A CRM Year in Review

What a year it has been! Microsoft has been quite busy with Dynamics CRM. We have seen the emergence of Marketing Pilot, strategic partnerships with InsideView, advances in Mobile and of course, CRM 2013, just to name a few. Let’s recall each of Microsoft’s major milestones:

Polaris release: We began the year with a new UI for online CRM users which had just been introduced the prior month. This gave us our first feeling of a more intuitive, flat UI. It was a great “teaser” to what was to come later in the year. Sales and service professionals were able to work much more easily and efficiently in CRM. What a great success! The concept of the Business Process Flow was shown in the new flattened UI. Included in the release was support for using CRM on an iPad and use of CRM in web browsers Safari, Chrome and Firefox. This signified the beginning of the shift to a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategy. Skype was introduced as an alternative to communication mediums in addition to Microsoft Lync. Lastly, Yammer was made available to integrate into the UI. While all of these updates applied only to online CRM users, the additional browsers were also supported in a companion release for on-premise through Update Rollup 12.

crm 2013 image 1Yammer: Microsoft acquired the social media company Yammer. It provides a communication medium by which employees may collaborate in a Facebook-like interface. Yammer may also be used to communicate with external audiences. All communications are held private and not available to the public internet.  The long-range implications include Yammer being used within/alongside Dynamics CRM, SharePoint, Office 365 and Skype. Already, the application can be used within Dynamics CRM.

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Netbreeze: Microsoft acquired the company Netbreeze which provides social media monitoring. In this way, your company is provided a snapshot summary (and can drill to the underlying data) of how it is perceived across social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. This data is invaluable to companies who need to actively monitor and respond to the public’s perception. Netbreeze is still a stand-alone application, but will be integrated with Dynamics CRM in the not too distant future.

Gemini release: In early second quarter, MarketingPilot was popularized. It opened up online integration to CRM, previously available only through 3rd party integration efforts. MarketPilot is a companion application which further extends CRM. It provides end-to-end marketing management capabilities beyond CRM’s marketing list and campaign management disciplines. This list of additional disciplines includes but is not limited to: strategy and planning, digital asset management, vendor management, media planning, and budget management. Also included in its capabilities are behavior tracking and landing pages which, prior to MarketingPilot’s integration, was supported only by products such as CoreMotives, ClickDimensions and Constant Contact. While MarketingPilot provides functions similar to these named applications, Microsoft has been clear that each of these and others have features that still present a compelling case to use these over or in addition to MarketingPilot.

CRM 2013 (aka Orion) major release: As we all know due to the buzz in the latter half of this year, CRM 2013 (aka Orion) was soft-released in October 2013 with the global kick-off launch in early November 2013.  The changes flat UI and business process flow adjustments from Polaris were incorporated into this new release.  It is available for both online and on premise customers.  Similar to the roll out of Polaris-like features, the Gemini hallmark MarketingPilot integration was also included in CRM 2013, but also made available to on premise users of CRM in addition to online users.  An additional major part of CRM 2013, as if the business process flow and Flat UI improvements weren’t enough, was mobile for tablets and smart phones.  There are many new features in the new release. See my prior blogs for some of those.

InsideView: Microsoft formed a strategic partnership with InsideView.  InsideView monitors publically available information sources on the internet and summarizes that information for companies and individuals. It has been available as a 3rd party add-in solution for Dynamics CRM for several years.  The data is displayed in a window inside of lead, opportunity, contact and account records. Through this partnership, Dynamics CRM Online users get to use the tool at no additional license cost and there is a discounted license cost for on premise CRM users.crm 2013 image 3

As you can see, much has happened in the world of Microsoft Dynamics CRM in calendar year 2013.  Microsoft plans to have approximately two major releases for online users every year.  Already, we know of a few enhancement releases coming, Leo and Vega.  We can’t wait to see what comes next.

CRM 2011 TO CRM 2013 Upgrade Process

CRM 2013Software and OS Components Support Changes

What software and operating systems will Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 support?

  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2013
  • Microsoft Outlook 2013
  • Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS) 2.2 (ships with Windows Server 2012 R2)

What software and operating systems will Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 no longer support?

