Monday, October 16, 2017

Grant Management with FedRAMP Certification: Microsoft Dynamics 365


Federal agencies that administer grant programs are obligated to move to cloud solutions where possible, while maintaining adherence with security regulations such as FedRAMP which set high standards for cloud data centers.

Dynamics 365 U.S. Government was granted a FedRAMP Agency ATO at the Moderate Impact Level by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Although the scope of the certification is limited to the Government Community Cloud, Dynamics 365 U.S. Government business and enterprise plans operate following the same set of stringent FedRAMP controls. For instance, Microsoft operates cloud data centers in the United States that are staffed by U.S. citizens only.

Grants Manager Plus running on the Microsoft Government Cloud allows agencies to fulfill their mission as grantors with a cloud solution that has achieved FedRAMP compliance.

Grantees submit applications and post-award reports through a grants portal. 
The Grants Manager Plus solution accelerator is an all-in-one, integrated solution that simplifies the grants process from initial solicitation through review, scoring, award, payment processing and post award reporting.  Powered by Microsoft Dynamics 365, it includes optional integration with Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations to offer a financial back-end process, such as authorization of funding sources and processing of payment requests from Grants Manager Plus.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Dynamics 365 for Government Contractors (GovCon) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

One of InfoStrat's most popular solutions is Dynamics 365 for Government Contractors (GovCon).

Here are some answers to frequently asked question on this solution:
  1. Can I add new fields to the solution?  -- Yes, the solution is fully customizable and you can add your own new fields to any form, view or report.
  2. Does Dynamics 365 for GovCon work on mobile devices?  -- Yes, Microsoft offers mobile apps for all the most popular platforms including iPhone, iPad, and Android phone and tablets.
  3. Does Dynamics 365 connect with bid data systems such as Deltek and Onvia?  -- Some information services, such as Onvia, offer integration with Dynamics 365.  Others require third party solutions such as the InfoStrat integration with Deltek GovWin IQ.
  4. What do customers typically customize for their unique requirements? -- Not all contractors follow the same steps in the capture process.  Most clients will tailor the business process to add or remove steps in order to match their sales methodology.  Often clients have their own preferences for reports such as changing sorting, graphs, and other ways to render data.
  5. How long does an implementation take? -- The InfoStrat QuickStart for GovCon has your company up and running in one week.  Larger implementations with multiple departments and processes take longer. 
  6. How are teaming partners supported? -- Our clients often use SharePoint and OneDrive to share documents with teaming partners. 
  7. Which edition of Dynamics 365 is needed for GovCon? -- The capture management solution runs on Dynamics 365 for Sales (enterprise edition).

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Onvia 8 Now Available: Find Government Contracting Opportunities

Onvia recently shipped a new version of its government contracting information service - Onvia 8.

The latest version brings a clean, new  interface along with many new search features:



 Onvia now provides better support for mobile devices than ever:



For me, one of the most exciting features is integration with CRM systems.  Onvia supports Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Salesforce, the two most popular CRM systems in the world.

A video demo is available:


Onvia 8 | Onvia


This means that you can view an opportunity in Onvia and quickly convert it to an opportunity in CRM, along with information on the government agencies and contacts related to the opportunity.

Onvia is an excellent complement to InfoStrat's GovCon CRM solution.  With Onvia, you can find opportunities across the country that you would have otherwise overlooked, and gain market intelligence to make your proposals more competitive.

For more posts on CRM for government contracting, see:

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Grant Management Portal: What to Include



If your government agency or non-profit provides grants, your applicants and grantees may expect a web portal to apply for a grant, check on that status of their applications, and submit post-award reports.  Grant software such as Microsoft Grants Manager Plus offer portals which allow you to interact with your data via the portal rather than store the data in a second place and replicate the data.

This blog post offers ideas for how to get the most out of your grantee portal, and which features and content to include in your implementation.

Consider which elements you will offer to anonymous users and which will be visible only to applicants and grantees who log in.

Grant Program Background

The portal may be the first place that the public and grant applicants learn about your programs.  It is a place to tell your story, with text, photos and videos that show how your grants make an impact.

Dynamic content can include reports, graphs and maps showing who receives grants and how they are spent.  For instance, several of our clients included maps showing the impact of economic stimulus spending on public infrastructure.

