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Showing posts from August, 2018

The Story of InfoStrat and Grant Management

I am often asked how InfoStrat became involved in grants management and why Microsoft chose InfoStrat to develop its grant management solutions Stimulus360 and Grants Manager Plus.

Since the late 1990s, InfoStrat has been working in grants management for state, local, and federal agencies.  In 2009, we were contracted by Microsoft to build the Microsoft Stimulus360 ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) Grant Management system which we deployed in the states of California, Arizona, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, cities including Chicago and Seattle and counties such as Harris County, Texas, Los Angeles County, California and Cook County, Illinois.

Since then Grants Manager Plus has been adopted by grantors in many countries including the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.

In January of 2011, InfoStrat worked with Microsoft to launch the next version of Stimulus360 as the Microsoft Grants Manager Plus Accelerator. It was initially called Grants360.  We continue to maint…

Getting the Most Out of Dynamics 365 Upgrades

Microsoft has settled into a schedule of providing significant enhancements to Dynamics 365 (formerly Dynamics CRM) every six months, so all of us who use the product must adapt to being in a constant state of adopting new features and preparing for the next upgrade.  Microsoft is investing heavily in development of Dynamics, and pouring the fruits of research and development such as artificial intelligence and analytics into the product.

The question for my clients is how to get the most out of this cycle of constant integration.  They want to know how much an upgrade will cost and how long it will take.  Here are some considerations that may help you make the best trade-offs for your organization.

I divide upgrades into three types of changes.   The easiest are improvements in performance or changes in the user interface that require no action on our part.  If forms or reports run faster, or Microsoft adds a new item to a toolbar, these improve the product without asking for a trad…

Alternative Interfaces for Dynamics 365 (formerly CRM)

Microsoft Dynamics 365 is a leading CRM package, and its web interface packs a great deal of power and flexibility.  But what if you don't like they way that it looks, or you want to streamline it a bit for some users or functions?
Although it may not be apparent to first time users, there are several interfaces to Dynamics 365 at your fingertips that do not require any coding or development.
Using the form editor, you can create form variations. This allows users to see only fields that they need and to change the field order where appropriate.  You can do this for mobile forms as well as forms to be accessed with a PC or Mac. If you don't like the way that Dynamics dashboards look, PowerBI dashboards provides quite different dashboard experience which may be desirable for some users https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7AAujMPEcwMicrosoft offers several mobile apps for Dynamics, all of which are available at no extra charge.  https://www.youtub…

Mining Your CRM Data Using Artificial Intelligence and Analytics

One of the hottest topics in information technology today is using artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics tools to help you identify patterns which can guide you in digital transformation efforts.

To make these efforts fruitful, your first hurdle is to identify data worth mining.  For many organizations, your CRM system is a great place to start.  If you have used CRM such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 (formerly Dynamics CRM), Salesforce, Oracle, Adobe, SAP or Siebel for several years, you are likely to have built up a repository of data which reflects your organization's customers, vendors, and stakeholders as well as your interactions with them through customer service, sales and marketing efforts.

The leading CRM vendors are in a race to add AI and machine learning to their products.  Microsoft claims that over 682,000 developers are using their Azure Cognitive ServicesAI features in CRM include automated responses to customer inquiries, alerts to sales staff, and segmentat…

Consider the Overhead Costs of Tracking Data

When I was meeting with one of InfoStrat's clients recently, we were discussing what fields to include in an online application form for a new system.  Over the years, the form had grown to 29 pages, including several pages of legal terms and conditions which required no user input but required review and acceptance.

We went through the form page by page to determine which fields were needed, and identified many fields which had become obsolete due to changes in business rules and requirements.

This reminded me that there are hidden costs to adding more information to forms, even though storage may be cheap and it's easy to add new fields. This cost is recognized in industry and government. The Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) of 1995 requires that U.S. federal government agencies obtain Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval before requesting or collecting most types of information from the public.

Here are some questions that can help you identify and eliminate unneede…