  • The Microsoft Dynamics CRM for Outlook or the web application on Windows XP
  • Microsoft Office 2003
  • E-mail router will no longer support:
    • Microsoft Exchange Server 2003
    • Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 WebDAV protocol for email routing and tracking (Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 Exchange Web Services (EWS) will still be supported)

Preparing the CRM Organization for the Upgrade

CRM 2011 to CRM 2013 On-Premise Upgrade Preparation Tasks:

  • Determine if the current implementation of CRM 2011 is using any legacy features
  • Use the CRM 2013 Custom Code Validation Tool to examine web resources and determine where there could be potential upgrade issues.  If the custom validation tool does find any concerns, they will either be using deprecated CRM 4.0 objects and functions or an unsupported coding process.  For more information about the validation tool go to the following links:
  • Use the legacy feature check tool to detect any server extensions that use the 2007 endpoint or Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 features.  For more information on legacy tool, go to the following link:
  • Determine the appropriate upgrade path
  • Take into the consideration the following when determining which upgrade path to follow:
    • Upgrading to CRM 2013 is a one way process
    • One cannot upgrade directly to CRM 2013 from CRM 4.0
    • One cannot rollback the server installation to CRM 2011 once the upgrade to CRM 2013 is complete
    • In order to upgrade to CRM 2013, the CRM 2011 Server must either be on Update Rollup 6 or Update Rollup 14 or a later rollup before an upgrade can be considered

CRM 2013 Organization DB Changes

The structure of the organization database is optimized to take advantage of the built-in capabilities of SQL Server. In order to achieve this optimization, restructuring of the CRM organization database is required.  This restructuring should be factored into the upgrade planning as it can take time to complete.  This restructuring process is known as a database or base extension “table merge”.

In Microsoft’s internal testing, after the table merge process was completed, the performance of CRM increased under a variety of workloads.  There was also a reduction in the number of SQL errors due to conflicts in accessing system data. Important aspects to note about the CRM organization database schema changes:

  • Data access through the filtered views is supported
  • Data access through direct SQL calls against the database tables is unsupported and therefore may not work after the upgrade
  • If data is inserted or updated into CRM through direct SQL against the tables, this method is unsupported and the code will need to be updated

So when should the table merge process be run?  Should it be run as part of the upgrade or after the upgrade process is completed?  The size of the CRM 2011 organization database is a determining factor on which approach to take. The following factors need to be considered with regards to the size of the CRM 2011 organization database and the table merge process:

  1. If the organization database has very large tables than one can choose to defer the restructuring of the database until after the upgrade. For example, if the organization database is 70-GB then the database table merge process could take several hours. By deferring the merge process the upgrade process could finish in approximately two hours and the system can be returned to a usable state. Potentially during nightly maintenance windows, one can merge the organization, one entity or more at a time until the all the base and extension tables are merged.
  2. During the upgrade process when a full merge is done the process will require approximately two times the size of the current database for the lifecycle of the merge. So if one chooses to do the table merge process as part of the upgrade and if the organization DB size is 20-GB, then approximately 40-GB will be needed for the upgrade.

In order to determine the right approach is, it is highly recommended to upgrade a copy of the CRM 2011 organization on a test environment prior to performing the upgrade on the production environment.  As part of the upgrade process, there is a report and information in the log for the table marge process to help make the decision.

Upgrade Paths

The following tasks pertains to both the migration and in-place upgrade methods:

  1. Verify that the CRM Server and organizations are patched up all the way to Update Rollup 14 (if part update rollup 6 already) and that all the functionality in the application is working correctly. Note: Upgrading from CRM 2011 to CRM 2013 is supported from either update rollup 6 or update rollup 14. Microsoft recommends that all deployments of CRM 2011 be upgraded to Update Rollup 14 before upgrading to CRM 2013.  The option of upgrading from Update Rollup 6  is meant to support a step-through upgrade from CRM 4.0.
  2. The CRM 2013 product key must be obtained before the upgrade process begins as the key is required to run the upgrade process.

Regardless of which upgrade part is chosen, the following are the stages of the upgrade process:

  1. Database Base and Extension Table Merge (this stage can either be run at the time of upgrade or later using a merge tool on a per entity basis).
  2. The server and organization update.
  3. Solutions update
    • Solutions will be converted to a new format
    • Solution will be upgraded to CRM 2013 forms and data engine
    • Unmanaged and managed solution will be supported
  4. The forms will be updated to the new CRM 2013 format.

