Monday, October 30, 2017

Migrating from Parature to Microsoft Dynamics 365: Part 2


On October 9, 2017, Microsoft released a migration tool to help its Parature customer service customers migrate to Microsoft Dynamics 365.   This blog post is a continuation of the first post in the Parature migration series.

The Parature migration tool provides capabilities to export data from Parature, map the data to Dynamics 365 fields, and configure a Dynamics 365 portal to replace the Parature customer service portal functionality. The tool is accompanied by training videos. 

In order to use the migration tool, you must be a Parature customer and request access from Microsoft technical support.  The tool is tied to your specific instance of Parature, so it requires configuration by Microsoft before you can use it.  It includes solutions that are installed in your instance of Dynamics 365.

Microsoft provides mapping of fields for entities such as contacts, accounts, cases (trouble tickets) and knowledge base articles.  In addition, the tool supports mapping of your custom fields. You can save your configurations and perform as many test migrations as necessary.

Migrating your data from Parature to Dynamics 365 provides an opportunity for data cleansing.  For instance, you may want to delete fake email account records if you receive online support inquiries from bogus email addresses or identities.  Many organizations are hit by spammers who use support email aliases because they are published on your website and discovered through searches for email addresses.

You could also clean up your data further if desired by removing erroneous cases that do not contribute to improving your customer service or are not used to derive your case performance metrics.  These may be cases submitted by SPAM accounts but they could also be other forms on illegitimate cases.

Part 3 of this series will focus on the migration of the customer service portal.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Amazing Subscription Deal for Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales and Marketing -- For Small Business



My blog is not usually focused on bargain hunting, but Microsoft is offering a promotion for a limited time which represents more than fifty percent off the normal price of a Dynamics 365 Sales subscription for qualifying small businesses.  The offer is called Dynamics 365 for Sales and Customer Service, Enterprise Editions (SMB Offer) and the offer ID is 4F01C23A-C125-4E94-AAC4-E7B741C98052.

For U.S. customers, contact sales@infostrat.com for a price quote.

Sales Only.  A temporary promotional SKU for a version of Dynamics 365 for Sales, Enterprise edition is available for up to 50 users with an estimated retail price of USD $40/user/month compared to the standard retail price of $95/user/month.

Sales and Limited Marketing. A similar version is available which includes sales and limited marketing functions for $65/user/month.

As you may know, Microsoft is planning to release Business Editions of Dynamics 365 for small business, but has experienced delays in getting them to market.   The promotion is intended to bridge the gap before the new Business Edition is available.  Only new customers are eligible for the promotions.

Here are the details from the information sheet:

Dynamics 365 for Sales, Enterprise edition (SMB Offer). A temporary SKU for a version of Dynamics 365 for Sales, Enterprise edition is available with an estimated retail price of USD $40/user/month. This SKU includes both the Sales functionality and the basic Marketing elements currently within Dynamics CRM Online (e.g. campaign and lead management, but not Microsoft Dynamics Marketing). The temporary SKU does not include access to any Customer Service functionality, as that is now part of the Customer Service application within the Dynamics 365 Enterprise edition. Use rights of this temporary SKU are identical to those of the regular Dynamics 365 for Sales, Enterprise edition license, except there is no access to Operations, and there are no dual use rights. 

Dynamics 365 for Sales and Customer Service, Enterprise edition (SMB Offer). Dynamics 365 for Sales and Customer Service, Enterprise edition is available with an estimated retail price of USD $65/user/month. This SKU includes the functionality of the current Sales, Enterprise edition, and the Customer Service, Enterprise edition. Use rights of this temporary SKU are identical to those of the regular Dynamics 365 for Sales, Enterprise edition and Dynamics 365 for Customer Service, Enterprise edition licenses combined, except there is no access to Operations, and there are no dual use rights.

