Monday, April 17, 2017

Adobe and Microsoft Team for Online Marketing Offerings



This month Microsoft was featured prominently at the Adobe Summit in Las Vegas. What was announced and what does this mean for Microsoft and Adobe customers?  How will the two companies work together?

The alliance with Microsoft follows a string of product acquisitions by Adobe to gain dominance in the fragmented marketing cloud market.  Adobe, Salesforce, Oracle and IBM have spent significant sums on acquiring companies with products to flesh out their online marketing offerings, as show in the figure below from this TFM Insights blog post.

Source: https://tfmainsights.com/rise-of-the-marketing-cloud-adobe-vs-ibm-vs-oracle-vs-salesforce/ 

Here are the products sold as the Adobe Marketing Cloud that are most relevant to sales and marketing:

  • Adobe Target -- Helps you test the user experience on your website, such as alternative landing pages, to optimize for desired results, such as lead conversions. 
  • Adobe Analytics -- Suite of web analytics tools which may be extended and customized. Competes with Google Analytics. 
  • Adobe Campaign -- Marketing automation tools for email and offline channels.  Competes with Mailchimp and ClickDimensions.  
  • Adobe Social -- Social sentiment analysis and coordination of social content and conversations. Similar functions to Microsoft Social Listening and Microsoft Social Engagement.  Competes with Hootsuite.

Many details of the Adobe Microsoft alliance have not been released, but here is what we know so far from announcements from both Adobe and Microsoft.

Adobe has chosen Microsoft Azure as their preferred, but not exclusive, cloud vendor. The Adobe Experience Manager Sites Managed Service is now available on Microsoft Azure.

Microsoft Power BI offers connectivity to Adobe Analytics through the Microsoft content pack. This means you can create dashboards and visualizations with Power BI that consume data from Adobe Analytics, as shown below.

Microsoft Power BI dashboard for Adobe Analytics

Microsoft recently announced discontinuation of their Dynamics Marketing product.  It was based on Marketing Pilot, a product that Microsoft acquired.  Rather than creating a new product to replace Dynamics Marketing, Microsoft chose to endorse the Adobe Marketing Cloud and create incentives for join selling.  

Because Microsoft was unable to gain significant market share with its Dynamics Marketing product, Adobe provides a lifeline to relevance for Dynamics in the online marketing arena. Microsoft is not shown in the following Gartner "magic quadrant" matrix, but Adobe is in the strongest position:

Source: https://tfmainsights.com/rise-of-the-marketing-cloud-adobe-vs-ibm-vs-oracle-vs-salesforce/ 

In a broader initiative, Adobe, Microsoft and other industry leaders (AppDynamics, Acxiom, Dun & Bradstreet, Qualtrics, Zendesk, [24]7 and MasterCard) are collaborating on a semantic data model for  real-time customer engagement. This data model will standardize how data is structured and build new applications based on the common language. An update on the progress is expected at Microsoft Build 2017 on May 10-12. 








Friday, April 7, 2017

Microsoft Dynamics Employee Self-Service: New Version Released

Employees can save time with better access to information on how to do their jobs. 
Microsoft has released a new version of their Employee Self-Service (ESS) solution, updated to be based on  Dynamics 365.  Dynamics ESS is a knowledge management tool based on the Knowledge Base features of Dynamics 365 Customer Service. In December 2015, Microsoft released a prior version of Employee Self-Service based on Dynamics Parature, a product whose planned retirement in 2020 was announced in 2016.  The latest version incorporates significant enhancements based on Parature technology which has been incorporated into Dynamics 365.

Information technology departments are likely to be the first adopters of Dynamics ESS, to supplement their intranets and help desks in order to reduce the number of trouble tickets and provide 24-hour coverage when their help desk resources are limited.

Dynamics ESS works in Office 365 to look up answers in Word or Outlook
Users can access the information in the Dynamics Knowledge Base through Office 365, such as looking up an answer directly inside Outlook when responding to an email inquiry, or even in Microsoft Word.

Dynamics Employee Self-Service can complement your SharePoint intranet. The solution is simple to deploy, but the main challenge, as with most knowledge management projects, is to populate the knowledge base and make company rules and guidance more explicit and accessible.

Dynamics ESS works on mobile devices
If you already are a subscriber to Dynamics 365 Enterprise, you can enable Dynamics ESS from the Dynamics 365 Administration Center (which is accessed from the Office 365 admin page:


When you initiate Dynamics ESS, a new Dynamics Portal will be created, and the link will be displayed which you can share with your users.  Users in your company can access ESS with the affordable Team Member subscription for Dynamics 365.

