and also number of employees. This can be a good indicator for many businesses and may also show your growth in numbers (if over 30 employees) and can help you size your clients very easily. Take the opportunity to any new key contacts you come across. The key here is ‘back-filling in critical information. A good example here could be Year End. For many companies, knowing when this is, may impact upon their sales cycle. If you have large amount of Account data to tidy up, you may want to consider a Managed Services or exporting of data to a data enhancement agency, for example Experion.

4. Update LinkedIn profiles. From a marketing perspective, it is sometimes useful to review your key team members own LinkedIn profiles. It may be that many people have only put in the 'bare bones' with no overview of their role or the company in their summary. You can encourage this by providing some template descriptions on the company and their role with key words known to resonate and this will help give a more consistent corporate profile and persona.

5. Connecting on LinkedIn. Encourage your team to make new connections over this festive period with key contacts helping to build your corporate network ‘reach’. Many people are delving into their own profile at this period and are more likely to be more active and quickly accept an invitation. Remember to send a personal invite to connect and don’t just use the standard invite ‘I’d like to connect’. This will give you a better conversion ratio.

As stated earlier, with far less interruptions and day to hassle, this is a great time for reflection and ideally, hangovers notwithstanding! conduct some deep-dive analysis. The period from Boxing Day to New Years Eve can be a ‘grey’ in-between period’ if you are working, but make the most of this time since now you are least likely to be interrupted by any last minute projects. So…

6. Review last 6 months Leads. Check out any evolving patterns here. So the obvious of course is the source of these Leads, but also check out when these leads were created (if from a website form) you will have exact detail and don’t forget to look at key search terms. Have these been entered into the Lead detail? If not, ask why your sales team are not giving you this information. You should be constantly reviewing long search terms and not just as in our case for example, using ‘CRM’ as a key word. Check if this level of details is being asked and tracked and if not you will need to your next briefing for your team.

7. Confirm your best Lead Generation sources. Have a deep-dive into why and how these sources are working. Look at any changes in patterns. Also, as a useful metric, I used to review each year the total % of Leads to Visitors as a metric to see if this ratio was being maintained. It enabled me to pinpoint a drop-off and change my approach.

8. Blogs. These can be incredibly useful, but also can be overlooked in any analysis since sometimes direct links to Leads may not be so clear. Blogs and Post can give you lot of ‘reach’ and social media exposure, so have a look at these again to see if any can be updated or revisited for say next year’s list.Don’t forget to ask the Sales Team here as well, they may have some anecdotal evidence from Leads, but more importantly are a great source of ideas. What questions are their Leads/Prospects asking them?

9. Check contacts status. Use the “last modified date” and review the bounces on your last few emails. And don’t forget to update the record. This will help improve your ‘Open’ rates and reach, but sometimes can be forgotten. It can be tedious if you do not have an integrated marketing solution such as Dynamics 365 Marketing or Salesforce’s Pardot for example. But if are using a stand-alone Email Marketing solution like Mailchimp then it is important to review to ensure you are in sync with your data. Research to see if there is an integration available direct or via 3rd party app or if in doubt ask ourselves. There may be another route to sync data between CRM and Email we are aware of. But, if there is no integration in place already, then this should be something to consider for 2020.

10. Share ‘bounce’ information. This info can also be useful for sales teams, so don’t be afraid to share ‘bounce’ information especially on key accounts. This may enable the Sales Team to go back to their LinkedIn and check if they have missed say a key contact/influencer moving on (see comments above) and review.

Planning for 2020

Looking forward now to next year, you should already have some ideas of what your focus will be and possibly campaign ideas. However, this is also a good time to do some research on the key apps you are using, so my final two key suggestions are:

11. Review the Road-Map of your application. Whilst this post is not a deep-dive into recent CRM Application road-maps, this is worthwhile task. But, also don’t forget most vendors only announce their next release feature list publicly within a few months of planned release. Below are some links for each of the following applications on recent changes: Dynamics 365, Salesforce, Pipeliner CRM, SAGE CRM, My view here is you should be looking at how either better Automation or AI may help both you and your sales team.

