Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Office 365 for Contract Management


Many organizations need automation to streamline the contract management process.  You may already own many of the products you need to help your legal department respond more quickly to requests.

Microsoft Office 365 and Dynamics 365 offer a set of tools which offer:

  • Employee self-service to request legal documents
  • Document and approval tracking
  • Contract authoring
  • Execution
  • Compliance monitoring
  • Retention

The contract management process typically involves several steps such as:


The process starts with a request for a contract from an end user via email, phone, or the intranet. This is really just a special case for customer service, so Dynamics 365 Employee Self-Service provides the capability to accept requests and turn them into cases for the legal department.

Next, the contract is assigned based on the type of contract and availability of staff.  Dynamics 365 includes the queues feature which meets this requirement.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 includes a workflow engine which allows you to set up routing, approvals, and notifications to match your business requirements.

The Fast Track allows some routine contracts to shortcut lengthy authoring and approval where less legal work is required.

Authoring takes advantage of Office 365 and SharePoint.  These offer version control, collaborative authoring, and the ability to share files with external parties to the contract using SharePoint and OneDrive.

Approval brings us back to the workflow capabilities of Office 365 and Dynamics 365.

Finally, for executing the document, you can use a third party e-signature product such as Adobe Sign or DocuSign, both of which offer integrations with Microsoft products.  Adobe Sign is integrated with SharePoint and DocuSign with Dynamics 365.

The following table shows how Office 365 and Dynamics 365 fulfill contract management business requirements:



Microsoft’s Corporate, External, & Legal Affairs (CELA) group developed Matter Center for Office 365, a SharePoint-based document management and collaboration solution. It offers many additional benefits through the Add-ins in Outlook and Word. You can download Matter Center from Github

By choosing the contract management elements you would like to automate, you can tailor the solution to your business processes rather than change your processes to match a product designed for law firms or others who may have features you don't need.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Options for Reviewing Sales Opportunities in Dynamics 365 (CRM)

Using a customer relationship management (CRM) system is a great way to get a better handle on your sales efforts.  If have have a CRM, one of the best ways to drive adoption among your sales force is to use it as the basis of sales pipeline meetings.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 offers several options for how you can use it to review sales opportunities. At my company InfoStrat, we prefer to log into Dynamics 365 and examine the sales pipeline rather than generate static reports.  That way we can update information on the fly as we discuss each opportunity.

My favorite is to start with the sales funnel graph in the standard Sales Activity dashboard:

The sales funnel shows the estimated dollar value of each opportunity, segmented by the sales stage.

Next, click the center icon in the upper righthand corner of the chart:


Now you can see the chart alongside the underlying opportunity records.


By default, the chart shows all opportunities, but if you click on a segment of the funnel, the records will be filtered so only those from the selected segment are shown:


In our typical sales meeting, we use the funnel starting at the bottom and working our way up to unqualified opportunities.

Some of our clients prefer other approaches.  The most common are to run the Sales Pipeline report or a custom report that is similar.  This report may be exported to PDF and emailed to people who do not use Dynamics 365. You can also change your report criteria at runtime as shown below.



You can also export opportunities to Excel.  One way is to click the Export to Excel option in the funnel graph page:


The other approach is to use Excel templates.  These may be as simple or complex as you would like to make them, and may include graphs.


The resulting Excel workbook will contain your opportunity records:


Finally, some client prefer to use PowerPoint to discuss opportunities at sales meetings or for pipeline reviews.  Although Microsoft doesn't provide a direct export to PowerPoint, they provide tools you can use to automate the creation of the presentation. I will cover this in a future blog post or contact me if you would like to learn more.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Microsoft to Host SharePoint Virtual Summit – Register Today



My company InfoStrat has been working with Microsoft SharePoint since it was first announced as “Tahoe” server and released in 2001.  The product has come a long way in all the versions since then but today there is more SharePoint news than ever.

Microsoft Office 365 incorporates SharePoint and related collaboration tools, with so many new features and integrations released that it may be hard for users and system administrators to keep track of them.  That’s why you should sign up for this free event:

SharePoint Virtual Summit
Tuesday May 16, 2017
10 am PDT
Register here

Microsoft Corporate Vice President Jeff Teper will unveil the latest SharePoint product innovations and roadmap. You’ll hear from industry-leading customers on how they use SharePoint and Office 365 as part of their digital transformation. Jeff will be joined by Microsoft corporate vice presidents James Phillips and Chuck Friedman to discuss how Office 365, connected with Windows and Azure, is reinventing productivity for you, your teams and your organization.

Topics will include:
  • Office 365
  • OneDrive
  • Yammer Integration
  • PowerApps and Microsoft Flow


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

When Government Contractors Know They Need Customer Relationship Management (CRM)



Government contractors, even those that sell high tech software solutions, are not always the first to embrace automation.   Many regard tracking the capture management (sales) process with suspicion because they recognize the importance of personal relationships and high touch sales techniques for winning government contracts.  Therefore they wait until something happens to bring the need for CRM such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 or Salesforce to the top of their priorities.

