Monday, June 13, 2016

6 Reasons Microsoft's LinkedIn Acquisition is Different



For anyone left who thinks that Microsoft is the same company it was in the heyday of Windows, today's acquisition of LinkedIn shows just how far Microsoft is willing to go in pursuit of its long term vision.

How is this acquisition different from earlier acquisitions?

  1. Microsoft is acquiring the leader.  Similar to the Skype acquisition, Microsoft is gaining market share from a top player and not an also-ran. 
  2. Microsoft's timing for cloud and social is right. Microsoft comes into this acquisition with strong momentum of Office 365 and Dynamics CRM Online cloud growth.
  3. LinkedIn targets business rather than consumer users. The business market is more conservative and less likely to flit from one social network to another.  
  4. Paid and free services go well together. Microsoft offers a strong sales channel and field sales presence that create new opportunities to monetize LinkedIn.  Free users create a steady stream of prospects for the combined product and service offering. 
  5. The target customers of Microsoft and LinkedIn overlap. Office 365 is a potential jumping off point for LinkedIn (and vice versa) and a large number of current customers use both services. 
  6. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is on a roll. In his memo explaining the acquisition, Mr. Nadella points to new customer experiences that will be made possible in Office 365, Dynamics CRM and LinkedIn.  He has energized Microsoft's leadership and shown the boldness needed to make further progress. 

The possibilities of using LinkedIn data to improve sales and marketing are tantalizing.  What if you could integrate Office 365 messaging with LinkedIn paid subscriptions for messaging?  Could you post directly from Office 365 to LinkedIn groups?  How about building a marketing list in Dynamics CRM of your LinkedIn connections and invite them to an online event?

The LinkedIn acquisition answers the question of how Microsoft will use its cash to increase its competitiveness for the long haul.  It may produce results in the short run and change the behavior of Microsoft's competitors.




Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Estimating the Cost of a Microsoft Grants Manager Plus Implementation

Microsoft Grants Manager Plus is a solution for tracking the full life cycle of a grant, from funding sources to publishing grant opportunities, accepting online applications, review, scoring, award, post-award reporting and closeout. The solution and its precursor Stimulus360 so far has been used to track over $200 billion in government grants.

InfoStrat has been building grants management systems for government agencies since 1999 and we have been exposed to a wide array of grant systems  which affect the cost drivers or automated grants management system.   We will discuss some of the factors that must be considered to help you come up with a cost estimate for your requirements.

The Type and Number of Grant Programs
Grants are typically either Competitive Grants or Formula Grants.  As the name implies, Formula grants award funds to the applicant based on a preset formula.   For example, we worked with a federal agency that distributed funds to states for libraries and the money was distributed based on a preset percentage per state.  

Competitive grants are awarded based on merit.  Applicants compete for the limited funds and it is somewhat similar to applying to college where an extensive application must be submitted with copious details on how the money will be spent complete with resources needed and project schedule and the impact that will be made.     The more detailed the application, the more complex and costly is the process of building the web forms (and associated database fields) that the applicants will use to enter their applications.  To determine the cost of developing the forms, you can provide the number of forms to be developed into the customizations area of our Cost Calculator

Scoring of Competitive Grant Applications
Just like in the college admissions scenario, competitive grant applications will be read and scored according to a set of criteria.   Sometimes applications are scored by grant program staff or more frequently by external reviewers who have expertise in the grant program area and can serve as independent experts in determining the best applicant for the program type.  If the applications need to be made available to people outside the organization, portal functionality will need to be developed that enables an external reviewer to log in to the system, read the application in its entirety and then to enter the scores for each of the criteria.   The areas for entering these scores will be forms of varying complexity depending on level of detail required and to determine a cost for developing these, you can again go to the calculator. To add public portal capability, select the PortVue Portal selection in the calculator.

Post Award Reporting
In many grant systems we have built, the government agency has strict post award reporting requirements which the grant recipient must adhere to.   In some cases, the grant recipient will not be given the money until the required report has been submitted.   These reports typically include financial reports and narrative reports which detail the work being done and status to date.   Oftentimes, money is not disbursed all at once but in increments during the life of the grant as progress is being made and validated through the submitted reports.   Consequently, a grant system typically needs to have a public portal which enables the grantee to easily login in and enter the required reports on a monthly, quarterly or semi-annual or annual basis depending on the requirements of the specific grant program.  The areas within CRM for entering the financial and narrative data will be moderately complex forms and cost can be estimated using our calculator.  To add public portal capability, select the PortVue Portal selection in the calculator.