12. Consider Sales Enablement. This is something that can be a large subject and will also depend to some extent on the nature of your industry and sales cycle. So for example, if you have multiple influencers in your deals then Sales Enablement software should be something to consider. Within this review any existing capabilities within your current system to enhance the Sales Team usage, adoption and provide them with more information. For example, Dynamics 365, has Sales Insights and Customer Insights. Although probably the most common extra sales enbabler is to look again at LinkedIn Sales Navigator. With recent licencing changes, this may now be a more attractive proposition and there are key benefits with sync to CRM.

Whilst this post is not about Digital Transformation, inevitably, you are knowingly or not probably embarked on this journey in any case and are looking at how you can use new technology to positively impact sales, marketing and customer service.

These are just a selection of ideas for this Festive period if you are working where the day to day pressure is less and you can take the opportunity this gives you to spend some time to review and plan. My suggestion here is to focus on just one task per day (in between festivities) to help move your own system forward and ensure you are setting yourself up for a successful 2020.

All that remains is for me to wish everyone who has commented/liked or just taken the time to read my Posts this year, a very Merry Christmas and Happy and Healthy New Year.

16th December 2019

Dynamics 365 Licencing -a 'rough guide'

Introduction

Microsoft announced back in July some significant changes to their Dynamics 365 and Power App licences which have now taken effect from this month. This post aims to give you a brief overview and some additional resources since licencing changes can often be overly complicated.

So, a few questions, I will try to answer in this post include:

1. Why have they done this?

2. Why now?

3. What are the changes

Firstly, the title. Why “a rough guide?” Well, I am not licence expert, so in trying to make an easy to read overview of the changes based on two key documents I am having to possibly over simplify. These documents are big, with the guide on Dynamics 365 licencing being 66 pages whilst the Power Apps Licencing guide is 21 pages), plus there are numerous additional seminar slides and docs. So, there is a lot out there and even resellers struggle sometimes to absorb all this detail into a simple format. For your own circumstances, you will see I always recommend talking to your own partner. Now back to those three questions…

1. Why have they done this?

First, a quick disclaimer here. This is only my opinion together with some insight into vendor thinking gained from working with software vendors over many years. But the cloud based app market is changing across multiple vendors and my view is that more and more they are looking to price more on consumption or usage of their licences. In Microsoft’s case, some of the bundles may have been, shall we say over generous and of course the main point of any bundle is to encourage take-up and again usage. You will read later how this works.

2. Why Now?

Effectively, it seems that since Microsoft are wanting to move to a consumption model, so you buy what you need to consume and this may also make it easier and clearer to do comparisons for clients. This also encourages User focus and possibly reduces the internal overheads such as helpdesk and partner helpdesk resource from say clients with the full Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement licence plan sites with multiple apps.

3. So what are the changes?

First, let’s talk a little about Dynamics 365 Licence types and Editions

Licences

Essentially, for most clients, there are two main types of licence for Users:

Full – This gives Full access to the Application and is really only limited by the rights or permissions assigned to that User.

Team- This gives a much more limited access with reduced “write or create” rights, but with extensive Read-only rights. The key here is a Team licence is roughly 10% of the Full User licence, so it is well worth reviewing your business processes and User roles and mix, something we do when Scoping a Project, since you can see the subscription savings potentially could in large sites be significant.

Note: There is a Device licence but this over-complicates this post, so I've not dwelt on this.

So you either can access the module or edition you have as a Full licenced User (although this may be restricted by your actual User rights or permissions).

Looking at an example. A Sales person may create new sales opportunities, but their permissions mean that they cannot see Manager’s Opportunities). So their access was controlled by User rights or permissions even with a full Licence. Whilst a Team licence User may have limited write or create access rights. So, in this example, they could create a new contact, but couldn’t create a new sales opportunity, even for it was only for themselves, they would need to be a Full user.

Editions

Within the Dynamics 365 suite there are a set of applications and each Application may have one or two Editions. At the moment, in practice this some apps have a Professional Edition with a more limited feature set and an Enterprise Edition with a far richer feature set. Currently this Professional edition option only applied to Sales and Customer Service apps and this does have a reduced price, aimed at the SME client base.

So for example, Dynamics 365 Sales Professional has no Marketing lists nor Sales Playbook or ability to add Competitors to an Opportunity. It also doesn’t link to some of the Sales Insight tools or LinkedIn Sales Navigator.