Dynamics 365 for Team Members, Enterprise edition (SMB Offer). New customers that purchase the above SKUs will also be able to obtain a version of Team Members, Enterprise edition targeted at SMB customers with an estimated retail price of $5/user/month, which is in alignment with the current Dynamics 365 Business edition pricing. Use rights of this temporary SKU are identical to those of the regular Dynamics 365 for Team Members, Enterprise edition, except there is no access to Operations, and there are no dual use rights.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Grant Management with FedRAMP Certification: Microsoft Dynamics 365


Federal agencies that administer grant programs are obligated to move to cloud solutions where possible, while maintaining adherence with security regulations such as FedRAMP which set high standards for cloud data centers.

Dynamics 365 U.S. Government was granted a FedRAMP Agency ATO at the Moderate Impact Level by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Although the scope of the certification is limited to the Government Community Cloud, Dynamics 365 U.S. Government business and enterprise plans operate following the same set of stringent FedRAMP controls. For instance, Microsoft operates cloud data centers in the United States that are staffed by U.S. citizens only.

Grants Manager Plus running on the Microsoft Government Cloud allows agencies to fulfill their mission as grantors with a cloud solution that has achieved FedRAMP compliance.

Grantees submit applications and post-award reports through a grants portal. 
The Grants Manager Plus solution accelerator is an all-in-one, integrated solution that simplifies the grants process from initial solicitation through review, scoring, award, payment processing and post award reporting.  Powered by Microsoft Dynamics 365, it includes optional integration with Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations to offer a financial back-end process, such as authorization of funding sources and processing of payment requests from Grants Manager Plus.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Dynamics 365 for Government Contractors (GovCon) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

One of InfoStrat's most popular solutions is Dynamics 365 for Government Contractors (GovCon).

Here are some answers to frequently asked question on this solution:
  1. Can I add new fields to the solution?  -- Yes, the solution is fully customizable and you can add your own new fields to any form, view or report.
  2. Does Dynamics 365 for GovCon work on mobile devices?  -- Yes, Microsoft offers mobile apps for all the most popular platforms including iPhone, iPad, and Android phone and tablets.
  3. Does Dynamics 365 connect with bid data systems such as Deltek and Onvia?  -- Some information services, such as Onvia, offer integration with Dynamics 365.  Others require third party solutions such as the InfoStrat integration with Deltek GovWin IQ.
  4. What do customers typically customize for their unique requirements? -- Not all contractors follow the same steps in the capture process.  Most clients will tailor the business process to add or remove steps in order to match their sales methodology.  Often clients have their own preferences for reports such as changing sorting, graphs, and other ways to render data.
  5. How long does an implementation take? -- The InfoStrat QuickStart for GovCon has your company up and running in one week.  Larger implementations with multiple departments and processes take longer. 
  6. How are teaming partners supported? -- Our clients often use SharePoint and OneDrive to share documents with teaming partners. 
  7. Which edition of Dynamics 365 is needed for GovCon? -- The capture management solution runs on Dynamics 365 for Sales (enterprise edition).

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Onvia 8 Now Available: Find Government Contracting Opportunities

Onvia recently shipped a new version of its government contracting information service - Onvia 8.

The latest version brings a clean, new  interface along with many new search features:



 Onvia now provides better support for mobile devices than ever:



For me, one of the most exciting features is integration with CRM systems.  Onvia supports Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Salesforce, the two most popular CRM systems in the world.

A video demo is available:


Onvia 8 | Onvia


This means that you can view an opportunity in Onvia and quickly convert it to an opportunity in CRM, along with information on the government agencies and contacts related to the opportunity.

Onvia is an excellent complement to InfoStrat's GovCon CRM solution.  With Onvia, you can find opportunities across the country that you would have otherwise overlooked, and gain market intelligence to make your proposals more competitive.

For more posts on CRM for government contracting, see:

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Grant Management Portal: What to Include



If your government agency or non-profit provides grants, your applicants and grantees may expect a web portal to apply for a grant, check on that status of their applications, and submit post-award reports.  Grant software such as Microsoft Grants Manager Plus offer portals which allow you to interact with your data via the portal rather than store the data in a second place and replicate the data.

