Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Understanding Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business and Dynamics 365 Enterprise Editions

Microsoft recently released additional information on the new Dynamics 365 Business and Enterprise editions.  Dynamics 365 was announced on October 11 and will be available on November 1, 2016.  The Dynamics 365 brand will be the umbrella for customer relationship management (CRM) products, CRM add-ins, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) products.

I wrote recent posts on Microsoft's vision for Dynamics 365Dynamics 365 pricing and implications of Dynamics 365 for xRM scenarios. Today I'm expanding the discussion on editions of Dynamics 365.

Enterprise Edition

The Enterprise edition of Dynamics 365 is optimized for organizations with over 250 employees. It includes Dynamics AX called Dynamics 365 for Operations as its ERP component. There is a minimum user count of 20 users for Enterprise edition plan 2 and Dynamics CRM for Operations (included in plan 2).

The Enterprise edition subscriptions include dual use rights allowing use of the on-premises software where applicable.   These subscriptions also include and accrue (based on user count) larger amounts of storage capacity than Dynamics CRM Online.

Business Edition

The Business edition of Dynamics 365 is targeted for organizations with 10-250 employees and uses the new ERP product called Dynamics 365 for Financials with the codename of Project Madeira. Dynamics 365 for Financials is expected to ship in the final quarter of calendar 2016.   Dynamics 365 for Financials is based on Dynamics NAV (formerly Navision).

The Sales app for Business Edition is not currently available, but is coming soon.

The Business edition does not offer dual use rights for on premises (server) deployment.  There is no minimum number of users, but the maximum is 300 named users.

Team Members Subscriptions

Both Enterprise and Business editions offer a limited use subscription at a significant discount call Team Members.  Users are granted appropriate rights for their roles -- Enterprise and Business editions give different features to Team Members.

Customers can mix and match the editions as well as app, plan, and team member pricing.  This means that you must take a close look at your user community in order to buy the correct combination of subscriptions.  Some customers will receive cost savings, especially those with a larger user base and a high number of Team Member subscriptions.

How to Choose

The number of employees in your organization is not the best indicator of which edition is most appropriate, because some of the products in the Enterprise edition, such as Field Service and Project Service, are suitable for organizations of all sizes. You may also want to choose Enterprise plan 1 if you don't want to wait for the Business edition apps for Sales and Marketing.

Your best source of help choosing among Dynamic 365 options is your Microsoft Dynamics Partner or Microsoft account executive.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Dynamics 365 and xRM: What Comes Next?

Dynamics CRM and xRM

Not long after Microsoft released Dynamics CRM, customers and Microsoft partners found ways to use the product beyond the traditional sales, marketing, and customer service functions which define customer relationship management.  Microsoft adopted the moniker "xRM" to describe these on-traditional uses of CRM in which "x" stands for other relationships such as citizens, employees, patients and much more. Some Microsoft partners even user xRM in their company names. Dynamics 365 moves in the direction of providing licensing options more appropriate for xRM.

The premise of xRM is that it takes advantage of a comprehensive and mature platform which is useful for many business applications.  It comes with a rich data model, a granular security model, mobile apps, cloud hosting and wide support by Microsoft and thousands of Microsoft services partners.  Compared to custom development, xRM allows more rapid solution development. Third parties also crank out apps and utilities that can be installed as solutions in CRM at low cost. Compared to many packaged products, xRM solutions were easier to modify for unique requirements of an organization. As shown in the figure above, xRM represents an approach between building and buying a software solution.

One of the disadvantages of xRM is that the Microsoft Dynamics CRM software licenses or subscriptions have been an expensive cost element, especially for solutions with thousands of users.  xRM developers have to hide the CRM forms and other elements which are not being used. Some solutions don't use much of the out-of-the-box features of the product, and therefore derive less value from CRM features.

One workaround has been for companies to offer the underlying CRM licenses as original equipment manufacturers (OEM) at a reduced price.  This approach makes the OEM rather than Microsoft responsible for supporting the product, and does not allow for use of multiple CRM apps on this license.  It also tends to alienate the Microsoft sales executives who get credit for selling the full licenses under the end customer's volume licensing agreement.