For most clients, the 'core' Dynamics 365 Applications in consideration, excluding any ERP apps are:

• Sales Enterprise and Pro Editions

Customer Service Enterprise and Pro Editions

• Professional Service Automation

• Field Service

Marketing

In this post I am excluding other enterprise editions for simplicity, for example Dynamics 365 Retail or Business Central

In addition, there are several add-on apps for example Customer Insight, Sales Insight, Customer Service Insights, and LinkedIn Relationship Sales etc

Changes in October

So, moving back to the crux of this article, Microsoft’s big change this year is to move to pure application only editions, with no bundles. So, every app has its own SKU (Stocking Unit) or item code.

User Licence Pricing for the module apps will be based on your choice of core or ‘Base’ Enterprise Edition application and then if you need too, you then add or ‘Attach’ another application. This is based on highest priced unit, so a Professional Edition does not count as ‘Base’ application.

As always, an example illustrates this best.

Until October, you could buy the Customer Engagement Plan App, this gave you in effect, Sales, Customer Service, Field Service and Professional Service Automation (PSA) apps all in one licence bundle (and if you had 10 or more CE licences then you also had the Marketing app included) together with a Portal. This User Licence was of course at a premium of around 21% per user per month to individual apps.

But, from 1st October, you now buy the “Base” application you need say Sales or Customer Service and if you need the User to have access to both apps, you will now pay for an ‘Attaching’ application licence. This is paying for what you consume. So, if you then needed a User to have three apps, say adding here also Field Service (possibly unusual) you would now pay for the ‘Base’ licence and then each of the two ‘Attaching’ apps. This is the basis of the consumption theme previously mentioned.

Let’s work this out at List prices for an example 10 User Full Licence system (excluding VAT)

Before

A 10 User Dynamics 365 Enterprise Customer Engagement Plan (Tier 1)* was £86.70 per user per month, so £867.00 per month.

*(Tier 1 was for up to 99 users)

Don’t forget, you may have gone for this as it would have included a Portal and the Marketing app (albeit limited to 2k marketable contacts) as well as Field Service and Professional Service Automation (PSA).

But that was really 6 apps (Sales, Customer Service, Field Service, PSA and Marketing and Portal) all bundled under one licence, even if they were not used or consumed.

Now

First decide on what each Users main or “Base” licence will be and if they need another licence version.

So, Enterprise Sales App is now the ‘Base” application at £71.60 per User per month and then per for the “Attaching” App you add £15.60 per user per month. Now you are paying £716.00 per month.

If some Users need another app due to their job role, you ‘attach’ this App (unless it is Marketing, priced per org) each at £15.60 per app. So a User needing Sales and Customer Service is now £87.20 per user per month and adding now a third app, say Field Service would push this up by another £15.60 now rises to over £100 per month for that User.

However, my experience suggest this would be an unusual situation for one User to need all these apps.

And then we have the Team licences...

These stay pretty much the same, although it is important to remember since the start of year, a Team Licence cannot create an Account, a minor but important change.

The key in all of this licencing is having a Partner who understands not only your business but how to ensure your annual subscription footprint is minimised and this may mean taking a long in-depth look at your User roles to avoid for instance the three apps in the example above for one User.

I mentioned above, Dynamics 365 Marketing. This can be stand-alone app or when using Dynamics 365 is treated as a slightly different attaching app and is priced per organisation or tenant and then price tiered on the number of actively marketable contacts, starting now from 10k contacts.

Anything else to be aware of with these licence changes? Just two items of interest from CRM focus:-

Portals.

Originally, a part of Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement Plan, this now become part of the Power Apps licensing family and the pricing is now very different. This is again based on consumption or views. So clients need now to think carefully here about for example a Customer Service help-desk Portal and how many views you may have. But, here we are in the midst of getting into some deep consultancy looking at and exploring various options, so if doubt here, it is best to call your Dynamics 365 Partner .

Data Storage Capacity

Another change announced earlier this year was how Dynamics 365 data storage is managed and this is now split into three core area for each tenant with the starting point being:

Log capacity: This is 2 Gb. Used for auditing purposes, e.g. tracking a field changes over a time period.

File capacity: This is now 20 Gb plus 2 Gb for every Enterprise User. Used for storing attachments or files, e.g. note attachments, email attachments

Database capacity: Now 10 Gb plus 250Mb for every Enterprise User. This is your contact data, notes on calls, cases etc.