This blog post offers ideas for how to get the most out of your grantee portal, and which features and content to include in your implementation.

Consider which elements you will offer to anonymous users and which will be visible only to applicants and grantees who log in.

Grant Program Background

The portal may be the first place that the public and grant applicants learn about your programs.  It is a place to tell your story, with text, photos and videos that show how your grants make an impact.

Dynamic content can include reports, graphs and maps showing who receives grants and how they are spent.  For instance, several of our clients included maps showing the impact of economic stimulus spending on public infrastructure.

Eligibility Rules and Application Instructions

The portal should contain eligibility information for prospective grantees, and contact information for grant managers or your help desk where applicants can turn for additional information.  This is general static information which can be conveyed through HTML pages or links to documents as appropriate.

Online Applications

Applicants often expect to be able to apply online. Applications usually consist of online forms along with file attachments for backup materials such as budgets or longer narratives.  Be sure that your portal saves data often so that applicants don't lose data they enter in an incomplete application.  Similarly, unless they are quite simple, most grant applications are not finished in a single session. You should allow applicants to save their work and resume the application later.

Consider including training videos, especially if your applications or process are complex.

Grantee Documents and Templates

In addition to application forms, you may want to provide document and spreadsheet templates to your prospective applicants.  Documents such as these may be stored on your web server or in SharePoint or another document management system.

Grantee Login

Before they apply, you will want applicants to create user accounts and provide their profile information.  Microsoft Dynamics portal provides facilities for creating accounts, changing passwords, and lost password recovery.  Consider using multi-factor authentication, such as sending a confirmation code to a mobile phone, if this is appropriate for your organization.

Application Status

The portal should allow authenticated (logged on) applicants to view the status of their grants and applications.   Often this is shown as a table on their home page.

Payment Requests

The portal can allow grantees to submit payment requests based on grant activities.  These requests may be tied with status reports.  Often the payment request is integrated with the financial management system to initiate the process of reviewing and issuing the payment.

Post Award Reports

One of the most valuable functions of a grants portal is to allow grantees to submit periodic post award reports.  These reports often include attachments with material such as receipts or spending details.

For more information on grant management and Microsoft Grants Manager Plus, see my posts:

Microsoft Grants Manager Plus Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
6 Things to Look for in Grant Management Software
Estimating the Cost of a Microsoft Grants Manager Plus Implementation
Grants Manager Plus: Theme and Variations
Microsoft Grants Manager Plus
Online Resources for Microsoft Grants Manager Plus
Portal Options for Microsoft Grants Manager
Statewide Grant Management Systems
Usage Scenarios for Microsoft Grants Manager

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Grant Management for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)

Hurricane Harvey reminds us that Americans are vulnerable to natural disasters which can be devastating, especially to low income cities and counties.  Federal grants are key to recovery and rebuilding efforts.

As explained on its website, "HUD provides flexible grants to help cities, counties, and States recover from Presidentially declared disasters, especially in low-income areas, subject to availability of supplemental appropriations. In response to Presidentially declared disasters, Congress may appropriate additional funding for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program as Disaster Recovery grants to rebuild the affected areas and provide crucial seed money to start the recovery process. Since CDBG Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) assistance may fund a broad range of recovery activities, HUD can help communities and neighborhoods that otherwise might not recover due to limited resources."

Grants Manager Plus for Microsoft Dynamics 365 includes key functions needed for managing Community Development Block Grants, allowing CDBG recipients and sub-recipients at all levels of state and local government to track their applications, grants, post-award reports and payments.

To tailor Grants Manager Plus for your unique requirements, it may be integrated with your financial management system to process payment requests and report on budgets using your chart of accounts.