Eligibility Rules and Application Instructions

The portal should contain eligibility information for prospective grantees, and contact information for grant managers or your help desk where applicants can turn for additional information.  This is general static information which can be conveyed through HTML pages or links to documents as appropriate.

Online Applications

Applicants often expect to be able to apply online. Applications usually consist of online forms along with file attachments for backup materials such as budgets or longer narratives.  Be sure that your portal saves data often so that applicants don't lose data they enter in an incomplete application.  Similarly, unless they are quite simple, most grant applications are not finished in a single session. You should allow applicants to save their work and resume the application later.

Consider including training videos, especially if your applications or process are complex.

Grantee Documents and Templates

In addition to application forms, you may want to provide document and spreadsheet templates to your prospective applicants.  Documents such as these may be stored on your web server or in SharePoint or another document management system.

Grantee Login

Before they apply, you will want applicants to create user accounts and provide their profile information.  Microsoft Dynamics portal provides facilities for creating accounts, changing passwords, and lost password recovery.  Consider using multi-factor authentication, such as sending a confirmation code to a mobile phone, if this is appropriate for your organization.

Application Status

The portal should allow authenticated (logged on) applicants to view the status of their grants and applications.   Often this is shown as a table on their home page.

Payment Requests

The portal can allow grantees to submit payment requests based on grant activities.  These requests may be tied with status reports.  Often the payment request is integrated with the financial management system to initiate the process of reviewing and issuing the payment.

Post Award Reports

One of the most valuable functions of a grants portal is to allow grantees to submit periodic post award reports.  These reports often include attachments with material such as receipts or spending details.

For more information on grant management and Microsoft Grants Manager Plus, see my posts:

Microsoft Grants Manager Plus Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
6 Things to Look for in Grant Management Software
Estimating the Cost of a Microsoft Grants Manager Plus Implementation
Grants Manager Plus: Theme and Variations
Microsoft Grants Manager Plus
Online Resources for Microsoft Grants Manager Plus
Portal Options for Microsoft Grants Manager
Statewide Grant Management Systems
Usage Scenarios for Microsoft Grants Manager

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Grant Management for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)

Hurricane Harvey reminds us that Americans are vulnerable to natural disasters which can be devastating, especially to low income cities and counties.  Federal grants are key to recovery and rebuilding efforts.

As explained on its website, "HUD provides flexible grants to help cities, counties, and States recover from Presidentially declared disasters, especially in low-income areas, subject to availability of supplemental appropriations. In response to Presidentially declared disasters, Congress may appropriate additional funding for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program as Disaster Recovery grants to rebuild the affected areas and provide crucial seed money to start the recovery process. Since CDBG Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) assistance may fund a broad range of recovery activities, HUD can help communities and neighborhoods that otherwise might not recover due to limited resources."

Grants Manager Plus for Microsoft Dynamics 365 includes key functions needed for managing Community Development Block Grants, allowing CDBG recipients and sub-recipients at all levels of state and local government to track their applications, grants, post-award reports and payments.

To tailor Grants Manager Plus for your unique requirements, it may be integrated with your financial management system to process payment requests and report on budgets using your chart of accounts.

The solution is based on Microsoft Dynamics 365, and may be hosted online by Microsoft or on premises at a customer's data center.  It allows sub-recipients to access information through the Microsoft Dynamics Portal, a website which is simple to use for applications and reporting.

You can use SharePoint to store documents such as application forms and templates with Microsoft's included integration services.

For more information on grant management and Microsoft Grants Manager Plus, see my posts:

Microsoft Grants Manager Plus Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
6 Things to Look for in Grant Management Software
Estimating the Cost of a Microsoft Grants Manager Plus Implementation
Grants Manager Plus: Theme and Variations
Microsoft Grants Manager Plus
Online Resources for Microsoft Grants Manager Plus
Portal Options for Microsoft Grants Manager
Statewide Grant Management Systems
Usage Scenarios for Microsoft Grants Manager

Monday, August 21, 2017

Migrating from Parature to Microsoft Dynamics 365: Part 1

Breaking News: Microsoft has updated the release date of the Parature migration tool to the end of September 2017.