Migration Method

(this is the option recommended by Microsoft):

  • Provides the ability to fallback to an existing CRM 2011 deployment as this method requires additional hardware for the CRM 2013 upgrade
  • This method allows upgrading to CRM 2013 without affecting the existing CRM 2011 deployment

Migration Method Steps:

  1. Server infrastructure for the CRM 2013 deployment needs to be setup. You can obtain further information regarding the minimum requirements of a deployment in the “Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 system requirements and required technologies” section of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 Implementation Guide.  This guide can be obtained from the following site:
  2. Regarding Microsoft SQL Server, ensure that the new CRM 2013 environment is at or above the version and patch level of the existing CRM 2011 SQL Server deployment. Doing this will allow for restoring a backup to the new CRM 2013 environment.
  3. Perform the CRM 2013 installation. The new CRM 2013 deployment will be setup and the base organizations will be configured.
  4. Confirm that the CRM server is working correctly with the newly created CRM 2013 organization.
  5. Open the deployment manager in the source deployment (CRM 2011 Deployment), and validate that the organizations are updated to UR14. Important: CRM 2013 will import organizations that are only on Update Rollup 6, Update Rollup 14 or an update rollup later than UR14 for CRM 2011 release. The CRM 2011 organization must be patched with a valid update rollup before doing the migration upgrade:
  6. Organizations that have Update Rollup 6 will have this version number: 05.00.9690.1992
  7. Organizations that have Update Rollup 14 will have this version number: 05.00.9690.3557
  8. Using SQL Server backup in the source CRM 2011 deployment, backup the organizations that need to be migrated to CRM 2013. Back up the organization database, which will have a name like <YOURORGNAME>_MSCRM. Ensure a full back up of the organization database is taken.
  9. Restore the backups from the CRM 2011 environment to the CRM 2013 environment (SQL Server).

Important: If the decision has been made to defer the database table merge process, registry keys need to be added to the deployment server. This must be done prior to running the upgrade process.

  1. Open the deployment manager and choose Import organization in the new environment. The import organization process will start, which will import and then upgrade the CRM 2011 organization to CRM 2013.
  2. Confirm that things are working as expected after the import is complete, by going to the organization in a web browser.

In-Place Method:

  • This method is utilized when upgrading the existing CRM server is a requirement
  • While this method provide the easiest and simplest path to upgrade. The following should be considered:
    • Falling back to CRM 2011 is not an option without reinstalling the CRM 2011 server
    • If the upgrade fails, the CRM server or organization will not be accessible until the error is cleared or the server is restored from a backup

In-Place Method Steps:

  1. First, backup the deployment database and organization databases.
  2. Determine that the environment meets the minimum requirements for CRM 2013. Review the “Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 system requirements and required technologies” section of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 Implementation Guide.
  3. Uninstall the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Connector for Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services. This is necessary as the upgrade process cannot upgrade the CRM Connector for SQL Server Reporting Services.
  4. Proceed with the CRM 2013 Server setup process.
  5. If the CRM deployment has more than one organization, then use the deployment manager, to upgrade any remaining organizations. During upgrade, you can upgrade one or none of the organizations in CRM.

More on Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 – Fall 2013

Last month, I posted about the release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 coming this fall. The target release date is October 2013. In this blog, I will expand on it by sharing some more features and provide additional insights:

MarketingPilot

  • Marketing receives much needed enhancements with the integration of MarketingPilot.  With the Gemini release of CRM earlier this year, MarketingPilot became available to CRM Online customers. In CRM 2013, MarketingPilot will be available for both online and on-premise customers.
  • MarketingPilot provides additional marketing functionality not currently available in CRM, such as the ability to track non-email marketing efforts, provide lead scoring, send email blasts, and to have greater document management capabilities.
  • Although MarketingPilot is still a stand-alone application, it comes with a CRM connector allowing seamless operation between the two systems. The user interface for MarketingPilot is similar to that of CRM enabling a quick adoption. Microsoft and MarketingPilot together now can offer a full life cycle marketing solution including the abilities to plan, execute, monitor, and optimize. For more information regarding MarketingPilot, visit their website.

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More on Mobile Access

  • Have you ever wanted the ability to search across records in multiple entities?  (Was Jane Doe a contact, lead, or did I include her name in a note somewhere? I can’t remember.)  You can do that in using CRM Mobil. It’ll be coming to CRM Online/on-premise soon after go-live, too.
  • Have you ever been online reviewing your accounts and lost your internet connection? CRM caches what you’ve looked at on your smartphone or tablet and allows you to keep reading it while you’re offline.
  • Use Skype to place phone calls right from your tablet or smartphone. You don’t have to write down the number and then place the call. Just press the phone number with your finger and voila!

