Thursday, January 26, 2017

Digital Transformation with ClickDimensions and Dynamics 365

Source:ClickDimensions.com


This is the second in a series of blog posts on digital transformation and the customer experience.  I'm going to illustrate concrete ways in which real world events and actions are transformed into the digital record.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 provides sales and marketing automation, tracking the customer experience. ClickDimensions is an add-on for Dynamics 365 that allows you to create rich email campaigns, communicate with customers via text messages, track clicks to web properties and much more.

Here is a logical map of how you can perform digital transformation on your marketing and sales activities, based on products that we use at my company InfoStrat:

Action / System
CRM
Email
ClickDimensions
Website
Lead Score
Whitepaper Download
Stores contact information
N/A
Track clicks on website; creates contacts
Ask for contact email
Y
Contact Us form on website
Stores contact information
Alert to sales department
Creates contact
Form
Y
Click on ad
N/A -- anonymous

N/A
Tracks referrer
N
Invite to webinar/seminar
Marketing list
Email invitation
N/A
Event schedule and registration form
 N
Register for webinar
Stores contact information
Send confirmation and reminders
Creates contacts
Registration form
Y
Tradeshow attendee
Scan business card or import from file – could be mobile device
N/A
Create marketing list
N/A
Y
Inbound call
Enter call or phone  integration
N/A
N/A
N/A
Y
Inbound email
Enter email manually or automatically
Route based on rules
N/A
N/A
Y
Outbound email
Contact information and activities
Send from email
Open and click statistics
N/A
N
Sales call
Track appointment
N/A
N/A
N/A
Y
Social contact
Track contact
N/A
Lookup social profiles
N/A
Y

This map helps you identify the sales and marketing events performed by both you and your prospective customers and "digitize" them by tracking in your CRM system as well as building up a lead score which assigns values to each action taken.

The CRM system is the central repository for your sales and marketing digital transformation, because it track information that originates from other systems such as your website, social media, event registration, and email.  Marketing automation functions in ClickDimensions make it easy to create outbound actions such as email invitations and also customer actions (clicking on a web page or an email link) and is integrated with CRM which stores the information.

We are using Microsoft Dynamics 365 (formerly Microsoft Dynamics CRM) but you may be using another CRM such as Salesforce. Mobile devices may be used by customers and sales staff to initiate actions tracked in your CRM sales system or view information.

The benefit of digital transformation of sales and marketing is having a central repository to track your activities and progress.  You can report on the effectiveness of your initiatives over time, and gain insights on customer behavior that leads to successful sales.  Customer self-service is growing quickly, and without an integrated approach and system you may be blind to the transformation that is underway in your industry.




Friday, January 20, 2017

Digital Transformation and the Customer Experience



Digital transformation, the reshaping of business activities and processes based on digital tools and technologies, is creating sweeping changes in many areas of life.  Startups have introduced disruptive approaches to such simple activities as how to buy a cup of coffee or how to find a tango dance partner while waiting on a flight in the airport.

While consumer sales have been the leading edge of digital transformation, we are now seeing similar innovation in business-to-business marketing.  In part, this is caused by new customer expectations which derive consumer goods to business purchasing.  Young people today are digital natives who are accustomed to access to digital information and communication.  If I can reserve a rental car from my smartphone, why can't I issue a solicitation to buy a new machine for my factory or medical office from a mobile device?  Why can't I get an instant estimate for my commercial office move emailed from the estimator's tablet?

A few years ago, it was common for websites to ask you to call a sales person to get further information such as pricing.  This is no longer acceptable because buyers want self-service access to technical specifications, training and even pricing information.  By the time that they call on the phone or send a request for a quote, they are already well informed and know what to expect from the vendor.

Here is a sample of the old customer engagement process:

  1. Customer searches online for products and vendors.
  2. Vendor websites contain brochures with fluffy product descriptions. 
  3. Customer goes to convention center for industry trade show to see products.
  4. Sales representative gets business card from customer and calls to schedule meeting and demonstration.
  5. Customer issues purchase order and delivery is scheduled. 