The solution is based on Microsoft Dynamics 365, and may be hosted online by Microsoft or on premises at a customer's data center.  It allows sub-recipients to access information through the Microsoft Dynamics Portal, a website which is simple to use for applications and reporting.

You can use SharePoint to store documents such as application forms and templates with Microsoft's included integration services.

For more information on grant management and Microsoft Grants Manager Plus, see my posts:

Microsoft Grants Manager Plus Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
6 Things to Look for in Grant Management Software
Estimating the Cost of a Microsoft Grants Manager Plus Implementation
Grants Manager Plus: Theme and Variations
Microsoft Grants Manager Plus
Online Resources for Microsoft Grants Manager Plus
Portal Options for Microsoft Grants Manager
Statewide Grant Management Systems
Usage Scenarios for Microsoft Grants Manager

Monday, August 21, 2017

Migrating from Parature to Microsoft Dynamics 365: Part 1

Breaking News: Microsoft has updated the release date of the Parature migration tool to the end of September 2017.

In spring 2017, Microsoft announced that it was phasing out its Parature cloud customer service offering in favor of Dynamics 365 for Customer Service, one of the Dynamics 365 apps based on what was previously called Dynamics CRM.  Parature customers and Microsoft partners were informed of this plan in August 2016 prior to the release of Dynamics 365.

Microsoft also announced a toolkit with tools for migrating accounts, files and other assets; templates for creating support portals and customer service workflows; and tutorials and documentation. As of this writing the toolkit is not available, but scheduled to be released at the end of September 2017.

In the absence of a migration tool, what are the steps to migrating from Parature to Dynamics 365?  What are your migration options?

First, you should catalog your Parature implementation to determine which features you were using and where your customer service data resides.  The planning documents from your Parature implementation such as design templates are valuable here.  Your analysis should answer questions such as these:

  • Are you using Live Chat?
  • Does Parature integrate with any other systems?
  • Do you want to migrate all your past data or only a subset of the data? 
  • Do you want to run in parallel during the migration or cut over completely?
  • Will you migrate groups of users separately or all at once?
  • How is authentication managed for your customer service representatives?  You will be moving to the Dynamics 365 authentication which is managed by Office 365 and may be integrated with your domain login. 
Parature includes an export feature which generates delimited text files for data including Accounts, Customers, Ticket data, Phone Calls and Notes, Tasks, Products, Emails, and Knowledgebase References.  You can use the import feature in Dynamics 365 to import these records or a third party integration tool such as Scribe or Kingswaysoft.  Be sure to consider the relationships among the entities that you are importing so that you import them in the correct order.  

Migrating to Dynamics 365 provides the opportunity to take advantage of new features in the Dynamics 365 platform which were not available in Parature.  This is a good time to review these and determine whether to implement them in the initial migration or add them as needed later.  For instance:
  • Should Live Chat be added now if not using before?  Dynamics 365 uses CafeX for Live Chat.
  • What new dashboards and reports would your users like to see?
  • Do you want to make your customer service portal look different than it did when implemented in Parature? 

While Parature provided a complete, integrated customer service cloud, it was not based on the Microsoft Dynamics architecture, and did not lend itself to being as easily or thoroughly customized. Developers with experience on the Microsoft platform in general and Dynamics 365 in particular can apply their skills to reshape Dynamics 365 for Customer Service and also combine its functions with apps those such as Dynamics 365 for Sales, Project Service, or Field Service.

Unlike Parature, the customer service portal is based on Microsoft Dynamics Portal. Configuration settings for the portal are stored in Dynamics 365, and many changes may be made without extensive HTML coding.

The user experience for customer service representatives is quite different in Dynamics 365 for Customer Service from Parature.  The good news is that there is more extensive training material, videos and official Microsoft courseware for Dynamics 365.