Multiple License Options

  • Microsoft now gives you more options for licensing. You still have a full license and a license to a third party development access to CRM (to further the xRM capabilities of CRM), but now you have an in-between license. With this license, your users can read any entity and edit or create new accounts, contacts, cases, and leads, so long as their security role allows these options. This is a great way to save money on those junior roles or users who might just need to do a few things in CRM.

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More Changes – The “Little Things”

  • Records now auto-save on close or every 30 seconds.  No longer do you have to wonder if you saved that record; it does it for you.
  • There is now the concept of an “access team”. It is a flexible team that can change for every record (for example, for every opportunity). This will allow you to have different users able to read and edit those records they’re allowed to without the rigidity of making them own the record.
  • Real-time workflows. Yes, you read that right. A workflow can now be set up to fire immediately without having to wait for it to happen 20 seconds or 20 minutes later. This will help enable your teams to be that much more productive.
  • Outlook now loads faster. Due to some changes in how CRM is installed with Outlook, your Outlook client will now launch much more quickly giving you’re a few less moments to get that cup of coffee, but more time get in that extra email or two.
  • Coming shortly after the launch of CRM 2013, CRM will have a third option in using email. Presently, email has to be sent from the local user’s Outlook email (meaning it has to be running) or from a separate email server (making it another thing for your network admin to maintain). Now, there will be an option to have your CRM synced with Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, MSN, Live, or Outlook.com email systems.  It will still let you track emails to CRM too.

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  • At times, our business processes call for some decisions to be made for us based on other factors. Pre-CRM 2013, often a skilled (and expensive) developer resource was needed to update CRM to perform to those needs. With CRM 2013, some of those behaviors can be set by a business analyst. Some of these include, setting a field’s value based on another field, hiding/showing a field, and setting a field to be required. Future upgrades will become easier using this functionality as it is potentially less code that will have to be adjusted by a developer.

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As you can see, CRM 2013 just keeps getting better. Users will have more options, flexibility, and ways to be much more productive while saving money. Can’t wait to see more? Contact Edgewater Fullscope to reserve your demonstration of CRM 2013 today.

Creating an Editable Grid in CRM 2011 Using Knockout JS

Dave Berry wrote an excellent customization for CRM 4.0 which provided the ability to mass update child records, directly from the related parent’s form. Unfortunately, the CRM 2011 architecture prevents this customization from being adopted. By now, there exist quite a few commercial solutions for grid editing.

http://www.sparklexrm.com/s/features.html
http://pinpoint.microsoft.com/en-US/applications/add-edit-grid-for-crm-2011-and-crm-online-12884923430 http://pinpoint.microsoft.com/en-US/applications/editable-grid-add-on-for-crm-2011-and-crm-online-12884921672 http://www.c360.com/RecordEditor.aspx http://www.axonom.com/crm_solutions/powertrak/articles/editablegrids.html

I’ve been looking for a way to build a solution instead of buy.  I came across this fantastic blog post, which suggests using knockout JS as the data-binding tool. There is a great tutorial and lots of examples to get started.

The following is an example of an implementation of an editable grid for CRM 2011. I show two examples of editing opportunity products from within the parent opportunity which are:

  • How all changes to opportunity product are saved in a single operation
  • How only one opportunity product is saved back to the server

I demonstrate the following features which allow:

  • Editing existing data, including lookup data
  • Adding a new record
  • Deleting an existing record

Demo

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The first editable grid illustrated above, implements the ‘multi-save’ design. In this case, all data is editable all the time. The second editable grid demonstrates using a single-record approach to editing records.

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Referring to the single-edit approach, clicking on the ‘Edit’ link enables that record for edit. In this approach, the user must click ‘Apply’ in order to successful save the data. The record remains in edit mode until the user clicks ‘Apply’ or ‘Cancel.

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Click ‘Apply’ results in a pop-up confirmation of the success. Naturally, the pop-up can be removed.

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In the multi-save demonstration, note that both quantities have been updated. Click ‘Save’ to send the updates back to the server.

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A confirmation pop-up reports the success of both records.

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Click ‘Add Opportunity Product’ to add a new record.

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Adding a record requires that certain required fields, namely the product, are selected. Therefore, the standard product lookup is presented.

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Upon selecting a product, and clicking ‘Ok’, the record is successfully created. Notice that quantity and UOM are defaulted.

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Removing a record is accomplished by clicking ‘Delete’ link next to the record.

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Notice the record has been removed.

In the next blog post, I will walk through the code and how to integrate this code in CRM.

