Wednesday, May 15, 2013

InfoStrat Cost Calculator for Dynamics CRM Implementations

InfoStrat has created a calculator to help customers explore costs for licensing, hosting, and professional services relating to Dynamics CRM projects.   This calculator is based on many assumptions (list price for software, nominal blended rates for services) and is missing some cost items (data migration, hardware, and integration) but is a starting point for understanding the total cost of initial implementation and total cost of ownership.

The tool will be refined based on user feedback.  It is no substitute for talking to an experienced implementation team and getting the actual prices based on your Microsoft volume licensing agreement and professional services provide.

We hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Usage Scenarios for Microsoft Grants Manager

Government agencies have diverse requirements when it comes to automating grants management.  I have been helping customers evaluate Microsoft Grants Manager and it turns out that each agency has a unique approach which requires some customization in order to optimally match their business rules.  One size definitely does not fit all when it comes to grants.

Federal agencies are the largest grantors, and rarely receive grants except perhaps from other federal agencies.  These agencies are bound by guidelines established by the Office of Management and Budget and are striving for more consistent approaches to grants such as accepting applications via the grants.gov portal.    Many of their grants are formula grants rather than competitive grants, and the formulas themselves may be quite complicated.    Typically the grant managers are scattered among offices within an agency rather than centralized, although some are consolidating.  The volume of applications and dollar value of federal grants ranges widely, but is often quite high. Most federal grantors have automated their processes but are relying on custom built solutions that may be based on outdated technology which is difficult to update as business rules change.

Local governments, on the other hand, are primarily grant recipients rather than grantors.    They are focused on applying for grants and managing the grant activities, including reporting to state or federal grantor agencies.  The most common scenario is to use Excel spreadsheets and email to manage grant information, along with the agency's accounting software.      The scattered nature of data means it is difficult to do reporting and combine data from multiple departments or agencies.   

State governments fall between the extremes of federal and local government in terms of grants.   They are both grantees and grantors. Most states have automated their grants processes, at least in larger agencies.

Microsoft Grants Manager allows each customer to tailor the solution to their requirements.  For instance, many agencies have a simple proposal review process and don't need the full sophistication of the review wizard and review group functionality in Grants Manager.   They can replace that function with a workflow that matches their process.  Specialized groups can use only a portion of the solution as needed and hide extraneous forms and reports from their menus.  Many of the customizations can be performed without programming by system administrators.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

Maps are a great complement to CRM systems, and can help you visualize data in exciting new ways.  Over the years, InfoStrat has integrated Microsoft Dynamics CRM with GIS including ArcGIS (ESRI) and Bing Maps (Microsoft).

One of our first GIS integrations was to show cases from constituent management on a map using "pushpins."  This solution allows users to see a map of open cases and filter by search criteria.

Field inspection is a great scenario for mapping.    Inspections use maps to navigate to inspection sites, and can present inspection results in maps.

Mashups of data from multiple sources, including CRM, can be useful.   This visualizations can include business graphs integrated with maps.

Interactive video conferencing often uses maps to communicate critical information.   The virtual meeting experience can be enhanced with Microsoft Kinect as a 3D controller.

Modern GIS data and images may be used for scientific and historical research.

The extensibility of Dynamics CRM makes it possible for developers to include maps in the Dynamics CRM user interface and also to make CRM data available as a web service for consumption by GIS.  By default, Dynamics CRM includes Bing Maps integration, but administrators can disable the Bing Maps or replace them with ESRI ArcGIS, Google Maps or others.