For more information, download the overview document or contact my company InfoStrat for our Dynamics ESS Quick Start or watch the video demo.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

5 Tips on Moving from Dynamics CRM On Premises to the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Cloud

Source: Microsoft Dynamics CRM (on-premises) to Microsoft Dynamics Online Migration Guide (microsoft.com)
Many customers are moving their Microsoft Dynamics CRM from traditional hosting on premises in their server facilities to the Microsoft Dynamics 365 cloud.  Migration to the cloud can be challenging, especially if you are still using an older version of Dynamics CRM.  You will not have the same control over the cloud environment that you have of your servers, and your data import performance may be throttled down by the cloud environment.  For instance, you cannot schedule restores from a Dynamics 365 backup on the cloud or make backup snapshots in the same way that you control these on your servers. 

Here are InfoStrat's top hints to make the transition easier for your organization.
  1. Upgrade to the latest version of Dynamics 365 on premises. Microsoft doesn't provide a smooth transition which allows you to skip versions, so you will need to upgrade to each of the successive versions or consider your new solution a clean break and migrate only the data.
  2. Switch your licensing to the subscription model and provision your cloud environments. The InfoStrat Dynamics 365 cost calculator can help you choose the plan that is right for you.  Microsoft allows you to run on premises with your cloud subscription, so there is no incentive to wait and no need to buy duplicate licenses/subscriptions for your users. You may be eligible for Team Member subscriptions for many of your users.  Create the production and non-production instances of Dynamics 365 so you can practice the process of promoting your solution from one environment to the next before you go live. Also be sure to check the storage requirements and perhaps archive data if appropriate rather than pay for additional storage of data you are not using. 
  3. Freeze development of your solution until the migration is complete.  Once you are upgraded to the latest version of Dynamics 365, focus on moving to the new environment rather than entertaining more changes to the solution.  Otherwise you may find yourself chasing a moving goal line.  
  4. Consider a data migration tool.  A data migration tool such as Scribe will save many hours of development and testing time for any upgrade or migration effort.  Scribe offers special migration bundles for 60-day or 180-day subscriptions.  By using Scribe, you can dramatically boost the import rate with additional clients as shown in the chart above. 
  5. Move to Office 365.  If you are not already on Microsoft Office 365, this is a good time to switch.  You can combine your user training and support changes. Dynamics 365 is administered from the Office 365 management console.
A typical migration effort involves more than one trial migration followed by testing until all migration issues have been addressed. Moving your data from on premises to the cloud takes longer than most customers expect, and you must avoid disruptions to the use of production systems. 

Contact InfoStrat or your favorite Microsoft services provider for migration services and to get answers to your questions. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Account-Based Marketing with Dynamics 365 and ClickDimensions

http://terminus.com/expanding-new-frontier-account-based-marketing/
Account-based marketing (ABM) is a sales strategy that starts by identifying companies or other organizations that are likely customers and targeting people at those organization rather than gathering leads from broadly-based marketing initiatives.  Interest in ABM has been growing, and a number of companies such as Terminus and Marketo offer software tools to help with your ABM efforts.

Users of Microsoft Dynamics 365 and ClickDimensions already own some of the key tools for an effective account-based marketing approach.  Here are ways you can use what you own:
  1. Microsoft Dynamics 365 includes Insights powered by InsideView to allow you to look up companies and contacts based on your search criteria.  This is a good way to jumpstart your account list and learn about a company's people, products and revenue.
  2. Use Dynamics 365 Marketing Lists to track the accounts you are targeting. As you refine your approach you are likely to create more lists as you go.  
  3. Create nurture campaigns in ClickDimensions to send emails such as electronic newsletters and webinar invitations to your marketing lists. 
  4. Use Komiko or experiment with the new Relationship Insights for Dynamics 365 app.  These tools track email interactions with contacts and accounts to explore relationships between activities and sales. 
  5. Reconsider how you look at the traditional sales funnel.  Consider the inverted funnel shown at the top of this page and compare it to your funnel.  To succeed you will need to spend time cultivating your target list of people and perhaps the accounts that you target as well (unless these have been predetermined). 
  6. Use the email and web analytics in ClickDimensions to check on how your marketing messages are being received.  Which emails are opened?  Which calls to action are heeded? What are the strongest and weakest of your offerings?
Don't forget that the most likely new sales are to your existing customers, so be sure to consider how you can keep them engaged using the same tools you might use for new customers but tailored based on your relationship.

Related posts:
from Steve Mordue:

from this blog:

Monday, March 20, 2017

5 Warning Signs Your Software Development is Not Agile

Source: Digital.gov https://www.digitalgov.gov/2015/01/16/how-to-run-an-agile-project-in-government/ 

The most popular software development methodology today is called Agile, and is based on short, iterations called sprints which are designed to quickly produce results. The software in progress is used to get further input from users. Agile is designed to meet customer requirements more quickly than approaches which emphasized production of documents which would only become working software month or years later.