Wednesday, July 26, 2017

5 Ways that Portals Improve Your CRM



Today I received a blog suggestion to explain why you might want to have a portal for your customer relationship management (CRM) system.  I have written about Portal Options for Microsoft Dynamics 365 recently, but I didn't provide reasons why you might want to use a portal.  So here are my Top Five Ways that Portals Improve Your CRM:

  1. Provide a simple user experience for occasional users. You don't want to train users on a full featured CRM system in order to enter a handful of fields to make a request to the human resources or information technology departments.  The portal offers simple forms to gather only the information you need based on information stored in CRM. 
  2. Integrate Dynamics 365 data with other systems.  A portal provides another approach to allow a single screen to show multiple data sources for viewing and data entry, including Dynamics 365.  
  3. Provide access to people outside your organization.  The portal access can be protected by different security mechanisms than those you use internal to your organization.  The portal may allow for self provisioning of accounts or go through an approval process. 
  4. Match your website branding. A portal can be customized to match the colors, fonts, layouts and other stylistic elements of your website and portal pages can show data from your CRM in the context of the site's navigation. 
  5. Combine Dynamics 365 data with other web content. The portal can show a SharePoint document library of forms and templates, for example.  Online grant applications are a good fit for a portal so that applicants can see instructions, videos, and documents as well as complete online applications. 
Some of these ways that portals add value to your CRM overlap with one another. For instance, users outside your organization are more likely to need a simpler user experience and a different way of authenticating themselves.  

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Defining "Enterprise Software" is Harder than Ever


In July 2017 Microsoft announced another set of name changes and new bundles for many of their Dynamics brand products. Most significant was the release of some new products for the Business Edition.  Dynamics 365 for Operations (an enterprise edition product) and Dynamics 365 Finance (a business edition product) were both renamed Finance and Operations within their respective editions.

This reminds me that it is not easy to segment software into enterprise and small business categories. For many years, Microsoft centered its business on servers and PCs, so the number of PCs and servers at a company determined whether they were a small, medium-sized or large business. This approach no longer holds up in the era of selling apps and services.

The most complex enterprise software for manufacturing, inventory, and engineering may have only a small number of end users, but it definitely qualifies as enterprise-class software.  My company has had small company clients which found enterprise software products fit their needs better than what is targeted to small businesses.

Counting total employees is not always a good measure of determining whether a company needs enterprise software.  Some companies have large numbers of laborers who are not knowledge workers, and not every company aspires to the same level of automation.

Twenty years ago we used to joke that the difference between business and enterprise software meant that you would add another zero or two to the price tag.  This is still the case, but cloud vendors are making the entry point for even enterprise products much lower on a per user basis than traditional software licensing models.

To determine which products fit for you, you must ignore the labels and look closely at the underlying capabilities in order to make the best choices.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

6 Reasons to Use Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sandbox Instances



Microsoft hosts production and non-production instances of Dynamics 365 (formerly called Dynamics CRM).  Most organizations using Dynamics 365 will benefit from having at least one sandbox instance for their solutions.

Here are the top reasons you should consider a sandbox:

  1. When you are developing solutions, the sandbox can be the development environment.  This means that you will not disrupt users who will be in the production instance.
  2. Sandboxes are great for testing before you release a solution to production.
  3. You can use sandboxes for training.  Users can add or delete whatever data the want during the training sessions without fear or harming the production system.
  4. For evaluating Dynamics solutions, a sandbox is more permanent than signing up for a trial account which will end.   
  5. Sandboxes offer some administrative controls which are not available in production instances, such as the ability to reset a sandbox instance which essentially wipes the solution and restores Dynamics 365 to default settings. 
  6. Microsoft provides Administrative Mode for sandboxes which only allows System Administrator and System customizers to log in and make changes. 
Microsoft Dynamics allows you to copy an instance in order to move a solution from production to a sandbox or vice versa. The copy instance feature allows you to determine whether to include all data, users and customizations or exclude the data.  Normally you will want to include test data in a sandbox for testing and training. 