In spring 2017, Microsoft announced that it was phasing out its Parature cloud customer service offering in favor of Dynamics 365 for Customer Service, one of the Dynamics 365 apps based on what was previously called Dynamics CRM.  Parature customers and Microsoft partners were informed of this plan in August 2016 prior to the release of Dynamics 365.

Microsoft also announced a toolkit with tools for migrating accounts, files and other assets; templates for creating support portals and customer service workflows; and tutorials and documentation. As of this writing the toolkit is not available, but scheduled to be released at the end of September 2017.

In the absence of a migration tool, what are the steps to migrating from Parature to Dynamics 365?  What are your migration options?

First, you should catalog your Parature implementation to determine which features you were using and where your customer service data resides.  The planning documents from your Parature implementation such as design templates are valuable here.  Your analysis should answer questions such as these:

  • Are you using Live Chat?
  • Does Parature integrate with any other systems?
  • Do you want to migrate all your past data or only a subset of the data? 
  • Do you want to run in parallel during the migration or cut over completely?
  • Will you migrate groups of users separately or all at once?
  • How is authentication managed for your customer service representatives?  You will be moving to the Dynamics 365 authentication which is managed by Office 365 and may be integrated with your domain login. 
Parature includes an export feature which generates delimited text files for data including Accounts, Customers, Ticket data, Phone Calls and Notes, Tasks, Products, Emails, and Knowledgebase References.  You can use the import feature in Dynamics 365 to import these records or a third party integration tool such as Scribe or Kingswaysoft.  Be sure to consider the relationships among the entities that you are importing so that you import them in the correct order.  

Migrating to Dynamics 365 provides the opportunity to take advantage of new features in the Dynamics 365 platform which were not available in Parature.  This is a good time to review these and determine whether to implement them in the initial migration or add them as needed later.  For instance:
  • Should Live Chat be added now if not using before?  Dynamics 365 uses CafeX for Live Chat.
  • What new dashboards and reports would your users like to see?
  • Do you want to make your customer service portal look different than it did when implemented in Parature? 

While Parature provided a complete, integrated customer service cloud, it was not based on the Microsoft Dynamics architecture, and did not lend itself to being as easily or thoroughly customized. Developers with experience on the Microsoft platform in general and Dynamics 365 in particular can apply their skills to reshape Dynamics 365 for Customer Service and also combine its functions with apps those such as Dynamics 365 for Sales, Project Service, or Field Service.

Unlike Parature, the customer service portal is based on Microsoft Dynamics Portal. Configuration settings for the portal are stored in Dynamics 365, and many changes may be made without extensive HTML coding.

The user experience for customer service representatives is quite different in Dynamics 365 for Customer Service from Parature.  The good news is that there is more extensive training material, videos and official Microsoft courseware for Dynamics 365.



Wednesday, July 26, 2017

5 Ways that Portals Improve Your CRM



Today I received a blog suggestion to explain why you might want to have a portal for your customer relationship management (CRM) system.  I have written about Portal Options for Microsoft Dynamics 365 recently, but I didn't provide reasons why you might want to use a portal.  So here are my Top Five Ways that Portals Improve Your CRM:

  1. Provide a simple user experience for occasional users. You don't want to train users on a full featured CRM system in order to enter a handful of fields to make a request to the human resources or information technology departments.  The portal offers simple forms to gather only the information you need based on information stored in CRM. 
  2. Integrate Dynamics 365 data with other systems.  A portal provides another approach to allow a single screen to show multiple data sources for viewing and data entry, including Dynamics 365.  
  3. Provide access to people outside your organization.  The portal access can be protected by different security mechanisms than those you use internal to your organization.  The portal may allow for self provisioning of accounts or go through an approval process. 
  4. Match your website branding. A portal can be customized to match the colors, fonts, layouts and other stylistic elements of your website and portal pages can show data from your CRM in the context of the site's navigation. 
  5. Combine Dynamics 365 data with other web content. The portal can show a SharePoint document library of forms and templates, for example.  Online grant applications are a good fit for a portal so that applicants can see instructions, videos, and documents as well as complete online applications. 
Some of these ways that portals add value to your CRM overlap with one another. For instance, users outside your organization are more likely to need a simpler user experience and a different way of authenticating themselves.