Nearly everyone claims their approach to software development is Agile, and formal solicitations from government and commercial customers often ask for promises to use Agile as well as industry certifications for project personnel such as "scrum masters" who lead the sprints.

Just because software developers say they are using Agile does not make it so.  My company InfoStrat is often called in to rescue projects that are supposedly Agile but are running behind or heading in the wrong direction.  Here are some warning signs that we look for to find out that a project has departed from Agile principles:

  1. There is nothing to demo. In an Agile project, each sprint results in deliverables which should work even if they are not functionally complete.  If you ask for a demo and there is nothing to show, be suspicious. 
  2. Form is valued over function.  In Agile, the goal is working software, but some projects are more focused on creating documentation than making a system work.
  3. Users are nowhere to be seen. Agile cannot work without input and feedback from users.  If you attend meetings to discuss a project and notice that users are missing, this could mean they are being kept at arms length from the project.
  4. People and teams disappear from time to time. A common feature of Agile is a short, daily meeting called a stand-up in which project participants provide updates.  Frequent in-person or online meetings are common in Agile development. 
  5. The development team is not motivated. Software development depends on people, not just their individual skills but also the way they work together as a group.  This is true for any software development methodology, but in Agile personnel weaknesses are hard to hide. 

If your software project shows any of these symptoms, you could be in big trouble. Good development teams take take for introspection and improving their processes, so you can encourage them to remedy these symptoms and refocus on what really matters for your project.

Although we work with technology, software development is a people business.  There are many ways to stifle performance of your team, or to create a team that does not work well together. I will explore some of the solutions to these problems in future blog posts.

Dynamics 365 (formerly CRM) MVPs and their Blogs



Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVP) are active in the information technology community and help spread knowledge on Microsoft products.  Many of them are prolific bloggers and are great sources for technical tips and review of the latest in Dynamics 365 (formerly CRM).

Here are some of the Dynamics MVPs and links to their blogs:
I know that I am missing some, and perhaps some of these MVPs have lapsed or are neglecting their blogs.  I have omitted MVPs who write in languages I cannot read, who have gone a year or more without posting to their blogs and those who do not have personal blogs.  Please share other active bloggers with me so I can add to the list.

Friday, March 3, 2017

6 Things to Look for in Grant Management Software

Source:USASpending.gov

My company InfoStrat has been working on government grant management since 1998, and we have seen and responded to a number of solicitations for grant management software.  This post summarizes what grantors are looking for in a software package, highlighting some recent trends that have emerged in this market.

Here are the top characteristics desired in a grant management software package:
  1. Compatibility with the enterprise architecture of the customer.  Most customers prefer to buy software that is compatible with what they already own in order to simplify support.  We see RFPs that specify the database, for instance, as Microsoft SQL Server or Oracle to be compatible with reporting tools already in use.
  2. Flexibility to meet grant program requirements and respond to changes in requirements. There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all for grants.  A highway grant from the Department of Transportation is quite different from a neighborhood protection grant from a local police department.  Customers want the product to match their process rather than to change their business process to fit the product.  Specific grant programs and even federal guidelines for all grants are evolving.  Customers know that they may need to incorporate new data elements and create new reports to remain in compliance.  The most dramatic instance of this was in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), also know as the Stimulus, which created new metrics and reporting standards for grants.  In 2014, OMB announced uniform guidance which included accounting, audit, and administrative policies. 
  3. Ability to run on a government cloud.  This is a recent trend but has been picking up momentum.  Customers are asking for products which meet federal and other security certifications such as NIST and FedRAMP. 
  4. Integration with a grantee portal. Customers want to allow prospective grantees to research their grants online and submit their applications, view the status of applications, and submit post-award reports through a web portal.  They do not want to rely on custom coding of the portal but prefer web services to connect the portal with the grant system and allow content changes through configuration rather than custom HTML.
  5. Integration features and capabilities. Grant systems do not operate in a vacuum, so customers want the ability to link to an accounting system to issue payment requests and track payment status.  They also are seeking integration with other products such as Microsoft Office, email systems, and document management systems. 
  6. Vendor stability. The grant software marketplace has been fragmented, and some companies have written products for a specific type of grant.  Customers are concerned about the viability of small companies because of their narrow market and the chance of acquisition and discontinuation of the product as the industry consolidates. Government agencies do not tend to favor startups because they are less likely to be around for the full life of the product. This preference points toward software vendors that lead the industry and have demonstrated longevity. 
Perhaps what is even more surprising in reviewing RFPs is that many grantors are still relying on spreadsheets and email, or out-of-date tracking systems, to manage millions of dollars in funds.

For more information on grant management, see my posts:

Usage Scenarios for Microsoft Grants Manager
Estimating the Cost of a Microsoft Grants Manager Plus Implementation
Microsoft Grants Manager Plus Frequently Asked Questions