Some features I plan on demonstrating in a future blog are:

  • Editing ‘OptionSet’ fields
  • Sorting
  • Paging through the grid

CRM Will Become Consumer Relationship Management III

cuttlefish camo

Courtesy of Kings of Camouflage
http://www.PBS.org

In the third installment of looking at the evolutionary path of CRM in a social media sea we will continue using an analog of the cuttlefish ( PBS NOVA show “Kings of Camouflage” ). The cuttlefish’s evolution directly links the cells which manage its camouflage on its skin to its brain and it’s eyes, unlike reptilian chameleons. This provides two distinct advantages; speed in matching the surrounding environment to hide and the ability to mesmerize its prey to eat. Both of these are critical for today’s corporations to survive as well.One of the larger issues today is the integration and coordination of social media in the larger sphere of advertising, marketing, public relations, and consumer relations. Too many corporations take a stimulus-response approach to social media; Twitter bad: reply to Twitter on Twitter, Facebook bad: Facebook on Facebook, etc. Great strategy if you are a planeria flatworm. Bad strategy if you are Pepsi taking on Mayor Bloomberg of NYC regarding fat cola drinking children. Much better to respond by taking people’s temperature with Twitter and Facebook, crafting/commissioning some puff pieces with tame media in multiple outlets, turning into commercial sound-bytes for a mass-market TV ad (in this case like Coke), and resample via Twitter and Facebook for people’s response. Rinse and repeat. This is analogous to the cuttlefish tuning its camouflage to where it is heading as it is running, using its eyes and its brain real-time.

It has been reported that Turkey’s AKP is recruiting and training 6,000 social network storm troopers to counter the opposition’s current use of the social media and get the “correct” word out on the street. Major corporations such as Samsung, apparel design houses, and auto manufacturers “sponsor” influential social media personalities (good recent article in the Wall Street Journal) to try product(s), go to events and take pictures of/with their products. All of this to get past people’s highly evolved resistance to classic media. This all needs to be tracked and coordinated in one place, one data store to rule them all CRM (My Precious). It is too easy for any initiative to go awry without command and control driven by good intelligence. There will of necessity be a large number of relationships to coordinate in a campaign structure and CRM has most of the requisite plumbing in place out of the box.

Now if we add automated software to sweep the Social/Internet space queueing: related keyword topics, natural language parsing of blogs/posts, specific individuals or media outlets, Twitter, etc., a new dimension of potential neural intelligence data will be added. Indexing this information to the social matrix in CRM will allow for its rapid intelligent assessment by people who are informed and in the best position to counter with the total collection of media assets, like a cuttlefish evading a predator or mesmerizing prey. This is why we will see CRM at the nexus of this evolution, it is the fastest way to bring all of the data and all of the people together in one place quickly, without the drag or delay of custom developed systems.

CRM Will Become Consumer Relationship Management II

CuttlefishThis piece expands on the preceding cuttlefish analogy loosely taken from a PBS NOVA show “Kings of Camouflage”. Just as cuttlefish were driven to develop intelligence to deal with a challenging ocean environment, so will CRM need to evolve to managing the total consumer relationship to keep the corporation alive in a real-time social web environment. To oversimplify (and irritate all of the product vendors out there), CRM now essentially manages the sales pipeline (i.e. the food supply of the corporation). Of course there are second and third derivative benefits, such as managing sales force statistics and marketing effectiveness, but the prime directive is essentially feeding the primal corporate beast.

This matches the analogy to any cuttlefish, food first (skip reproduction, not something I want to envision for corporations). Second is defense within the ecosystem, as it is best not to be eaten it you want to be successful. Before we can dive into the evolutionary changes that will occur to CRM we need to look at the environmental drivers of natural selection. I will break the topic into three pieces; a loose description of the ecosystem, how typically corporations handle the external ecosystem, and why it matters.

The ecosystem has become much more complex with the advent of the Social Internet, with the resultant time compression of impression dissemination throughout the total consumer population. Combine the increasing number of competitors, regulators, and special interest groups (predators), with an increasingly informed consumer (food); life for a corporation looks as difficult and precarious as in any primeval cuttlefish sea. A plethora of content starved, advertising fed Web sites are an archival repository of free and unedited consumer opinion, comparison, recalls, pictures, demonstrations, and any combination(s) of products and services (real and imagined). Social media provide the neural synapses of communication for all of this (dis)information to consumers, special interest groups, media, and regulators. Time and thoughtful editing have been successfully disintermediated from the environment.