Why is this important? If you are on Office365 you get a storage component there as well, so now you can look at the combined storage across licence numbers, type and Office 365 User numbers and type. Again, if in doubt talk to your CRM Consultant.

Again, working through the licence scenario before, for 10 users. You now have a Dynamics 365 data storage split as follows.

Log Capacity-always stays at 10Gb

File Capacity is now 40GB ( =20 GB + (10* 2Gb))

Database capacity is now c. 12. 5 Gb ( 20 Gb +(10*250Mb))

For most sites, until we get too complex, you can focus mainly on the File and Database storage capacities as this changes the more licences you have.

But beware, when creating a new instance, or adding a Portal since this also consumes storage capacity. For instance, each Portal once added takes a min. of 1Gb from your allowance as soon as it is created.

Conclusion

After 20 years in the software industry, licence changes and licence type structures are always changing, whether this be due to the advent of the cloud or a vendors own preferences and management or marketing initiatives, this is another change that just needs to be managed.

The business application software world is in constant change and actually that is on reason I find it enjoyable working in this industry. The key is in understanding these changes and how they impact upon your business. In my view, this is a key reason why you need to partner with CRM consultants who can really understand your business and can advise you accordingly, but are also in a position to build a close working relationship to let you know in advance of these changes and the possible impact on your business and give you advice on what to do to prepare or change if need be. This is now a key aspect of my day to day role, be this talking to new prospects or existing clients.

As mentioned at the start of this post, it is a ‘rough guide’ to these changes and is not exhaustive. How this impacts you should now be taken up with your own Dynamics 365 partner

ENDS

An FAQ

What happens now if I am on the old licence type?

This is the most common question but we recommend you always check with your reseller consultancy, but general rule of thumb is be ready to change at your annual subscription renewal to the new licencing, unless you have a special set of circumstance, as always, if in doubt ask. We would recommend you now conduct a Licence Audit soon with your CRM consultancy to review this impact prior to any renewal date.

A Disclaimer

All thoughts and opinions in this article are my own as are any error or omissions. Condensing complex documents into a single post or blog can be challenging, so always check with your own dedicated reseller, CSP partner or in this instance with Microsoft directly.

Useful Sources

Dynamics 365 UK Pricing. Licence guide is available at bottom of the page

Power Apps pricing.  Licence guide is available at bottom of the page

Note: As we know URL’s change but these are current at time of publishing.

31st October 2019

Gordian Knot -slicing thru data issues in CRM

Introduction

Now we are in the quieter summer months, this can be a good time to review your data. We find clients start to consider if their CRM system meets their current requirements and if it is time for a change or a major overhaul later in the year. In any case, whether you decide to “to stick or turn” on your system, these Summer months are the ideal time to be looking at your data afresh. Starting this work now can save a tremendous amount, especially if you are considering implementing a new Customer Relationship Management system later this year.

Most clients existing system(s) will have an abundance of available data and if you are moving to a 2nd or even a 3rd generation CRM, then you will have learnt that data migration is always one of the key discussion points and constraints and can have a big impact on the delivery timing for your new system.

Inevitably, this topic needs much internal discussion on what data to bring over and why and each of your different stakeholders may have conflicting opinions and views. So, data can be a key sticking point.

So, let’s examine some of the catches/obstacles you need to consider. In my view, these fall into three core areas:-

Legacy data. Your system may have been in place for many years and has lots of data on accounts, leads, contacts and opportunities (both won and lost!), not to mention possibly numerous cases/tickets if you have full blown CRM and not just a Contact Manager.

Data quality. With older systems it is almost invariable you have a lots of poor quality data. Over the years, your different Users will have partially only filled in their records. Typically on a contact, many times, we find just a first name or no email address or job title. Another key missing element is that whilst your Accounts records may have key fields, again, many of these records may be missing up-to-date information or even still be only partially completed, even if they are still active Clients. For instance, telephone numbers, industry sector, website and even full address data may be missing, all very frustrating to those using CRM diligently, but we've all come across this and as I’ve said before in my posts, my view is your Users need must ‘own’ their system, it’s a key factor in adoption success.

GDPR. We all knew this came into effect last May, so this needs careful consideration and you may need to use some external advice here, if in doubt refresh yourself on the key principles at the ICO site Arrgh! I hear you say, not that topic again, but wait…

The key in any review and especially in looking at a new adoption is that what is actually needed is clean, good quality and accurate data. This is always the best starting point when moving to any new implementation. A good rule of thumb is to consider data minimisation principles, so only store the data you actually need.