What are the top signs that you  need customer relationship management (CRM) for your government contracting company?
  1. Growth of sales people.  If you only have one or two sales people, you can get by emailing spreadsheets with a list of opportunities and notes on their status.
  2. High transaction volume.  If you are a reseller and handling a large number of small transactions, you need a system to keep track of them. 
  3. Proposal deadlines. Federal proposal deadlines are constantly changing, so you need a shared system to store all the key dates and provide notifications not only for writing proposals but for conducting internal reviews.
  4. Working with teammates. If you work on a team with other contractors, you need CRM to coordinate your efforts and track the roles of all the people at each company who are working on the opportunity.  
  5. Mergers and acquisitions. When two companies combine, you are faced with a great opportunity to change the culture of the sales organization and encourage more collaboration and sharing with sales and corporate management.  We often receive inquiries from companies that are initiating a merger and want to standardize their sales systems.
  6. Marketing and outreach. Government contractors can go for years ignoring marketing, but many eventually realize they need to use marketing techniques such as email newsletters and events to stay in touch with their customers, prospects and partners.
  7. Contract management. As a government contractor wins more contracts and projects, their contract compliance becomes more demanding.  A CRM system provides a shared view for delivery and finance as well as sales departments to track their obligations.
Once your company decides it's time for CRM, you have the opportunity to examine your business processes and introduce innovations that will make your sales team more accountable and productive. 

InfoStrat's Dynamics 365 for Government Contractors is tailored to support the business processes of government contractors, and may be tailored for the unique requirements of each government contractor. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Don't Buy Business Software Designed for the Wrong Business



Buying software for your business can be confusing due to the wealth of choices in nearly every category, from accounting to email marketing to customer relationship management (CRM).  Some categories of software are horizontal, that is they are applicable to nearly all businesses, others have a vertical focus that makes them suitable for certain industries but not all businesses.  Word processing or email, for instance, have comparable features which appeal to a broad group of customers.

Sales, accounting and marketing software are often customized for vertical industries, or for the size of your company.  QuickBooks is a leader for small businesses because it is affordable and easy to learn, but you would not expect it to be used by multi-national corporations, large manufacturers or national retailers. An industrial-strength software package such as SAP might make sense for an automobile manufacturer, but probably not for a carwash.

Marketing software has similar specialization.  The way that you engage customers is quite different in consumer markets than business-to-business markets.   Would your customers like to learn more about your complex product or service through videos or webinars? What message medium is best for your prospects?  Emails? Social media?

Even the social media marketing approach is driven by your industry.  In reaching buyers for software services to business or government, I will not rely on Facebook even if it works for my neighborhood restaurant.

One of the best source of recommendations is from your peers (who may also be your competitors).  Find out that is working for them to help narrow your search.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Getting More Out of Dynamics 365 for Government Contractors

Dynamics 365 for Government Contractors (GovCon) is one of InfoStrat's most popular solutions, and it may be extended in many ways to meet the unique needs of government contractors. Here are some top hints on ways to take advantage of new features to get more from this solution:
  1. Track email activities automatically with Komiko.  Dynamics 365 allows you to create emails from inside Dynamics which are tracked or to track emails by adding them to Dynamics 365, but Komiko goes further by crawling your email and automatically tracking those message sent to email addresses for your GovCon customers and prospects. 
  2. Try the preview of Relationship Insights. This includes automated email track and a relationship assistant. 
  3. Automate marketing with ClickDimensions.  Email marketing for events, newsletters, and other outreach is a great way for a government contractor to stay in touch with customers and prospects, and complements high touch in person networking and phone calls.
  4. Create a Partner Portal for your teaming partners.  The portal allows you to share secured documents with one another during proposal teaming efforts.  Because Dynamics 365 is integrated with Office 365, you can store documents on SharePoint or OneDrive.
  5. Integrate Dynamics 365 with your government contracting data sources, such as Deltek GovWin IQ, the Federal Procurement Database, Federal Business Opportunities and others.  InfoStrat supports these integrations and provides options on how to connect with external data to add and update opportunities. 
  6. Try the mobile apps for Dynamics 365.  Find out how you can connect via your smartphone or tablet device. 
  7. Deploy the Microsoft Dynamics 365 App for Outlook.  The tool is different from Dynamics 365 for Outlook, so here is a quick video overview. 


As you adopt automation for your GovCon capture management process, you will become more sophisticated in your approach and your software solution should evolve along with you.  Dynamics 365 allows you to add new features and even customize for different groups of users at your company. 


For more posts on CRM for government contracting, see:

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.