Companies that develop xRM solutions have encouraged Microsoft to offer special licenses to reflect their use of the product.  So far I have not seen a Dynamics 365 app which is specifically target to xRM, but the more granular approach of breaking Dynamics CRM into Sales, Marketing, and Customer Service creates new, and less expensive, options for xRM providers.

My company InfoStrat has developed a couple dozen xRM solutions.  Some of them, such as Dynamics CRM for Government Contractors, maps directly to Dynamics 365 Sales.  The additional features that Microsoft is adding to Dynamics 365 Sales will be beneficial for our GovCon customers.  Other InfoStrat solutions, such as Mobile Field Inspection, map to Dynamics 365 Field Service.

A number of our xRM solutions do not rely much on Sales, Marketing, or Customer Service.  For these, it could be the Common Data Model and the related development tools of PowerApps, Flow, and Azure Logic apps which serve as the basis for an xRM solution.

Microsoft's a la carte approach to Dynamics 365 results in more choices for xRM developers and may result in cost savings for some customers who will be able to pay only for what they are using.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Pricing: 6 Reasons Not to Panic

Last week Microsoft announced its Dynamics 365 family of products and pricing which will take effect on November 1, 2016.  The announcement received significant press coverage and I wrote a blog post on the vision behind this move.  The Wall Street Journal has written on how Microsoft is upping its game to compete with Salesforce, Oracle, and SAP for the enterprise software market.

Microsoft has de-bundled Dynamics CRM Online into modules for sales, customer service, and marketing, added several new apps, and made some Dynamics ERP products available under the Dynamics 365.

There is quite a bit to digest here, but Microsoft offered several reasons why current Dynamics CRM customers should not panic:

  1. Current Dynamics CRM customers can continue their subscriptions or change to the Dynamics 365 apps and bundles.
  2. If you are using all the modules in Dynamics CRM, the Dynamics 365 Enterprise Plan 1 will include all these and more: Sales, Customer Service, Field Service, Project Service Automatino, Knowledge Management, Social Engagement, Gamification, Portal, and more. 
  3. Transition pricing will be available for existing customers to smooth the path to new app licensing.
  4. Dynamics 365 will be available for on premises deployments as well as cloud-hosting by Microsoft.  Hybrid cloud deployments are also supported by Microsoft's licensing scheme.
  5. Some products have become free apps, and prices have been cut for cloud storage for Dynamics 365. 
  6. Microsoft partner companies like my company InfoStrat and resellers have received extensive training on Dynamics 365 pricing.  We can help you model your requirements and scenarios to find the Dynamics 365 apps and bundles that are the best fit. 
The move to Dynamics 365 is part of a strategy to reconcile dozens of software products developed or acquired by Microsoft into a coherent and compelling business platform.  One of the goals is to eliminate isolated solutions which store redundant and possibly inconsistent data.  Microsoft is also using this opportunity to inject machine learning and artificial intelligence into apps which they add the most value. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Dynamics 365 Shows Microsoft's Bold Vision

The Microsoft Dynamics 365 Family of Apps
With the release of Dynamics 365, the New Microsoft, under the leadership of chief executive officer Satya Nadella, has revealed its bold vision to not only embrace but to lead new trends in business computing.

Dynamics 365 is a collection of cloud apps and services for business, allowing customers to mix and match the features they need from a lengthy catalog including sales, marketing, customer service, field service, project management, accounting, and more.

Dynamics 365 hits all of today's top computing trends.  It is cloud-based (although customers may deploy on premises, unlike some of Microsoft's competitors). Dynamics 365 takes advantage of machine learning and artificial intelligence, weaving in elements of Cortana and other Microsoft AI work.  Dynamics Connected Field Service weaves in the Internet of Things (IoT) to feed sensor data from devices which triggers service calls and dispatches trucks with technicians if necessary. Microsoft has embedded analytics and Big Data into Dynamics 365, further tightening the integration of the Microsoft analytics and visualization tool Power BI into Office 365 as well as Sales, Field Service and Marketing.

Mobile is also a key theme for Dynamics 365. The launch demo highlighted how integrating all these apps and making them available on mobile devices enables new ways for people to get work done on the run.  The demo showed a sales person generating a sales quote from their mobile phone -- something unthinkable for most companies today.