As I said above, if your system has been in use for a long while, it inevitably will become cluttered as people enter data in differently over the years or people move on and what meant something to them, is now just meaningless.

So you now have a golden opportunity to rejuvenate your records.

Whilst you will need to Scope out any new system to fully understand your current and planned processes and people involved and build a configuration and deployment plan, one of the biggest issues which needs careful preparation and inevitably your time is still going to be this data.

Data Migration

Don’t underestimate this from a client perspective, to your consultants, data is just often data, you are the experts on your data. For example, a typical SME company may have in the region of 5,000-10,000 or more Contact and Account records, together with ‘000’s of associated activities.

In addition, you can expect thousands of linked emails, although some CRM systems may not be connected to the email system, still cited as a key driver in say moving to a more modern cloud system such as Dynamics 365 or Salesforce.

Any consultant will tell you, whilst you can Scope and document your Requirements in Workshops and then work out how much time is needed to configure and train your Users, the most difficult estimate for time, still most often comes down to Data Migration. In fact, whenever we quote, whilst we can give an initial estimate, we always need to add in the caveat, ‘subject to sight of data/subject to scoping”.

Over the years, data is the most unpredictable item to estimate from the outset and this comes back to the need to often bring in large amounts of data, with nearly every project involving data that has been ‘stored’ in many different sources. Having a single centralised 360 degree view of your clients, perhaps is still the key business driver in adopting CRM.

This is because you may find you have:-

Large amounts of data. From many years usage as mentioned above.

"Silos” of data. For instance, separate CRM or related systems (sometimes we find different instances in the same company) and numerous other systems holding contact data such as Email Marketing or Marketing Automation together with invariably some Excel spreadsheets which have been used for a specific point solution.

General reluctance to not delete. Or abandon all this data, after all, there must be “nuggets of gold” in there!

All in all, this can represent a big tangle of intertwined ropes or in fact a large knot of data!

The Gordian (data) Knot

Clearly given the references above, our job is to help you slice through this Gordian (data) knot and surprisingly, this has been made simpler in 2019.

Why?

Well, come to the rescue –those GDPR regulations!

When considering your own Gordian data knot, the GDPR impact needs to be considered, so in many ways, getting rid of your old and redundant data and instead focusing now on the current and most relevant data where you have a legitimate interest is assisted by these regulations. So, you can now look at all this legacy data age afresh.

Remember, whilst I mentioned above, the age of your data, this is just one thread in this knot. The next themes I think you need to consider are:

Relevancy: What do we actually need? Customer data, prospect data, old lead data? For contact data, what do we have? Just a single name, no surname or job title? Again, as above. Are there any activities against the contact?

Source: Where did this data came from, do you know it? Do we want to retain the source, if you have recorded this? This can clearly be important for any marketing analysis going forward

Is this really useful data? As I said above, just a single name, no email address, no job title? Where is the value here, again, what is the relevance? Is it accurate?

Last contact. This should be relatively easy to sort on, often this may be in your system as maybe a “last update” or “last modified” system field. This may be a hidden field, so ask your administrator.

Activities. Most systems have default import templates for contacts and accounts data, but where it becomes more difficult is in importing activity data. Here you need to think long and hard. Do you really need all the email interactions and call/contact activities and history? Again, are they all relevant?

Enrichment of data. This is really an extra question. But, something to consider at this point, typically this may be around Company or Account data. Should you just import or take the opportunity, time permitting to look to enrich your data?

Don’t forget when dealing with these questions, in many cases, you may be able to just keep a single licence or archive of the old CRM system for reference during your transition period. But set a limit is my advice and again, be aware of GDPR implications and discuss with an expert first.

Now, you are ready to be hard and like Alexander take a slice to this data.

My view, as briefly mentioned above is that, for contact data, and this is what we are generally talking about, Account or Company data is up to you to choose, but again, this can be simple. The key for contacts is now to focus on the last modified or last updated date and if you have email and full contact details. This should act as stated above as a great filter.

I am assuming you have already done some work updating and enriching your data due to GDPR compliance, so your latest data should be the most valuable. If you are importing over activities for the future, this can act as another filter. So, if there are no activities or no contact update in say the last 3 years and no email, why bring this data across? Data minimisation principles should apply again here.