What about subscriptions or licenses for Dynamics 365 sandboxes? The key thing to remember is that user subscriptions are based on named users and not on instances.  If you have 25 users and 3 instances (1 production, 1 development and 1 test) you only need 25 user subscriptions.  Microsoft provides a free sandbox instance for customers with 25 or more users and sells additional instances for a monthly fee. 

For more technical details, see Understanding Dynamics 365 Online Instance Management

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Portal Options for Microsoft Dynamics 365

Many Dynamics 365 (formerly Dynamics CRM) solutions involve external or occasional users who do not need access to the full Dynamics 365 user interface and would be better served with a simplified view of selected forms and reports.

Microsoft does not charge additional license or subscriptions for external users of your Dynamics 365. 

Here are some products that provide portal functionality for Dynamics 365:

Dynamics 365 Portal

In September 2015, Microsoft acquired Adxstudio which had long been providing a portal for Dynamics CRM and a less powerful, free version under the auspices of Microsoft.


Source: Microsoft

Microsoft used Adxstudio as the basis of its latest portal product, Dynamics 365 Portal which is available for Dynamics 365 users as part of the Plan 1 subscription bundle. 

Here are the steps to activate a Dynamics 365 Portal.

Dynamics 365 Portal is not available to run on premises.

The Portal Connector


Pavliks offers The Portal Connector for Dynamics CRM based on Telerik Sitefinity. The Portal Connector is priced at $14,995 ($3,000 of which is for the Sitefinity software license) with an optional e-commerce connector for $7,000.


Because The Portal Connector is based on Sitefinity, you also end up with a complete content management system for your website.


Microsoft Adxstudio

Microsoft has discontinued development of Adxstudio, but made it available on GitHub for on premises implementations.  


Source: Microsoft
InfoStrat PortVue Portal for Dynamics 365

The InfoStrat PortVue portal simplifies portal access to Dynamics CRM, allowing you to
  • Support anonymous and authenticated users
  • Configure web pages which combine multiple elements such as editable data grids, data forms, and static HTML content
  • Enter data into multiple Dynamics CRM entities from a single web page
  • Allow document attachments to online forms
  • Run reports and export as PDF, Excel and other formats
  • Provides sortable grid editing for multiple records
  • Enforce Dynamics CRM security model and provide additional levels of security
  • Allow enterprise search across multiple Dynamics CRM entities
  • Support multiple browsers
  • Deploy on Microsoft and open source web platforms
  • Provide self-registration, password reset, and password encryption
  • Access other back-end systems





    Monday, June 12, 2017

    InfoStrat Joins Microsoft CityNext



    This month my company InfoStrat announced its participation in Microsoft CityNext, a global initiative empowering cities, businesses and citizens to re-imagine their futures and cultivate vibrant communities. Through the Microsoft CityNext initiative, Microsoft and InfoStrat will help leaders to do “new with less,” by combining the power of technology with innovative ideas to connect  governments, businesses and citizens with city services that increase efficiencies, reduce costs, foster a more sustainable environment and cultivate communities where people thrive.

    In a recent study, IDC named Microsoft the most trusted smart-city vendor. "Whether it's traffic congestion, citizen services, energy efficiency or operating costs, our Microsoft CityNext partners are equipped to tackle whatever problem or priority local governments want to address. Microsoft’s IDC smart-city scores are really a credit to our partners, which leverage our trusted cloud platform, powerful data analytics, security and privacy infrastructures, and other advanced capabilities to enable smart-city innovations."

    Cities have long been the center of industrial, economic and entrepreneurial activity fueling the rest of the world’s success. Today, as more of the world’s population urbanizes, cities face mounting pressures and challenges to maintain high standards and quality of life for citizens. It is expected that by 2050, seven out of every 10 people will live in a city.  Leveraging a broad portfolio of familiar and security-enhanced consumer-to-business software, partner solutions, devices and services and Microsoft’s history of successful education and social programs, Microsoft CityNext is a collective effort that helps cities anticipate and plan for these changes and challenges, enabling them to meet citizens’ needs, thrive economically and embrace modernity.