Reports and Dashboards
Grant administrators typically need to provide status on grant money spent to date or grants given in a target geography.   Determine what reports are needed and the complexity of each report and use the Customizations area of the calculator.

Dynamics CRM Online or On Premises
Because Grants Manager Plus is based on Microsoft Dynamics CRM, you need to purchase subscriptions or licenses to Dynamics CRM from Microsoft through your reseller. Government agencies and charitable organizations are eligible for product discounts.  The best prices are from your volume licensing agreement such as a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement.

One of the advantages of Dynamics CRM is that you may deploy your solution on premise at your office, in the Microsoft cloud, or at a hosting facility. Your choice of deployment options will affect the licensing or subscription cost.

You can start here: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics/crm-purchase-support.aspx The comprehensive source is here: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh699677.aspx

You can choose from several Dynamics CRM subscription types: Enterprise, Professional, Basic and Essential.  This post offers more details on what comes with each type.

Finally the costs of the product must be included and these can be either “on premises” in your data center or “in the cloud”.  Select your preferred deployment approach and the number of users in either the On Premises section or the Cloud area of the calculator.

Customizations
One of the best things about Grants Manager Plus is that it is easily customized to match your data requirements.  You can compare your data model to the data model of the solution and add new fields that you need.  You will also want to list and document your automated business processes so they can be implemented in the solution.  Grants Manager Plus contains a number of business processes but these can vary significantly depending on the number of people participating in the process and the steps that you follow for a grant.

Reporting
Most of our clients want custom reports in addition to standard reports.  You can reduce the cost of report writing by using the built-in ad hoc reporting tool, and also by using dashboards and business intelligence tools such as Microsoft Power BI.

Portal Options
Another key decision is which portal you choose for grantees to apply online. This post goes into some detail on these options.   You can use several commercial products with CRM integration, or build a custom solution based on your website's content management system.

Since Microsoft acquired ADXstudio and added portal capability to Dynamics CRM Online 2016, it may be a particularly attractive option, especially if you are using Dynamics CRM Online.

Data Migration
How will you handle data on prior grants?  Will you maintain your old system for historical data? Data migration can be expensive, but it affords you the ability to clean up data for better reporting.

Integration
Identify the systems that you plan to integrate, such as your financial management system.  In order to estimate the cost of data migration services, you need specifications for the integration with as much detail as possible.  You may also consider an integration product such as Scribe or Kingswaysoft for some integration.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Tracking Task Orders in Dynamics CRM for GovCon

Source: Architect of the Capitol


Many government contractors pursue and win multi-award contract vehicles such as bulk purchase agreements (BPAs) and indefinite date, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contracts. These vehicles are then used to secure later task order contracts for specific deliverables, terms, and prices.

You can track task orders and multi-award contracts in Dynamics CRM using InfoStrat's Dynamics CRM for Government Contractors solution. Contracts can show subordinate task orders as well as how much of the contract ceiling amount has been used.

In terms of opportunity tracking, you may want to track each task order as an opportunity as well as the parent contract.  Be sure to set up your reports so they don't double count your wins and losses.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Power of Multi-Channel Social Marketing

You can increase your visibility in social media by concentrating all your efforts in a single channel, but I have been more successful with a multi-pronged approach.

Each social media channel attracts a different type of user, and some may be better for your type of business than others. For instance, consumer brands often reach their audiences on Facebook, while business to business services may get more traction on LinkedIn.  Twitter is more of an acquired tastes, but it is obligatory for the press and other writers.  I rarely read my Twitter feed without picking up an interesting bit of news I would not have found otherwise.

Readership of my blog increased significantly only after I became more active on social media. After several years of paltry page views of a few hundred a month, my blog traffic grew to over 10,000 pages views per month as my Twitter followers slowly grew over time.

You can track the contribution made by each social channel in your blog analytics. For me, Twitter has made the biggest difference. You can also tie social media activity to sales in Dynamics CRM with ClickDimensions.  For instance, ClickDimensions builds social profiles of customer contacts so you can follow them.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Introducing Komiko: Connect Your CRM to Email and More



To get the most of a CRM system, you should use it not only to track all your customers and prospects, but also all your sales and marketing activities.  While Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Salesforce allow you to track activities including emails, meetings, letters, and phone calls and some are tracked automatically (such as marketing emails), the challenge is that many activities require manual entry.