Our Goal: The Single view of the Customer

Remember, this is what we are all striving for.

Having the most complete view of the customer or contact and the most up-to-date and accurate information available. The higher the quality and accuracy of this data, then the better your User adoption will be. Making sure you have done this pre-migration work will now pay dividends and make this an easier migration in my view. My advice is to only import the best quality and most up-to-date and verified data you can into your new CRM system.

Your Users will expect this as well in my experience. As I say, this is such a golden opportunity to cleanse data and get to that Golden record where your Account and Contact details are up-to-date and accurate.

Time spent on preparation and identification of what you need to do for any data migration cannot be rushed. As we began this post, these Summer months are a great time to start thinking about this. Don’t underestimate the time and discussions needed to get a clear view of what and why you will do an action. It is vitally important to document these decisions, since many decisions may be made on different types of data, so have a single Data Migration decisions document with these decisions recorded so you don’t lose track of why certain data was omitted or archived. If in doubt, or you are unsure, this is a good time to engage with a GDPR expert and/or your CRM consultants.

Final Thoughts

My aim in this post to try to ensure you do not over-complicate this problem and more importantly you start well in advance of any commitment to a new or your first CRM system and to start to consider all your data sources, so when you start any detailed planning you have already considered many aspects of your data migration project beforehand.

CRM consultants without fail, will tell you that the higher the quality of this data, then the easier the transition to a new or your next system will be. This preparation in advance will give you more time to think about say using Managed Services for example to enrich data such as Accounts prior to this being imported.

If in doubt, speak to a consultancy like ourselves who can help you understand your own Gordian data knot and ensure you don’t slice this too early and not without some careful preparation and thought.

ENDS

Note: This post is not intended to offer definitive advice on GDPR, so as stated many times, if in doubt about your own circumstances or project ensure you discuss or work with a GDPR consultant or expert if you have concerns.

3rd September 2019

CRM app at end of life-what to do now? 

This summer, in fact in only one months’ time, Sage CRM.com becomes as shown in the famous Monty Python parrot sketch, ‘dead’ or EOL (End of Life) in IT parlance!

A quick timeline refresh:-

2016

Autumn: SAGE CRM.com announced no new clients being taken on. Continue to support existing cloud clients.

2018.

• Winter: SAGE announces SAGECRM.com being made end of life by 31 August 2019, so all clients have to move!!

If you are still on this version then you need to be making a decision now!

Time is running out.

Having said that, I’ve been talking to other Sage CRM clients who are now increasingly worried about the future direction of this application and as an ex-reseller, I do share their concerns. I first worked with SAGE CRM and took this on as an accredited reseller way back in 2004, when to us, it was and still is in many ways, an excellent product and had the best of both worlds: On-premise and On-cloudor in the parlance of the day as SaaS (software as a service) option.

Even as late as 2016,as an independent reseller, I was still recommending SAGE CRM since it architcure was still rich and it had great features, was a solid robust platform with ,intuitive interface. In addition, it had a great configuration and customisation capability and a flexible licencing model, including concurrent users, albeit at a premium. In fact, an ex-client as recently as this March, was asking me about putting in Sage CRM into their new company for 10 user team.

Let me be clear in this post, this post is not about knocking Sage CRM, this is I hope, about adopting a cool hard view on what you can do now if you are on the legacy SAGECRM.com platform.

SAGE CRM has been great application and I’ve had plenty of endorsements from clients over the years who have moved to this as 2nd generation CRM. Of course they have been a few gripes, mainly about mobile or Outlook integration, but the same issue has been found with many other older CRM systems over the last few years as User expectations and the world moved to smart phones in the last few years. Office 365 has been a key driver here, together with iPhone in making client feels so much more comfortable about cloud apps compared to say 10 years ago

So, where are we now?

For SAGE CRM users wishing to stay on the SAGE CRM platform, then the choice is to migrate to the SAGE CRM on-premise app, and soon!

Alternatively, if wish to stay fully cloud based (and I am ignoring the hybrid option to host your own server somewhere here for simplicity in this post) then you need to go to market

If you have been a SAGECRM.com user, then the choice of on premise is probably not your first choice since you have already embraced the cloud so we find that many people don’t intend going back to on premise server based installation. After all, there were compelling reasons in the first place why this wasn’t chosen option.

