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.