Like a cuttlefish, most corporations swimming in the Web, have a marketing group who may (or may not) perform market research, target customers, and report market direction. Legal, finance, and engineering/development groups usually track regulation and compliance. Public relations will handle corporate communications. Naturally, all of this will be done independently in the organization, essentially in a vacuum. Some efforts will not even have a persistent data repository or memory, and likely none of it will be correlated and indexed for learning and re-use. In fact, the supporting corporate “senses” are rudimentary and essentially manual (endangered species material to say the least).

Why does it matter now, if it has not to date? Because the Web ecosystem itself has changed with the integration of social media. A Twitter or Facebook reference on any SmartPhone can direct customers to a YouTube video of your company’s semi-transparent exercise pants, its signature product. Even better, an ambitious DA has decided to round-up your customers for indecent exposure after “Mothers for Decency” (an advocacy group) cite your product for contributing to the corruption of minors (cash contributions abound for the DA and “Mothers for Decency” from concerned citizens). Federal and State regulators contact your warehouse in LA regarding your violation of garment content labeling laws with respect to importation and distribution. Your successful corporation is now on full display in the Web ecosystem for predators and number one on the endangered species list (cuttlefish extinction event).

As ridiculously contrived as the example is, the potential is obvious and needs to be addressed. Natural selection in the market will force corporations to evolve and the most successful will prosper. I contend the current corporate IT system most apropos to evolve to act as a repository to consolidate and index is CRM. CRM systems are by their nature flexible to extension and for the most part the latest and most up-to-date addition to corporate IT. Ultimately, this environmental information pertains to all levels of customers; past, current, and potential, a true universe of consumers.

Next we will look at some natural extensions and architectures to evolve.

CRM Will Become Consumer Relationship Management

CuttlefishI was watching a PBS NOVA show “Kings of Camouflage” about cuttlefish, a close relative of the octopus and squid (yes, everyone has strange ways to relax…), and was struck by the creature’s intelligence and how that intellect had evolved. Being at the top of a family that includes clams and other mollusks would not seem to indicate a source of intelligence (well, given some people I’ve spoken to…), but natural selection has driven the development of intelligence and cutting-edge camouflage to blend with its environment and evade predators. It seems cuttlefish are a great packet of pure protein and at the top of the list for just about every other sea creature from fish to dolphins. This has been the imperative for it to be smart and a chameleon.

At this point you are wondering what does all of this “Wild Kingdom” digression have to do with CRM? Actually, from an analogous point of view, a great deal. If we view the Web and all of its manifestations as the sea and a corporation as the cuttlefish, with CRM as part of its brain and nervous system, the evolutionary comparison is a compelling analogue. In early life, the organism looked inward to its development to organize its cellular organization; however, it quickly had to shift its view externally to survive the environment.

The issue is the same, CRM organizes a company’s sales, marketing, and customer efforts with respect to itself. The Web with search engines, social media, mobile devices, etc. is always on, like the sea. Predators abound in this sea; a consumer with a bad experience, an advocacy group with contributions and grants on the line, government regulators with promotions or political office in mind, competitors looking to take your share and territory, employees, prospective employees, vendors, the list is endless. All of this information needs to be linked and correlated in one place with all of the corporate communications, sales, and marketing resources to ensure a fast and consistent response with tracking and reporting. I believe the best place to evolve that functionality within corporate IT infrastructure is to extend CRM’s nervous system outward.

Unlike IT, natural section rarely evolves competing “smoke stack” organs, it cannot afford to or the organism will be lunch. The rate of change of technology, the Web, and societal change will not allow IT the luxury to create vertical smoke stacks and then consolidate them later. Evolution will have to occur now, in realtime, ready for mobile. CRM would seem to be the best candidate as a starting point.

I intend to add further installments extending both the analogy and the proposed architecture. So kick back, get an order of calamari, and watch the show (PBS NOVA show “Kings of Camouflage,” too).

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Polaris

In  December  2012,  Microsoft  released  their  next  interim  release  to  significantly  increase  the  functionality  of  Dynamics  CRM.  Microsoft  introduced  a  brand  new  look  and  feel  in  their  user  experience  (UX)  which  they  call  the  “Flow  UX.” They’ve  given  this  overall  release  the  code  name  “Polaris”  (after the star of the same name).

