Tuesday, December 30, 2014

To Code or Not to Code in Dynamics CRM

Microsoft Dynamics CRM offers a wide range of features combined with the ability to customize the data model and workflows without any coding.  The question is, will these features fulfill all your business requirements or do you need to write some custom code? 

This is an important question, because once you start writing code you need to put in place a commensurate framework, methodology and platform to support it.  For instance, you may need multiple environments for development, testing, staging and production.  You may need version control for code as well as documentation. 

If you choose to go the No Code route, you may need to compromise the complexity of your business rules and change the way you work to suit the product better.  You will also have to settle for a bit less automation of some functions that could be streamlined through code. For instance, if you are determined to assign Account IDs that are a combination of the abbreviated customer name, state and date that they became a customer you will need to write some code.  Integration with other systems such as inventory or timesheets nearly always requires writing code.  Complex field derivations and validations require coding. 

If you are a do-it-yourselfer and not a programmer, and you want to implement Dynamics CRM on your own, try not to take on more than you can handle in terms of custom code.

Third party plug-ins can extend the capabilities of Dynamics CRM without forcing you to write and support custom code of your own. You can purchase plug-ins for reports and calculations or for functions such as sales tax calculation. 

Be sure to consider where you stand on custom coding in your implementation of Dynamics CRM. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Essential Dynamics CRM Customizations for Government Contractors

Microsoft Dynamics CRM offers a rich set of features and a data model for sales force automation and marketing activities.  Each industry (and each company) requires some configuration changes in order to make it work according to their business processes.

For government contractors, here are some of the most common customizations:
  1. Change the focus from individuals to organizations.  You are likely selling to agencies (accounts) rather than consumers (contacts).  Add the relevant fields to forms and views.  For instance, marketing list members doesn’t show the account name by default. 
  2. Define the sales process in opportunities.  Define all the steps that an opportunity goes through before becoming a contract, such as sources sought, request for information (RFI), request for proposal (RFP), down-select, orals, best and final offer, and verbal approvals.  Be sure to allow for all your proposal review steps. 
  3. Add fields to track contract vehicles and types of competition.
  4. Add your own metrics. For instance, we often track how many users a software system will have in order to calculate license costs.
  5. Update reference table values if needed, such as the reason for an opportunity loss.  Do you want to add an option to show you decided not to bid?
  6. Update dashboards to show what you really care about.  Win ratios?  Proposal activity?
  7. Decide how to add the documents which accompany an opportunity, such as solicitations, amendments and proposals.  You could store them in SharePoint, in attachments to Dynamics CRM or in other repositories.
  8. Add your bid team to the opportunity, showing the roles for each person in the proposal.
  9. Allow for teaming if you pursue contracts as a subcontractor or if you hire subcontractors.
  10. Decide how to use the Leads entity.  Do you want to start there for the sake of email marketing campaigns?  Do you prefer to build out the list of targeted accounts and contacts instead?
InfoStrat has put all these customizations and many more in its solution Dynamics CRM for Government Contractors. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Microsoft Services Provider License Agreement (SPLA) Benefits

Microsoft offers a special licensing plan for organizations that offer hosted software and services to end customers who can sign up for subscriptions rather than traditional perpetual software licenses. This program is Microsoft Services Provider License Agreement (SPLA) and is probably Microsoft's least understood licensing option.

Hosting providers who want to offer software services to their customers and who will include software licenses as part of their service offering should use SPLA. Microsoft SPLA is the only Microsoft Volume Licensing program that allows Microsoft products to be used for commercial hosting.

Under SPLA, Microsoft products are licensed per month, either per user or per server depending on the product.  Nearly the full catalog of Microsoft products are available under SPLA. 

If you already own perpetual licenses for Microsoft products, you can also use them in conjunction with a hosting partner, in essence extending your on premise deployment to a dedicated hosting facility. 

InfoStrat has been a Microsoft SPLA partner for over five years, allowing us to offer our clients greater flexibility than perpetual licenses as well as greater customization than Microsoft cloud hosting.