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Showing posts from 2019

Getting the Most Out of GovCon CRM - Sales Force Automation for Government Contractors

Selling to government agencies requires a different approach from most sales processes, and therefore a customer relationship management (CRM) system bust reflect the way that your company behaves as a government contractor in order to get the most from your software investment.

InfoStrat's Dynamics 365 for Government Contractors is one of our most popular solutions, and it continues to evolve in order to suit our large and small government contractor customers. 
Here are some top hints on how to get the most of our your CRM which are embodies in InfoStrat's Dynamics 365 for Government Contractors: Integrate with government contract information services. There are many subscription data services for GovCon which cater to specific industries and to target customers.  Deltek GovWin has been the leader in U.S. Federal opportunity data, and Onvia (owned by Deltek) has been the leader in state and local contracting opportunities.  Integrating with these services can save you time b…

Understanding Budget, Payments and Milestones in Grants Manager Plus

Managing finances is at the core of InfoStrat's Grants Manager Plus software for grantors to manage the full lifecycle of a grant.  This post explains key concepts for understanding how budgets, payments and milestones are managed in the solution.

Grants Manager Plus may be configured to your business rules, so your implementation may differ from the scenarios described here.  Many of the functions and workflows are nearly universal for grant management, such as having an approval routing workflow or checking the amount requested against budgets and remaining funds.

When a grant manager creates a grant program, it will contain related budget codes, budget line items, and optional budget gates and milestones.  The budget codes are used by grantees to provide their proposed budgets, and hence to roll up totals for reporting.  Budget gates are thresholds which are tied to project (grant) progress which is measured by milestones.  In a building project, for instance, a payment may be…

Dynamics 365 Power Apps: When You Want CRM Power without Sales, Customer Service or Marketing

My company InfoStrat has been working with Dynamics 365 for over 13 years since version 3.0 of Dynamics CRM was released.  For more than half of our customers, we have been using Dynamics for line of business solutions which are not the typical sales, customer service and marketing applications that make up customer relationship management (CRM).

Microsoft offers a subscription for these users who do not need sales, customer service or support.  This subscription is called Power Apps, and provides the same user interface, platform and development tools as are used for the CRM apps.

Power Apps offers significant savings -- the U.S. list price is $40/user/month compared to $95/user/month for each of the sales and customer service apps or $115/user/month for the Customer Engagement bundle which includes sales, customer service, project service and field service.

Another way that customers can save is through combining the subscription types so that users are only paying for the services…

InfoStrat Grants Manager Plus Review on FinanceOnline

Understanding Programs in Grants Manager Plus

InfoStrat's Grants Manager Plus solution helps grantor agencies with the full lifecycle of a grant.  This blog post focuses on setting up grant programs.

A grant program allows you to establish rules that govern applications, scoring, and reporting for a set of applications.  For instance, a grant program is of a specified type, has dates that relate to it, and draws funding from one or more funding sources.  Applications for a specific program have questions and metrics that may be different from one program to another but are consistent across applications for that grant program.  Reporting is often tied to a specific program, such as budgets and spending.

One of the design goals of Grants Manager Plus was to allow a single system to be used for an extended period rather than creating a new system each time a new program is established.

Creating a new program involves defining all the attributes of the program, such as:

Start and end dates for the grantsDeadlinesReporting schedu…

Victim Notification Software: InfoStrat SAVIN360

InfoStrat developed the SAVIN360 Victim Notification System to help agencies manage contacts and alerts when offenders are transferred or released. State departments of correction and county jails and related public safety agencies must deploy a system for notifying victims, constituents, law enforcement officials and other stakeholders when an offender’s custody status changes.

Today three states rely on the SAVIN360 solution, with another statewide implementation going live later in 2019.  SAVIN360 provides many options for notification, including notification by event type.  It uses a web portal powered by Microsoft Dynamics 365 for registration and management of notification preferences. InfoStrat implemented SAVIN360 for all interfaces, which include Court, Prosecutor, Law Enforcement, Jail and Corrections data sources. This provides a single code base for all exchanges, enabling the application of both source specific and global business rules for all incoming data. This also m…

Understanding Grant Management Data: CDBG-DR Programs

InfoStrat Grants Manager Plus is used for tracking many types of grants because the data model may be extended with new fields and entities.  For tracking Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the system tracks grants in ways that are different from typical grants.

CDBG-DR grants flow from a federal grant to a state, where they are broken into multiple grants to local entities which in turn are used to fund individual grants for such activities as housing repairs, infrastructure projects and remediation of damage such as erosion.

The grant management system must track funding at all stages of the grant life cycle.  As shown above, a CDBG-DR grant recipient develops action plans along with associated budgets and metrics.  Sub-recipients such as local government agencies apply for grants which ultimately become contracts when awarded.

After award, as projects are completed, grantees submit pay…

Coming Soon: April 2019 Release of Microsoft Dynamics 365

It is still winter in Washington, DC, but spring is just around the corner.  We can look forward to cherry blossoms, the Potomac shad run, and Microsoft's next release of Dynamics 365.

