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Blogs in 2019

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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'


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


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.


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


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)


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.


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:-


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.


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



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


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.


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.


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 becomes as shown in the famous Monty Python parrot sketch, ‘dead’ or EOL (End of Life) in IT parlance!

A quick timeline refresh:-


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


• Winter: SAGE announces 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 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 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?


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.


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

Convergence of CRM+ERP: Myth or Reality?


Over the last year, I have noticed that increasingly we are being asked to review whole system CRM and ERP requirements. I find that clients are now looking for a totally integrated and streamlined system or future system.

So why is this?

Reflecting on changes over the last few years, I think there have been three key drivers at work here:-

  1. Emergence of Cloud into mainstream
  2. Platform approach
  3. Vendor ecosystem growth

Let’s examine each of these key drivers?

1/ Emergence of Cloud into mainstream

It is now rare indeed where we came across a mid-sized organisation looking to stay on their legacy on-premise system, be this CRM or ERP. Most IT departments I talk to are now pushing for cloud based solutions and without going into the well-trodden path of comparing cloud versus on-premise benefits, the main factors driving this in my view are:-

  • Cloud is now mainstream. The last five years have seen a dramatic change in attitude, 10 years ago, we had the innovators, now every-one wants to be cloud focused. A Bitglass 2018 analysis of more than 135,000 organizations showed cloud adoption has topped 81 percent – a 37% increase since 2016 and a 238% increase since 2014
  • Office 365 has been a key business driver here for many organisations in moving to the cloud, so Microsoft have done an excellent job. Some figures suggest over half of organisations have now deployed Office 365. After all, once your email is cloud hosted, seen as your Users most sensitive app in daily use, where next?
  • Cloud access and security concerns allayed. Vendors have spent large amounts of funds in ensuring security with specific Trust websites, for example Salesforce and Microsoft on this topic
  • Uptime Availability. With 99+% service levels available, this again supports this cloud transition and increases business confidence. What internal IT department would be able to afford to offer 99+% availability, let alone guarantee this all year round!
  • Subscription or pay as you go model is widely accepted. For many, this is now their preferred pricing model. Clients like to budget and with cloud offerings, the iceberg analogy applies but in reverse, where most of the costs are all highly visible, there are no ‘hidden costs’ such as unexpected server replacement, maintenance and services upgrades.
  • Always up-to-date. With regular upgrades built-in the subscription. For instance, cloud enables Microsoft to have 2 upgrades per a year and Salesforce 3 per year, SAP Hana has a major update per year and this is replicated across the cloud, removing or reducing another IT headache.
  • Inter-connectivity. The linking between these cloud apps is one of the secrets to the success for the rapid rise in cloud deployment. All of a sudden, the big expensive integration problem can become a lot smaller and more manageable with cloud apps.

2/ Platform approach

The CRM and ERP vendors have spent many millions of dollars in moving their offering to the cloud, so that today, all major mid-market vendors have a platform offering, be this Oracle, SAGE, SAP and Microsoft whilst Salesforce has always been cloud based since 1999. In fact, I would argue you would be hard pushed nowadays to find any major on-premise new application launches in the last 5 years in the Western World where you have an advanced IT infrastructure and ever-improving broadband speeds.

There has been this massive investment by the likes of Salesforce and by Microsoft since 2015 on creating platform suites. This is replicated across the Software world with Oracle and SAP. But, first what do we mean by a Platform. Well for me, the explanation sums this up very easily as “a platform is a group of technologies that are used as a base upon which other applications, processes or technologies are developed”

Taking two examples I know well, Salesforce have their Lightning platform, upon which vertical industry solutions have been built, including for example, Veeva, a primarily life sciences application, whist Microsoft’s Azure and Dynamics 365 platform using the common data model is becoming widely used as a foundation platform and across industries, here for instance Peppermint, a legal solution, built on Dynamics 365 and SharePoint has been successful in its vertical market.

This platform approach has been widely adopted by other leading software brands such as Oracle Cloud platform and SAP with its SAP HANA platform.

A key business driver is the need for a single shared view of the customer, currently not as easy as it sounds with older legacy systems. Indeed, a recent survey from Salesforce in their State of IT survey from 2017 highlighted this as key objective. This problem for many CIO’s is still being hindered by having multiple legacy applications that are hard to integrate. By adopting a Platform approach this can be a major factor in starting to resolve and reduce this issue over the long term.

Now as clients are embracing buy into the platform approach, it is this platform upon which applications are developed by both the vendors themselves and their ever expanding eco-system of third party partners.

3/ Eco-system growth

The third key driver in recent years in my view has been the tremendous growth of integrated vendor supported and promoted eco-systems. All the major players have been actively encouraging and supporting third party companies to produce add-on's or build vertical solutions on their own market place to augment their core offering and fulfill functional niches. Taking just four examples, Salesforce AppExchange, launched its own marketplace for third party applications way back in 2006 and now has over 3500 apps available that interconnect and which are all downloadable from their marketplace for any client.

Similarly, Microsoft has its own marketplace for third party apps, called AppSource, whilst Oracle has Oracle Cloud Markeplace and SAP its own SAP App centre. Indeed, such is the importance of this new market for apps, Forrester, the industry analysts, are now measuring these marketplaces in a new Forrester Wave annual review.

The strength of these online marketplaces for the vendor’s platform is in being able to offer their clients tried and test tactical solutions to missing functional or process needs and supporting their core product offering. Of course, added to this, the major add-on niche application players such as email marketing, e-documentation and marketing automation strive to have their own inter-connectivity app on these marketplaces to the key CRM/ERP vendors to support their own offering.


Today, the major providers are able to offer the complete CRM-ERP solution with their platform integrated with a marketplace eco-system of third party apps. And to take just one example from Microsoft as an illustration, their Dynamics 365 for mid-sized organisations has over last few years expanded to now offer a complete Lead-to-Cash suite of core applications, so for example this could include:-

  • Dynamics 365 Marketing: capturing visitors to your website converting them into Leads
  • Dynamics 365 Sales: Supporting engagement in the Lead to Opportunity process and creating Quotations and activities
  • Dynamics 365 Business Central: Financial transactions, shipping through the core ERP system ( better known as well-respected Navision ERP product)

Any niche functional gaps such as e-documentation for example can be fulfilled with a choice of approved apps from their online marketplace app ecosystem, Appsoruce

The key point is in this example is there is: One Vendor, One Platform, One Eco-system is now able to support this whole end to end Lead-to-Cash process in the cloud at an affordable price and without the endless integration issues of previous on-premise software.

As I stated at the start of this post, suffice to say, more and more clients are taking less of a tactical approach and are now considering first their overall CRM and ERP requirements and are recognising the remarkable transition of the last few years in being able to move to a single Platform. Clients are now looking at their plans much more holistically in a way that was probably not feasible or possible even just 5 or 6 years ago.

The myth of a single platform approach even just 5 years ago is now rapidly turning into a reality across the whole IT sector. You can argue if this is 100% complete for all the brands mentioned, but the direction of travel is clear and certainly in the next 5 years, they will be no more myth just the reality of an ever converged CRM–ERP solution being an achievable goal.

In my follow up article to this post, I intend to give some pointers on the next steps if you are just embarking on this transition to the cloud.

28th February 2019