Two questions are being asked

• Have I left it too late?

• What to do now?

Answers

Almost to be honest, but now you do need to move quick to get at last a copy of your data

Next, start to look at what your options are and quick. These fall into two broad choices:

1. Migrate to on-premise Sage CRM

And pick it all up on your own server or go hybrid, and put on to a hosted solution. This will enable you to carry on. Buy SAGE are not being particularly helpful here in my view with only limited access to the system!

You will now need to buy licences and recreate everything on your new installation, so in effect you are back to square one almost with some core data. Mmm!

2. Move to new CRM

My view is this is the best option, if you are going to go to through all the trouble above, why not?

According to recent stats less than 20% of new CRM business goes onto a on-premise solution, so why would you want to carry on and then possibly having to go through the same process again if the vendor next decides they no longer want to support this last app in a few years’ time, this is a risk you may not want to take.

Which Apps?

So, the obvious first choices in my view are consider - Dynamics 365 or Salesforce. There are other apps, but these are far and away market leaders, just look at the most recent Gartner report. Other apps I know well include Pipeliner CRM, now recognised in Gartner as a niche sales focused app

But, which one to choose? Which would I prefer here?

Let’s think how Sage CRM works

• Its browser based

• Its fast

• Its intuitive

• UX is clean and now since version 7.3 is bright and modern, in fact you could choose from 4 themes

Add to this, nowadays you probably want a robust Mobile experience

All the leaders app fit here, but let’s consider the two market leaders mentioned above and a few pros and cons.

Salesforce

Pros. More like SAGE CRM. So my belief is probably easier sell -infor user adoption and administrator adoption, after some training of course. Again, my view, but the configuration, after adjusting seems more akin to how SAGE works

Cons. Really the only issue here is one of licencing and on-going investment price. This may put some client off, but having said that, consultants opinions is that when compared to other apps, then as it is so much more configurable and feature rich. Features for User and the overall implementation project is likely to be less that other application, if performed by accredited consultants.

Dynamics 365

Pros: Flexible monthly licence option available. Two core licence types, Full and Team can save on-going costs and can mix application. Enterprise and Professional versions available, Enterprise has some extras modules if you have 10 users or more included, depending on Licence app type. Office 365 integration as you’d expect is strong

Cons: None that are obvious, Dynamics 365 and Office 365 work well together and the new unified interface makes this a much more attractive app than just a few years ago. To maximise usage, engage with consultant who know the application well.

Like all things in IT, having a clear understanding your requirements and documenting these can help to clarify the best choice early on.

And a word on some of the other Apps

There are literally 00’s of CRM apps out there, but if you are in a rush and unsure of which app to choose, my recommendation is always start with the market leaders. You may feel you pay a bit more, but there will be a proven pedigree, not to mention clear investment strategy and product roadmap available so you can move in confidence.

A Requirements list may help you narrow this down or speak to one of our Team if you are unsure and reviewing different Apps, we can advise and even undertake a full Fit-Gap Analysis if required.

And what about data?

This is probably going to be the hardest element and in the short time available now, you may need to make some tough decisions on what data you are able to bring across and quickly.

Typically in SAGE CRM terminology, you will need as a minimum: Company’s, Persons, and Opportunities and of course if you use them, then Cases, Solutions etc. With regard to your Communications, these should be exported for reference, but may prove to be tougher to import into any new system. Look at if you have any Custom entities, e.g. Assets, Samples etc since these also need exporting. If you use Quotes and Orders, then export as well.

Once you have the data, you can at least reverse engineer a solution if you need too, but something that you should do, time permitting is use this as an opportunity to review your ‘As is ‘ processes and consider if these need updating today. The core data, once a system is configured, can usually be a reasonably quick process to import unless of course you have had lots of customisation.

What to do now

Don’t hang about!

If you have now yet chosen a partner, then look at this now!

Speak to a consultancy with deep SAGE CRM experience they can leverage to talk about your system set-up and look at how quick you can get core information from the system to buy you some time whilst you consider the best solution. The great thing with cloud is you just need to sign up, usually with a trial or just a single licence to get started.

My final thought taking into account we are now in the holiday season. If you can, ideally, you should hold a Scoping Workshop straight away to enable some sort of consensus on an outline blue-print of your requirements to be documented.

25th July 2019