Here is a sample of a new customer engagement process:

  1. Customer goes to an online forum on LinkedIn and asks for product recommendations.
  2. Web searches for product reviews connect the customer to blogs of thought leaders and product comparisons by third parties as well as to the vendor websites.
  3. Experts may be consulted online such as reading Gartner or Forrester reports on technology.
  4. Instead of arranging an in-person sales call, the customer watches YouTube video demos anonymously.
  5. When the customer downloads a whitepaper from the vendor website, they opt to be added to an email mailing list.
  6. Product pricing is shown on the vendor's website. 
  7. The vendor invites the customer to a webinar based on their download of the white paper.
  8. At the webinar, the customer gets answers to their technical questions.
  9. Customer signs up for free 30-day trial and after 30 days becomes paying customer.
Many of these steps in the customer engagement process are digital and can be personalized, measured, metered, and automated.  

For instance, a bank could personalize its website, so that only the most relevant options and promotions are visible based on the behavior of the website visitor.  If you click on commercial banking on the top menu, you are likely to be searching for business rather than consumer services, so offers can be tailored appropriately.  Businesses such as insurance companies whose prices and products are different depending on your location can show and hide web elements to tailor them to the visitor.

Digital transformation produces benefits for the customer such as quickly finding suitable products at a lower price 24 hours a day, and benefits the seller because they can reduce the cost of sales and end up with customers more likely to be satisfied because they are better informed.  

In future blog posts, we will take a closer look at how digital transformation is implemented, using specific tools and technologies. 




Monday, January 16, 2017

Dynamics 365 Implementation: Estimating Services Costs

In my previous post What does Dynamics 365 (formerly CRM) Cost?, we looked at the Microsoft subscription costs for Dynamics 365.    Now let's tackle the cost of customizations and software development.

The least expensive solutions usually are for the most common CRM scenarios, such as sales force automation, customer service, and marketing (or outreach).   These scenarios match the out-of-the-box functionality of Dynamics 365 well to begin with. 

Why Can't I Just Use Dynamics 365 with No Customizations?

Each business or organization that uses Dynamics 365 has some requirements that are not met with the product right out of the box.  Dynamics 365 is designed to allow configuration and customizations to make it work they way that you work. You are likely to require some additional data elements and reports, and nearly certain to need some workflows to match your business processes, but will not need too many new fields or entities.

For instance, if you are automating your sales process, you may want to add fields to the Opportunities entity to track all the stages that you consider part of the sales process.  My company InfoStrat is a government contractor, so we added dozens of fields which show all the stages of a typical government sale as well as set-aside categories and other attributes of government work. These customizations are included in the InfoStrat Dynamics 365 for Government Contractors solution.

Even more customization is requirement for so-called xRM solutions which are those that do not match the out-of-the-box entities, forms and reports, and which require integration with other systems.

Here are some of the key items to count and characterize:

  1. Identify all the data elements you need to track, and map them to the Dynamics 365 data model.   This exercise will show which attributes you need to add to existing entities and which new custom entities you will need to create.
  2. Examine the user interface and determine whether you need customizations to the look and feel.   If you want distinct forms for each user role, for instance, the cost of the implementation (and subsequent maintenance) will increase.
  3. Enumerate and specify all the reports you will need.    Try to categorize them by complexity to simplify estimation.     We usually break them into simple (lists), moderate (some aggregation) and complex (multi-entity and more complicated calculations). Every Dynamics CRM implementation we have done requires some custom reports.   Be sure to take a look at Advanced Find to see if it can satisfy any of your reporting requirements.
  4. Determine which dashboards you will need.    Dashboards combine business graphs with views into records.    Dynamics 365 comes with standard dashboards for sales, marketing and customer service, but these may not make sense for xRM solutions, so you will want to create your own dashboards.
  5. Specify the workflows that will be created.  Again, categorize them into groups based on the complexity of the workflows.    If your workflow has a large number of exceptions you may want to reconsider whether it should be automated at all.

Armed with these lists and specifications, you can approach a Dynamics 365 expert and get a realistic idea of the cost.  If you are familiar with Dynamics 365 yourself, you can use these metrics to create your own estimate.   For instance, you may want to plan four hours for a simple report and twenty hours to create a complex report.

Related posts: See our Dynamics 365 subscription cost calculator

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Understanding Dynamics 365 Solutions

Microsoft Dynamics 365 allows a developer to package  a number of customizations as a solution so they may be installed and managed as a unit rather than individually.  By customizations, we mean new entities and fields, business processes, and other elements that are added to Dynamics 365 to make it better suite your business needs.  For instance, you could put all your custom entities and attributes as well as reports in a solution.  The solution may be installed into an instance of Dynamics 365 -- online or on premises.

Managed solutions are a type of solution which prevents unintentional changes to the customizations. You must start by creating an unmanaged solution and then deploy it as a managed solution in another instance of Dynamics 365.