Komiko offers automation which connects your CRM to email and document management, automating this process.  It can scan your emails and track all emails sent to customers or prospects you are tracking in your CRM automatically.  This data gives you a rich new dimension to track and score leads.



There is a strong correlation between the number of times you communicate with a prospect and whether they are likely to purchase.  Komiko reveals this pattern without imposing a new data entry burden on your sales force.


Using Komiko, you can see who at your company is interacting with each account, and with each contact at your account.  It can add contact records for the customer to your CRM.

Email is not the only source of data for Komiko.  You can connect it to your filesharing websites such as SharePoint and Dropbox to track each time that you share a proposal or contract with a customer.

Komiko is on the leading edge of a trend to break down barriers between applications and automatically track behavior of your staff, prospects and customers.


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Extending Your Microsoft Dynamics CRM Reporting Through PowerBI



Source: https://rcpmag.com/articles/2015/03/16/dynamics-crm-spring-15-release.aspx

Microsoft Dynamics CRM provides rich reporting capabilities through built-in reports, the Advanced Find ad hoc query tool, and SQL Reporting Service (see my blog post).  These are not your only options: you can use Power BI with Dynamics CRM 2015/2016 to provide self-service analytics on your Dynamics CRM Online data.


If you know how to build pivot tables in Excel, Power BI will be familiar to you.  It allows the user to manipulate data in many ways and derive new insights.  You can try out queries to identify patterns in your data which were not obvious.

You can find step-by-step instructions for Power BI and Dynamics CRM on TechNet.

Sign up for Power BI for Dynamics CRM here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

SharePoint or CRM for Government Contractor (GovCon) Capture Management?

If you are a government contractor and you are using Microsoft products such as Office 365, you may reach the point when you would like to automate your business development (capture management) process.  Which tool should you use?

Many companies start by keeping a list of opportunities in Excel, and emailing that Excel document to sales people and managers using Office 365.  These spreadsheets often grow complex as they are enhanced to capture all the data elements that you want to track.  While it is a simple approach, it has some disadvantages:

  1. Hard to track who has most recent version
  2. People can add more columns and worksheets without coordinating with one another
  3. Difficult to generate some pipeline reports 
  4. Grows quickly and may become unwieldy, especially if past wins and losses are accumulated in the spreadsheet

The next evolutionary step is to use SharePoint (included in Office 365) to store the sales spreadsheet.  This eliminates the version control problem, and establishes a single place where the latest spreadsheet is stored.

SharePoint is also an excellent platform for storing solicitation and proposal documents.  You can set up permissions to grant the right people access to the documents they need, and use SharePoint to organize proposal boilerplate items, staff resumes, and more. Documents created internally can be shared with potential subcontractors, subject matter experts, and other vendors under the security framework of Office 365.

SharePoint workflows can be used to automate review and approval processes. For instance, you can notify reviewers when new drafts are posted to a document library.

Some companies use SharePoint lists to store the information on the opportunities rather than Excel.  This offers additional levels of control and makes some reports easier to generate.

Dynamics CRM offers the most comprehensive set of features for capture management of all the Microsoft products.  It was designed for sales force automation, marketing, and customer service and includes hundreds of features that surpass what you can accomplish in SharePoint in terms of tracking sales.  Dynamics CRM has record- and field-level security along with the concepts of record ownership and an organizational hierarchy.  This means that you can assign opportunities to sales people and define rich permissions for who can access what data.  Dynamics CRM has mobile clients for tablets and phones, and even service scheduling and route planning.  It can be used to generate marketing emails, such as invitations to events.

InfoStrat developed the Dynamics CRM for Government Contractors solution which takes Dynamics CRM a step further, adding data elements, workflows, dashboards and reports that are geared toward government contractors.


Finally, using Dynamics CRM to track sales does not mean you should not be using SharePoint to track documents.  Business development involves both structured data (Dynamics CRM) and unstructured data (SharePoint).

You can even automate the process to track your emails to clients and prospects in Dynamics CRM without entering them manually.  An exciting new product called Komiko will search emails for those sent to companies and contacts that you are tracking in CRM and add them as activities.  This allows you to report on how many activities were required to close a sale, and see how new sales develop.


You don't have to adopt all this technology at one time.  You can chart a course to move at the best speed for your organization.