Dynamics 365 upends software development tools as well.  PowerApps provides connections to the Dynamics 365 Common Data Model not only for Microsoft products but for other cloud services such as Dropbox.  Microsoft Flow and Azure Logic Apps are the workflow automation products to automate business processes which span multiple products.

PowerApps connects multiple Dynamics 365 apps

Microsoft has demolished the concept of software products, abandoning brands that it has built up for years such as Dynamics CRM and Dynamics AX, in favor of functional names for apps under the Dynamics brand including Marketing, Operations, Customer Service, Field Service, Project Service and Sales.  The AppSource marketplace will offer solutions from third parties as well as information on Microsoft services partners.  Instead of using unique product names such as SharePoint which allow web searches to easily find answers to technical questions, Microsoft's branding approach puts all its weight behind the Dynamics 365 brand itself so that customers will learn to search for "Dynamics 365 Marketing" or "Dynamics 365 Operations" in order to get relevant results. This change in branding is so disruptive that it requires extensive training for Microsoft's resellers and services partners, as well as Microsoft's customers.

The benefit of abandoning product silos will be freedom of choice for customers, and a "stickiness" of cloud services that will make Microsoft customers more and more committed as they take on more cloud services over time. Customers can start small with only Sales, for instance, and add Marketing or Customer Service later.

Dynamics 365 represents the fulfillment of Microsoft's xRM promise by broadening the software tools and standardizing the data model and workflow products to a far greater extent than before.   The idea of xRM was to build line of business solutions on top of the Dynamics CRM platform instead of starting from scratch with custom development.

My company InfoStrat has devoted itself to building xRM solutions for public sector customers, so now we are enabled with a broader platform and apps that are more complete out of the box (or out of the cloud).  Microsoft partner competencies have been reworked to focus almost exclusively on the cloud, so partners must work hard to achieve technical readiness on new products, technologies and sales approaches.

The boldness of Dynamics 365 will disrupt traditional software sales, and will force Microsoft's customers, marketers, sales force, resellers, and services partners to adapt to a new paradigm.  If successful, Microsoft will have set a high bar for competitors who want to compete with a broad business software platform.

Be sure to watch this blog for more posts on the nuts and bolts of Dynamics 365.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Microsoft Dynamics CRM for Contract Management

Many organizations, including government agencies, track contracts with vendors, grantees, health care providers and other parties, and need systems to keep track of the workflow associated with executing and maintaining the contracts.

InfoStrat has helped commercial and government clients implement online contract management.

For Microsoft shops, the first product to come to mind may be SharePoint.  SharePoint offers document management, check-in and check-out, version control as well as intranet and extranet capabilities.  All these are important for contract management, but they may not be sufficient on their own.

Dynamics CRM can augment SharePoint by providing its workflow engine, dashboards and reporting that make it easier to manage a larger number of contracts along with organizational contacts, automated emails and merged documents.  The Business Process Flow capability in Dynamics CRM graphically shows were a contract is in the drafting and signature process.  Record ownership in CRM let's users see views with the contracts for which they are responsible, and a queue of tasks based on the expiration date of contracts.

With Komiko, Dynamics CRM can automatically track all emails associated with a contract as well as document sharing activities.

In addition to document management (SharePoint) and contract workflow and reporting (Dynamics CRM), you may need a digital signature capability for contracts.  DocuSign, a leading electronic signature provider, offers Docusign for Dynamics CRM Online. Other electronic signature products may be integrated into Dynamics CRM as well.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

InfoStrat QuickStart for Dynamics CRM Frequently Asked Questions

My company InfoStrat offers a QuickStart packaged service offering to help clients quickly get up and running with Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online. We receive many questions on when the QuickStart is the best fit for your CRM project.  These are the frequently asked questions (FAQ).
  1. How long does the QuickStart take? The QuickStart is a one-week engagement to get you and your users up and running with Dynamics CRM.  We provide templates for requirements and details such as user roles before the QuickStart begins. 
  2. Why should I hire a Microsoft Gold Partner to help? If this is your first experience with Dynamics CRM, you can save time and avoid false starts.  Hiring an outside consultant can increase the priority of the effort and prevent the implementation from being stalled by competing priorities.  
  3. Which CRM module should I start with? We recommend you choose from sales, service or marketing based on your business priorities.  
  4. Who participates in the QuickStart? The most successful engagements have a primary contact designated who is available throughout, and key stakeholders available as needed to quickly answer requirements questions.
  5. When should I start my CRM Online subscription? We recommend you sign up before the QuickStart, and we can help you sign up using the correct process based on your Microsoft volume licensing agreement.
  6. Where can I find self-study materials and videos to learn Dynamics CRM? A good place to begin is with Microsoft CRM videos on YouTube.  We can point you to resources most appropriate to your plans. 