There are many approaches to defining the scope of a solution.  You can make it modular by breaking it into multiple solutions.  One extreme is to put all customizations in a single solution.  The other extreme is to use multiple solutions in order to make it easier to reuse solutions across Dynamics 365 instances.

For Microsoft Grants Manager, we would use one solution for the standard Grants Manager Plus customizations, and another which contains customizations unique to a particular agency. A third solution is used for the customizations that relate to the PortVue portal.

Be careful about dependencies among solutions, because this can complicate deployment. If you end up with proliferation of too many solutions, you may want to re-examine them and determine whether some should be merged into fewer solutions.

Solutions are a distribution mechanism rather than being designed as a tool for managing a multi-developer project.  There are better ways of coordinating coding than to have a solution for each developer. Three ways you could organize team development are:

  • Single organization: One master solution
  • Single organization: Multiple developer solutions and one master solution
  • One organization per developer
You can also apply patches in order to simplify solution updates. Solution patches can contain subcomponents of entities rather than the entire entity, reducing the risk of inadvertently overwriting assets by replacing the entire entity. 


You need to consider maintenance implications of Dynamics 365 solutions.  For instance, recently we were updating a client's CRM to a new version, only to find that a managed solution was installed that no one recognized.

Solutions are not always backwards compatible to earlier versions of Dynamics 365/CRM, as shown in the following figure:


Source: https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg334576.aspx

If you would like to sell your app, you can publish your solution to AppSource, the Microsoft marketplace for Dynamics solutions. AppSource makes your apps visible to the community of Dynamics 365 users.

Note: This post is an updated version based on Planning for Dynamics CRM Solutions.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

What does Dynamics 365 (formerly CRM) Cost? The InfoStrat Calculator

The cost of a Microsoft Dynamics 365 implementation includes software licensing, internal costs of the time of your staff, and sometimes hardware and professional services from Dynamics 365 specialists such as a Microsoft Dynamics Gold Partner like InfoStrat.

Your reseller is best source for software pricing, and can create a quote based on your volume license agreement.  If your organization has an enterprise agreement for Microsoft products, it will offer the best prices.

The following flowchart shows the steps in determining which products you need and the ways to purchase or deploy.




1. What You Need

Start by determining which business processes you are automating and which Dynamics 365 apps you will need.  Do you need Sales, Marketing, Accounting, Field Services, Project Services or Customer Service?

Next, count you users and assign them to each app.  Dynamics 365 is most commonly licensed based on named users, so the first step in calculating costs is to count your users.  You need only count internal users that are within your organization -- external users do not need subscriptions.   For instance, if your organization has 500 people and all of them will be using Dynamics 365, you would buy 500 subscriptions.

Microsoft also offers device CALs, so two or more people who are non-concurrently sharing a workstation could use just one CAL.    This makes sense if you have shift workers or call centers that operate around the clock.

2. How to Run It

Cloud-hosted Dynamics 365 is the easiest deployment model to price.     The subscription covers both the hosting and the associated software licenses.   This deployment model is rapid -- Microsoft manages the infrastructure and you don't need to install anything on your servers.  It is flexible and quite scalable, so you can add (or subtract) users as your needs change.     In the short run it is also the least expensive option because it doesn't require any hardware acquisition or server licenses.  If you deploy with Dynamics 365 in the Microsoft cloud, you will automatically receive all software updates which will be installed by Microsoft.

Government agencies are eligible for hosting in the Microsoft Government cloud, a set of facilities which meet the highest security standards.

To deploy in your data center, count how many Dynamics 365 servers you will need.    How many servers are needed to support the size of your solution?   How many environments will you need, such as development, test, staging and production?    Three or four environments are typical for enterprise solutions.

3. How to Purchase

You can buy Dynamics 365 through resellers along with your Microsoft volume licensing agreement.  Bundles of Dynamics 365 apps offer cost savings and flexibility.  Volume discounts make bundles less expensive than individual apps for 99 or more users.

4. Discounts

Microsoft offers promotions with even better pricing.  These include pricing for organizations such as non-profits, government, and education, and incentives for existing Microsoft customers and customers of competitive products such as Salesforce.

5. Extras

You can purchase additional storage for Dynamics 365, so you should estimate the storage you will need to get an accurate cost estimate. Microsoft and third parties offer a number of add-ons for Dynamics 365 which have additional costs.

See our Dynamics 365 cost calculator for pricing






For more on Dynamics 365, see my posts:

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Team Members Subscriptions