Microsoft has published the release notes for April '19 and there are many highlights.

Artificial Intelligence is still one of the hottest trends, and Microsoft has a steady stream of new AI features of Dynamics, such as

Dynamics 365 Virtual Agent for Customer Service provides AI-powered chat bots to optimize the customer experience.Dynamics 365 Customer Insights enables every organization to unify and understand their customer data to harness it for intelligent insights and actions.Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection enables the e-commerce merchants to drive down fraud loss, increase bank acceptance rates to yield higher revenue, and improve the online shopping experience.
Alysa Taylor, Corporate Vice President, Business Applications & Industry at Microsoft has written a blog post with more infor…

Handy CRM Views and Graphs for Government Contractors (GovCon)

If you use a customer relationship management (CRM) system for tracking government contracts, you will find yourself using some views, reports and graphs more frequently than others.

Here are some favorites from my experience and from users of the InfoStrat Dynamics 365 for Government Contractors solution.

The most fundamental chart is the sales pipeline funnel.  This is broken into the sales stages of your business process flow, such as unqualified, qualified, RFI, RFP, proposed and others.



The view that I use most often is Open Opportunities by Owner.  This is the view that helps coordinate sales meetings when you are reviewing open opportunities with your business development team.  Adding the Opportunity Owner to the standard Open Opportunities view makes it easier to sort the opportunities during the course of the discussion.  I like keeping the opportunity owner as the rightmost field in the view.

Using the Opportunities with Proposals Due view helps you focus on outstanding pr…

Microsoft Ignite: The Tour Visits Washington, DC

This week Microsoft took its tour of the Ignite conference to Washington, DC.  The initial Ignite conference was held in Las Vegas, Nevada, but the tour brings much of the content to a broader audience. 

You can access recordings of the sessions online. Because there were over 100 sessions and workshops in two days, it was impossible to attend all of them.  Here are the learning paths from the event:



For me, the most important overall message was the blurring of lines between Microsoft cloud products and the continual expansion and opening of the Microsoft platform. Cloud computing has allowed Microsoft and other vendors to introduce new products and product versions more quickly.  For Dynamics 365, Microsoft introduces continuous small fixes and significant versions every six months.  This is much faster than the product cycle ten years ago which offered major versions every two or three years.

The pace of innovation creates challenges for customers to keep up, so events like this a…

Export Reports from Dynamics 365 to PowerPoint

Microsoft Dynamics 365 now offers an option to export reports to PowerPoint in addition to the formats such as Excel, PDF and other file formats which have been supported for several versions.  Here is how the Export menu looks on a report:


The output of the report is converted into pages which become pages in the PowerPoint file.  By default the pages do not fit in a standard PowerPoint size, so the images are divided in two and placed on two pages:



The pages contain images of the report contents like this sample from the Account Overview Standard report:



Because they are images, you cannot edit them in PowerPoint beyond image editing tools.  To make them more attractive in PowerPoint, you can change the format of the Dynamics 365 report so it will fit better in the targeted PowerPoint format.
If you what you want is to render data from Dynamics 365 in a pre-built PowerPoint template, you may want to export the data from Dynamics 365 to Excel and use Mail Merge with a third party too…

5 Best Things about the Unified Interface for Microsoft Dynamics 365

The latest version of Microsoft Dynamics 365 moves most of the core functionality of sales and customer service to a new user interface - The Unified Interface client.  This user interface is not completely new as it was gradually introduced for the Hub features such as the Customer Service Hub in recent versions of the product.

The new interface is quite different from the previous interface which was used from Dynamics CRM 2013 to 2018 with a few incremental changes. 

This is the Unified Interface, using a form from InfoStrat's Grants Manager Plus Solution.



Here is the same record shown in the previous interface which Microsoft calls Classic.



Here are the top 5 features that I like best about the Unified Interface:

Better menus and navigation. The sitemap on the left is more helpful than the classic menus for larger, more complex solution. Lefthand menu shortcuts are a great use of space and help users access the most popular areas. Better subgrids.  Subgrids are important for en…

Extending Grants Manager Plus

Grants Manager Plus provides grantors with an all-in-one, integrated solution that simplifies the grants process from initial solicitation through review, scoring, award, payment processing and post award. InfoStrat designed the solution to allow it to be extended and customized to meet the needs of specific grant programs.

Grant programs may be quite different from one another, and adopting grant management software for your grantor agencies requires flexibility and rapid development of solutions to meet program demands.  For instance, Grants Manager Plus is being used by local government for small grants of less than $1,000 to individuals for public safety initiatives and also large state grants for disaster recovery managed through sub-recipients. Some grant programs call for detailed invoicing on a monthly basis, with payments tied to achievement of milestones and performance metrics.

Grants Manager Plus may be viewed as a layered solution, as shown in this figure:


Grants Manager …