Starting is the hardest part of a CRM implementation.  Once you have Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online up and running with your initial users it is much easier to add new features and reports because momentum is on your side.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Victim Notification with SAVIN: South Dakota Goes Statewide

In July 2016, South Dakota rolled out a fully statewide SAVIN notification system using the solution from InfoStrat.  

The SAVIN solution provides victims with timely and accurate notifications of changes to offender custody and case status. Built on Microsoft Dynamics CRM, it leverages the best of breed technology which is regularly upgraded by Microsoft. It provides a wide range of tools for administrators including ad hoc reporting and query development, workflow management, internal alerting, integration with Microsoft Office, role-based security, and many other standard features. 

The SAVIN solution can be implemented on premise or in the Microsoft cloud. And it can be implemented as a stand-alone solution for a specific justice organization (Corrections Department, Jail, Court, Prosecutor, etc.) or as a complete statewide solution including data from multiple justice organizations.

Highlights of the South Dakota implementation include:     
  1.  Exclusive use of the NIEM Standard SAVIN data exchange for all interfaces InfoStrat implemented the SAVIN SSP for all interfaces, which include Court, Prosecutor, Law Enforcement, Jail and Corrections data sources. This provides a single code base for all exchanges, enabling the application of both source specific and global business rules for all incoming data. This also means that all data exchanges are transmitted using web services, so the incoming data is passed at the time of data entry in the source systems.
  2. Proxy Victim Registration for Law Enforcement and State’s Attorney staff  Law enforcement and state prosecutors can register victims for notification for multiple scenarios: direct registration, third party registration (for victims in temporary shelters), and full proxy (where the victim advocate would receive notification to forward to the victim for full anonymity).
  3. Notification only for specific crimes To ensure that notification resources are used effectively, notification services are limited to offenders who commit more serious crimes. Offenders who commit non-violent crimes do not even appear on the portal for registration. This also is extended to notification about court events; only cases involving SAVIN reportable charges are included for notification.
  4. Expanded notification options for victims State’s Attorney staff confirm self-registered victims and can conduct proxy registration for victims. Victims are provided full set of notification options as to how they can be notified—phone, email, text message, letter—and are eligible for notification of all events. Individuals can also register as interested parties, but are limited to email notification and for a subset of events. The solution also relegates victims to interested party status after the sentence has been served. The person will still receive general notifications about the offender, should there be any events that follow the offender’s release.
  5. Full case updates on changes to case. Court events are defined as immediate or update events. Immediate events result in an immediate notification; update events result in a full email update of case activities at the end of the day. This keeps victims apprised of case actions without receiving a large number of notifications in a short period of time.
  6. Law Enforcement portal allows all jails to participate A law enforcement portal provides all sheriff and police offices to add and update offender data even if their jail management system is offline or has not yet integrated. Quality controls are in place to prevent jails from updating offenders currently in custody in another facility.
South Dakota also took advantage of many of the standard features of the SAVIN solution and of Dynamics CRM:
  •   Single record per Offender, so all data updates one record and victims need only sign up once. 
  •   Annual follow up of victim data to ensure contact information remains accurate.
  •   Categorized notification to allow variation of the recall schema based on urgency of the event.
  •   Notification Governor, which monitors for probably erroneous bulk data changes and prevents large numbers of erroneous notifications.
  •   Notification History, so Administrators can view all notifications provided to a specific registrant, including the text of all messages provided.
  •   Never search again logic, which allows victims to immediately view status on offenders for whom they are registered.
  •   Personalized calls to victims for truly urgent events
  •   Manual initiation of notification for unexpected events
  •   Handling for backdated events, to provide a means to explain late notifications from late arriving data.
  •   Self-Service Administration and Configuration