Microsoft  has  invested  a  great  deal  of  time  enhancing  CRM  to  bring  it  into  today’s  technology  age.  The  flow  of  the  sales  process  has  been  drastically  refreshed  and  is  much  more  intuitive. They have also spruced up the service case entity. The following is a review of the UX improvements:

  • Lead,  opportunity,  account,  contact,  and  case  entities  have  a  new  UX:
    • Pros:
      • Overall,  the  flow  within  and  between  the  entities  feels  a  lot  easier  and  more  intuitive
      • Within  lead  and  opportunity  entities,  there  is  now  a  built  in  set  of  sales  stages  and  sales  steps  to  help  guide  one  through  the  sales  process  and  an  equivalent  Service  stages/steps  in  the case entitypolaris graphic 1
      • There  is a built in social feed,  a type of Facebook-like conversation flow which  can  include  Yammerpolaris graphic 2
      • Creating tasks and phone calls got a lot easierpolaris graphic 3
      • Viewing and creating notes is easierpolaris graphic 4
      • Data  is  automatically  saved  upon  closing  a  record  or  every  30  seconds
      • Bing  Maps  integration  is  included  on-scree
      • Skype  support  is  imbedded  to  auto-dial  outgoing  calls  (by phone or Skype to Skype… a Skype account is required)
      • The  navigation  side-bar  is  automatically  minimized,  but  still  accessible
      • Ability  to  revert  to  the  classic  screen

polaris graphic 5

      • Existing  Dynamics  CRM  2011  Online  users  can  choose  to  opt-in  to  the  new  UI  –  it  is  not  forced  (but once opted in, the conversion con mentioned below adjusts permanently
    • Cons
      • Conversion  from  lead  will  now  automatically  create  an  opportunity  record  whether  you  want  to  create  one  or  not
      • There  is  no  ribbon  access  on  the  new  form  without  completely  reverting  to  the  classic  formpolaris graphic 6
        • Cannot create of any new, related record (such as an activity). The  +  sign  add-option  works  somewhat  but  is  clunky  (but is not available at all for entities
        • No  recalculate  option  for  opportunities
        • No  “Add  to  Marketing  List”,  “Follow”,  “Run  Workflow”,  or  “Start  Dialog”  options  along  with  other  missing  options
      • The  new  sales/service  stages  and  steps  are  one-size-fits-all  and  there  is  no  ability  to  make  them  required
      • There  is  no  auto-conversion  of  classic  forms  into  the  new  format
      • Jscript  is  not  available  on  the  new  forms  OnLoad,  OnSave,  or  OnChange
      • Auto-saving  of  data  becomes  a  training  issue  not  to  adjust  records  for  “demonstration  purposes”

In addition to the UX changes above, Polaris included some additional changes:

  • Browser  support  for  Firefox,  Chrome,  and  Safaripolaris graphic 7
  • Multiple  organizations  are  available  in  a  single  deployment  without  having  to  pay  for  additional  licenses
    • A  potential  application  would  be  to  have  test  and  production  organizational  instances
  • The  Resource  Center  has  been  removed  from  the  main  left-hand  navigation  menu

Presently,  Microsoft  has  made  the  availability  of  Polaris  to  CRM  2011  Online  customers  only.   If  you  have  an  on-premise  implementation  of  CRM,  the  Flow  UX  won’t  be  available  until  the  release  of  CRM,  code  named  “Orion”  coming  out  sometime  in  Q3  2013.   Until  then,  on  premise  users  can  at  least  experience  the  browser  updates  via  Update  Rollup  12.

Overall,  the  Polaris  release  is  a  good  next  step  forward  and  will  help  in  combatting  some  of  the  weaknesses  of  the  classic  UX  as  compared  to  some  of  Microsoft’s  competitors.   For  organizations  already  accustomed  to  using  Dynamics  CRM,  some  of  the  drawbacks  in  the  new  Process  UX  may  present  some  challenges.   Organizations  new  to  Dynamics  CRM  may  not  notice  all  or  any  of  the  drawbacks,  depending  on  their  needs.   Generally  speaking,  it  feels  like  there  are  several  additional  components  that  Microsoft  would  have  included  but  decided  to  postpone  to  a  later  date.   What  exactly  these  were,  I  hope  will  be  additional  activity  options  and  putting  back  in  the  loss  of  some  of  the  ribbon  options.   We  will  have  to  wait  for  Orion  to  find  out  for  sure.   In  the  meantime,  Polaris  provides  many  new  opportunities  to  provide  customer  relationship  management  than  we  had  before.

Trigger Based Marketing with Dynamics CRM 2011

INTRODUCTION

Creating and maintaining profitable customers is the main aim of business. Therefore, customer satisfaction leading to profit is the central goal of hospitality marketing. In the hospitality industry, the marketing department tends to be responsible for both Business-to-Consumer (B2C) and Business-to-Business (B2B) marketing.  The marketing team needs detailed data on prior leisure and business guests to successfully target marketing campaigns to the appropriate audiences.