    “We’re thrilled to partner with InfoStrat on Microsoft CityNext. Microsoft prioritizes a people- and partner-first approach across all our initiatives, and Microsoft CityNext is no different,” said Trudy Norris-Grey, managing director, business development, Worldwide Public Sector, Microsoft.  “While cities are feeling the strain from economic challenges, Microsoft CityNext ushers in innovative technology solutions to create opportunities for cities and their citizens, enabling them to accomplish what they never thought possible. We’re inspired by our diverse partner ecosystem and know that working together we can help cities realize their full potential.”

    I will explain some of the accomplishments and priorities of CityNext in future blog posts. 


    Tuesday, June 6, 2017

    Recruiting with Dynamics 365 and ClickDimensions


    Marketing automation is not just for traditional marketing.  Some organizations, including government agencies and educational institutes, can benefit from integrating automated marketing campaigns with their recruiting efforts.

    My company InfoStrat has helped civilian and military government clients automate their recruiting processes.  As employment rates have improved recently, recruiting has become more challenging than ever, so tools which provide an edge are vital.

    A customer relationship management system such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 provides a central store of information on recruiting prospects.  By adding automation from ClickDimensions, recruiters can reach prospects with their message using tactics such as:

    • Event marketing - If you hold in-person or online recruiting events, ClickDimensions tracks the open rate and response rate for email invitations, and even integrates with services such as GoToWebinar and Eventbrite. The system offers quick create registration and check-in forms for events. Event Registrations and Check-ins create Event participation records and help the host track analytics around their event. Campaign Automation also integrates with Events by incorporating and Event Registration trigger to initiate your automation.
    • Nurture campaigns and campaign automation- Recruiting can be a long process, starting with awareness and working toward a closer relationship that results in a hire. ClickDimensions offers a visual editor for setting up the steps of a nurture campaign. 
    • Inbound website analytics. Track the behavior of website visitors to understand how your web content is working and improve the quality of the user experience. 
    • Qualify and quantify your leads and contacts through automated scoring. Lead and contact scoring includes, form submissions, visits, page views, opportunities created, opportunities lost, and email clicks.
    • Email campaign automations– Bulk Marketing emails can reach a large group of prospects with related interests. Marketing lists can be managed through form submissions and used in bulk marketing emails to market organization openings, opportunities, and upcoming related events. These actions can all be incorporated in campaign automation as well. 
    • Whitepaper and other downloads. Set up registration for downloads to add prospects to you mailing lists. 
    Together, these marketing automation techniques can increase the number of prospective recruits and raise awareness of your organization.  

    Related posts:

    Thursday, May 25, 2017

    Microsoft Announces LinkedIn Sales Bundle



    As I discussed in my previous blog post, the Microsoft acquisition of LinkedIn is likely to bear significant fruit.  We are starting to see changes such as the new user interface of LinkedIn.  Now Microsoft has announced a sales bundle which included Dynamics 365 and LinkedIn Sales Navigator.

    The Microsoft Relationship Sales solution bundle will be priced at $135/mo. compared to purchasing Sales Navigator and Dynamics 365 separately at $64.99 user/month and $95 user/month.

    The solution helps sales professionals:

    • Identifying prospects based on predictive intelligence
    • Use Office 365 and Dynamics 365 data to reveal relationship health and risk 
    • Build trust with customers with product recommendations
    • Engage your customers in more personalized, effective ways 
    • Easily collaborate and share conversations, events, notes, and sales content with colleagues—even if they aren’t using Dynamics 365 for Sales
    • Work on the go—anytime, anywhere—with rich, mobile apps that provide contextual news, social data, and task flows
    • Use process automation and a guided sales process
    Saving money is good, and I expect that new features will be introduced into Dynamics 365 to take advantage of LinkedIn capabilities as well. 

    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.