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Top 5 Predictions for Customer Relationship Management (CRM) in 2018

The prognosticating season is on us, so I will stop procrastinating and offer my predictions for customer relationship management (CRM) in 2018:
The software leaders (Salesforce and Microsoft) will extend their leads. As in many other areas of technology, the top selling products tend to gain market share, and smaller players wither or are acquired.  Salesforce is synonymous to CRM for most companies, especially when they are thinking of sales force automation and customer service.  Microsoft will drive Dynamics 365 to buyers of Office 365 as it continues to gain momentum. Microsoft will ship a small business edition of Dynamics 365 for Marketing.  This has been announced since over a year ago, but has seemingly slipped into 2018. Cloud deployment of CRM will continue to grow, compared to on premises deployment in corporate data centers.  Security accreditation for cloud providers have boosted confidence and allowed even some government customers to adopt cloud deployments.Many will bo…

Microsoft Dynamics for Human Capital Management

Microsoft continues to release new Dynamics software offerings at a rapid pace.  This post is to introduce Microsoft solutions for human capital management. Future posts will provide more product comparisons. 
The flagship Microsoft Dynamics product is Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations (Enterprise Edition): https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics365/unified-operations/fin-and-ops/  It is a full fledged enterprise resource planning solution which competes with SAP and Oracle.  It includes financials as well as HR benefits, employee development and training, recruiting and payroll.  This product was derived from Dynamics AX, a mature product with a wide global user base.  
Microsoft has recently created a related product called Dynamics 365 for Talent  https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics365/unified-operations/talent/index
The functions offered by Dynamics 365 for Talent overlap with Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations (Enterprise Edition) but it does not contain some …

Flexible Grant Management Software: Long Term Considerations

My company InfoStrat has developed grant management systems for federal, state, and local governments as well as non-profits for nearly twenty years.  I have noticed a new emphasis on the requirement for flexibility in creating a system which can be easily modified to handle new grant programs and changes in business rules.

Here are my top dos and don'ts from our experience and that of our customers:

Whether you are a grantor or a grantee, don't develop a new system for every program.  When a new program is created, it may seem simpler to start from scratch and spin up a new system in order to avoid changes to your existing system.  This approach is an easy trap to fall into, but later you will end up with multiple systems which separately need to be maintained, upgraded, and enhanced.  Creating reports that combine data from multiple systems is needlessly difficult compared to using a centralized, integrated approach from the beginning.Consider your enterprise architecture. Do…

LinkedIn Sales Navigator Integration with Microsoft Dynamics 365

Social selling is a fast growing category for sales force automation.  Since Microsoft acquired LinkedIn, the leading professional social network in the United States, it has been adding features and improving the user experience in order to support social selling for business-to-business companies.  For most companies, the central repository for sales information is the customer relationship management (CRM) system.  Microsoft is one of the leaders in CRM with its Dynamics 365 (formerly Dynamics CRM) product, so integration with LinkedIn is a natural extension of CRM and a solid platform for anyone interested in social selling.
The primary social selling tool in LinkedIn is Sales Navigator. Dynamics 365 integration with LinkedIn Sales Navigator offers many features: Log Sales Navigator activity directly into CRMAutomatically import accounts, contacts, and lead records that your team is actively working from CRM into Sales NavigatorAutomatically log InMails, Messages, and Notes direct…

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…

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.   T…

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.

The Grants Manager Plus solution accelerator is an all-in-one, integrated solution that simplifies the grants process from initial…

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:
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.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.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.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.  Of…

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:

Dynamics CRM and Government Contracting S…

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…

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…

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 wer…

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:

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. 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.  Provide access to people outside your organization.  The portal access can be protected by different security mechanisms…

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 enterpris…

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:

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.Sandboxes are great for testing before you release a solution to production.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.For evaluating Dynamics solutions, a sandbox is more permanent than signing up for a trial account which will end.   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 t…

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.



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 Conne…

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 analytic…

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 che…

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 intelligenceUse Office 365 and Dynamics 365 data to reveal relationship health and risk Build trust with customers with product recommendationsEngage 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 SalesWork on the go—anytime, anywhere—with rich, mobile apps that provide contextual news, social dat…

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 documentsDocument and approval trackingContract authoringExecutionCompliance monitoringRetention
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…

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 reco…

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 …