Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Getting Started with Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online



Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online offers so many features, the challenge for many businesses is where to begin.  That's why I put together the InfoStrat webinar on Getting Started with Dynamics CRM Online.

For the full presentation, you can watch the video:



Here are some highlights from the discussion:

  1. Check out the InfoStrat CRM cost calculator
  2. Microsoft provides an excellent set of Getting Started Links
  3. Visit the Dynamics YouTube channel for learning videos 

The best way to learn even more is to go ahead and subscribe to Dynamics CRM Online.  Free trials are available.




Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Researching GovCon Competitors

Library of Congress Main Reading Room -- Source: https://www.loc.gov/rr/ 
The more you know about a federal government opportunity you are pursuing, the better your chances.  You can use your CRM (perhaps InfoStrat's Dynamics CRM for GovCon solution) to track all the details of a federal government contract opportunity that you are bidding, including information on your competitors. Where do you get this information?

A good place to start is the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) on www.fpds.gov.


FPDS is free, government website which tracks procurement activities of more than 60 fedeal departments.  It is especially valuable for information on contract awards.  You can search by the name of the competitor and also by the target agency.

Looking up a contract award gives you detailed information such as the award date, award amount, contracting office name and address and much more.  Below is a cropped image from an award record.


The award information can be a jumping off point to related records.  You can follow links in many of the fields such as going to the vendor record or the contracting agency and searching for related awards.

FPDS data is included in many paid subscriptions to federal data sources, such as those listed in my previous blog post GovCon Information Sources: A List.

Another source for competitive information is from the competitors themselves.  Many share news items on government contract wins and teaming relationships on their websites.  You can search for the company name along with "contract awards" or related search keywords to find press releases.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Burn the Boats -- Software Replacement Imperatives

Source: http://learntoearnwithbob.com/how-to-stay-motivated-when-working-from-home 
Replacing a software system can be traumatic for all the people involved, but at some a decision must be made to move ashore and create a new settlement.

In my experience, the commitment of leadership to embrace the new software and work through any remaining issues must be visible to users before they share this commitment.

Like Hernán Cortés burned his boats to prevent even the idea of returning to Spain, corporate management can flip the OFF switch and show iron willpower for a software migration.

A bold migration is often less expensive then operating systems in parallel for a long period, or switching back and forth.  Shortening the time for transition can also reduce the human cost, like pulling a Band-Aid off quickly rather than slowly. 

Friday, March 4, 2016

4 Scenarios for Public Sector Customer Service

Government agencies at federal, state and local levels are trying to improve their performance and increase customer satisfaction even as resources are shrinking, and skilled workers are retiring from government service and taking their experience and knowledge with them.

Innovative government agencies are taking advantage of the latest technology to achieve better responsiveness and help people find answers more quickly 24 hours a day.  The following are four scenarios for government customer service, along with current tools and techniques.

1. Citizen Services

Many government agencies deliver services to citizens, such as social services, building inspections, public safety and many more.  These agencies make themselves available through many channels, such as office hours and call centers.

A growing technique is to enhance the agency website to include a detailed knowledge base which helps customers find answers on their own without making or phone call or waiting until office hours.  The knowledge base can take the form of frequently ask questions (FAQ) or troubleshooting wizards.

The Social Security Administration, for instance, has the following FAQ site:


The site has menu options of top help topics, a search option, and a listing of the most popular knowledge base articles. Each article captures feedback from users so that they can be continuously improved.


Investing time to build a knowledge base is an important tactic in preparing for turnover in government personnel. Writing down the knowledge and making it more widely available can improve productivity.


2. Live Chat and Social Integration

Another scenario for government customer service is live chat.  Consumers are increasingly relying on live chat to interact with companies.  It offers advantages over phone calls because it captures a written record of the transaction, and allows easy sharing of links, videos, photos and screens to zero in on an answer.  Live chat is asynchronous so customer service reps can handle more than one chat at a time, unlike a phone call.


The General Services Administration operates the USA.gov website which offers live chat. It is a portal to access all government agencies.

Social integration offers a new channel into customer service so that customers can initiate a conversation on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media which will be answered by the government agency.


Parature, from Microsoft offers multiple channels including social as well as knowledge base and a full featured service desk for managing cases.

3. Video Training

Video training allows agencies to take their knowledge base to the next level, and provide deeper interactive content for complex subjects.

The National Institutes of Health, for instance, offers a wide range of online tools for researchers.


The Small Business Administration has a learning center with dozens of instructional videos to help business get started on the right foot.



4. Agency Help Desk

In addition to customer service to the public, government agencies have high demands for internal support within their agency.  Large federal agencies must support tens of thousands of employees with sophisticated services such as on-boarding, computer support, security procedures, leave tracking, and benefits.

Most agencies have multiple help desks, often using different software systems to track trouble tickets.  It can be difficult for employees to know the best place to start for their problem or question.
Creating a single portal to get help within an agency produces the same benefits that it would for customers of that agency or a company.

New software products provide integration between help desks, allowing issues to be routed to the right people to solve problems quickly. Cazoomi, for instance, offers bi-directional integration between dozens of products including Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Parature, Jira, MailChimp, Salesforce, Netsuite and more.

Agency help desks benefit from the same tools and communication channels as outward-facing help desks, such as knowledge base, live chat, and videos. Increased transparency in government has revealed agencies that need to improve their customer service for internal and external customers, and we can expect progress in adopting tools to achieve better results.








Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Leads v Opportunities in Microsoft Dynamics CRM





When my company InfoStrat implements Dynamics CRM for a client, one of the first questions we are likely to hear is when to use the Leads entity and when to use Opportunities.

Leads is a smaller entity whose fields include topic, name, job title, email, company name, phone numbers and address.

Opportunities has topic and name information along with more fields such as the estimated close date, estimated revenue, and win probability.  It is related to Accounts and Contacts, and has lookups into each of these related entities.

The following are my thoughts on when to use each:

  1. Leads are for prospecting.  This is where you would put a mailing list from business cards that you gather at a trade show, or website visitors who register for an event or white paper.
  2. I don't mind having a large number of leads even knowing that most will never convert to opportunities.  In general, I do not want to clutter up my Accounts and Contacts with those low probability customers.
  3. Opportunities are won or lost, but you would not want to count leads that go nowhere in the same way as a proposal that was lost.  This is a good reason to distinguish between leads and opportunities. 
  4. Opportunities are the heart of sales activity.  You will use opportunities as the basis for sales pipeline meetings, and a trigger to check in with customers and prospects regarding opportunities and bids.  
  5. If you know the value and estimated date for a customer purchase, it is an opportunity rather than a lead.  Leads have much more uncertainly around them than opportunities.  
Microsoft Dynamics CRM has a built-in function to convert a lead into an Account, Contact, and Opportunity record.  This process is used during the qualification process.  Once you understand that the prospective customer has a demonstrated interest in a specific offering, you may want to convert the lead to an opportunity. 

You can build marketing lists for both leads and contacts (as well as accounts).  This means that you may end up with a parallel set of marketing lists for each.  Be sure to send marketing outreach to both leads and contacts where appropriate.