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. 








Friday, April 7, 2017

Microsoft Dynamics Employee Self-Service: New Version Released

Employees can save time with better access to information on how to do their jobs. 
Microsoft has released a new version of their Employee Self-Service (ESS) solution, updated to be based on  Dynamics 365.  Dynamics ESS is a knowledge management tool based on the Knowledge Base features of Dynamics 365 Customer Service. In December 2015, Microsoft released a prior version of Employee Self-Service based on Dynamics Parature, a product whose planned retirement in 2020 was announced in 2016.  The latest version incorporates significant enhancements based on Parature technology which has been incorporated into Dynamics 365.

Information technology departments are likely to be the first adopters of Dynamics ESS, to supplement their intranets and help desks in order to reduce the number of trouble tickets and provide 24-hour coverage when their help desk resources are limited.

Dynamics ESS works in Office 365 to look up answers in Word or Outlook
Users can access the information in the Dynamics Knowledge Base through Office 365, such as looking up an answer directly inside Outlook when responding to an email inquiry, or even in Microsoft Word.

Dynamics Employee Self-Service can complement your SharePoint intranet. The solution is simple to deploy, but the main challenge, as with most knowledge management projects, is to populate the knowledge base and make company rules and guidance more explicit and accessible.

Dynamics ESS works on mobile devices
If you already are a subscriber to Dynamics 365 Enterprise, you can enable Dynamics ESS from the Dynamics 365 Administration Center (which is accessed from the Office 365 admin page:


When you initiate Dynamics ESS, a new Dynamics Portal will be created, and the link will be displayed which you can share with your users.  Users in your company can access ESS with the affordable Team Member subscription for Dynamics 365.

For more information, download the overview document or contact my company InfoStrat for our Dynamics ESS Quick Start or watch the video demo.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

5 Tips on Moving from Dynamics CRM On Premises to the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Cloud

Source: Microsoft Dynamics CRM (on-premises) to Microsoft Dynamics Online Migration Guide (microsoft.com)
Many customers are moving their Microsoft Dynamics CRM from traditional hosting on premises in their server facilities to the Microsoft Dynamics 365 cloud.  Migration to the cloud can be challenging, especially if you are still using an older version of Dynamics CRM.  You will not have the same control over the cloud environment that you have of your servers, and your data import performance may be throttled down by the cloud environment.  For instance, you cannot schedule restores from a Dynamics 365 backup on the cloud or make backup snapshots in the same way that you control these on your servers. 

Here are InfoStrat's top hints to make the transition easier for your organization.
  1. Upgrade to the latest version of Dynamics 365 on premises. Microsoft doesn't provide a smooth transition which allows you to skip versions, so you will need to upgrade to each of the successive versions or consider your new solution a clean break and migrate only the data.
  2. Switch your licensing to the subscription model and provision your cloud environments. The InfoStrat Dynamics 365 cost calculator can help you choose the plan that is right for you.  Microsoft allows you to run on premises with your cloud subscription, so there is no incentive to wait and no need to buy duplicate licenses/subscriptions for your users. You may be eligible for Team Member subscriptions for many of your users.  Create the production and non-production instances of Dynamics 365 so you can practice the process of promoting your solution from one environment to the next before you go live. Also be sure to check the storage requirements and perhaps archive data if appropriate rather than pay for additional storage of data you are not using. 
  3. Freeze development of your solution until the migration is complete.  Once you are upgraded to the latest version of Dynamics 365, focus on moving to the new environment rather than entertaining more changes to the solution.  Otherwise you may find yourself chasing a moving goal line.  
  4. Consider a data migration tool.  A data migration tool such as Scribe will save many hours of development and testing time for any upgrade or migration effort.  Scribe offers special migration bundles for 60-day or 180-day subscriptions.  By using Scribe, you can dramatically boost the import rate with additional clients as shown in the chart above. 
  5. Move to Office 365.  If you are not already on Microsoft Office 365, this is a good time to switch.  You can combine your user training and support changes. Dynamics 365 is administered from the Office 365 management console.
A typical migration effort involves more than one trial migration followed by testing until all migration issues have been addressed. Moving your data from on premises to the cloud takes longer than most customers expect, and you must avoid disruptions to the use of production systems. 

Contact InfoStrat or your favorite Microsoft services provider for migration services and to get answers to your questions.