The main purpose of this article is to discuss B2C marketing and in particular a process called Trigger based Marketing in Microsoft Dynamics 2011.

What is trigger based marketing?  For the purposes of this article, trigger based marketing is defined as consumer profile or stay data meeting the criteria of a marketing list for an active campaign. This active campaign then processes an e-mail blast to the recipients of the marketing list on a scheduled and automated basis.

BUSINESS PROCESS REQUIREMENTS

Assume the requirement is to create a process that allows for the automation of trigger based campaigns which, in this case, means guest satisfying particular marketing criteria.  This requirement of automating trigger based campaigns is dependent on daily matching and merging of guest data to make the guest unique (the process of ensuring a guest is unique will be discussed in a separate blog). The following are potential trigger based campaigns:

  • Driven by check-ins – “Welcome”
  • Driven by check-outs – “Thanks for Staying”
  • Reactivation
    • “We miss you!”
    • Requires guest stay history
  • In-house guest campaigns
    • Loyalty related
    • Requires guest stay history

So, the next question becomes, “Once the triggered campaign requirement is satisfied how does the e-mail blast execute on a scheduled basis?” To satisfy this requirement a third party marketing integration product such as ExactTarget, CoreMotives, or ClickDimensions can be used.  These are just some third party marketing integration products for CRM 2011, there are additional products out there.  Most of these third party marketing add-ons tend to have Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) available that can be programmed. In this particular instance, ExactTarget and the ExactTarget API were used to achieve the requirement of executing the e-mail blast on a determined schedule.

PROCESSES DEVELOPED TO ACHIEVE REQUIREMENTS

The processes developed contain a combination of manual and automated processes to complete the triggered e-mail process.

Manual Processes

  • STEP 1: Marketer contacts advertising company to create art design
  • STEP 2: Approved art design is converted to HTML format
  • STEP 3: Receives completed HTML
  • STEP 4: Prepare website for marketing campaign with website design company
  • STEP 5: Create an e-mail for each triggered e-mail process in ExactTarget
  • STEP 6: Create a dynamic marketing list for each triggered e-mail scenario
  • STEP 7: Create a campaign for each triggered e-mail scenario
  • STEP 8: Create an ExactTarget automated send record for each triggered e-mail scenario
  • STEP 9: Create an application configuration record for each triggered campaign

Automated Processes

  • STEP 10: Custom application runs at a schedule time on a nightly basis and performs a lookup against active campaign configuration records.  Deactivated campaign configuration records will not be executed against.  While this application will run on a nightly basis by default, it will use the configuration record for each active triggered campaign to determine the appropriate schedule (daily, weekly, monthly) it needs to run at for the automated campaigns. For daily processing, the custom application will run every night at a given time.  For weekly processing, the custom application will check the day of each week of the current day and compare it to the list of days of the week selected in the configuration record. If the current day of the week matches any of the selected days of the week in the configuration record, it will run.  For monthly processing, the custom application will run on the date selected on the configuration record. Therefore, the custom application will run on the exact same day each month. The custom application is setup and scheduled using the windows task scheduler.
  • STEP 11a: Create a copy of the dynamic marketing list as a static list
  • STEP 11b: Compare the new static list created in the step above to the static control group list and removes the contacts matching in both lists from the static marketing list, which is then used as the list to process the e-mail blast
  • STEP 11c: Create a recipient record for each daily email blast and then the recipient record will be associated to the marketing list attached to the campaign
  • STEP 11d: Associate the recipient records to the appropriate send record designated for each campaign
  • STEP 12: Results from the email blasts will be processed as ExactTarget response activity type records directly into CRM against the guest profile record

metesh email process graphicCONCLUSION

In conclusion, while this is only one solution of meeting a requirement to process triggered campaigns using Dynamics CRM 2011 and ExactTarget,  other solutions can be created using Dynamics CRM 2011 and other third party marketing integration products.

Open a Portal – Close the Sale: Why Manufacturers Create Sales Portals

Sarah Blog GraphicIn today’s world of social media, successful sales and marketing in manufacturing is a complex balancing act requiring more and more visibility to actual data. Real-time visibility to dealers, agents, and customers involved in your business has never been more important for maintaining successful pipelines and customer loyalty.

If you don’t have a bi-directional communication portal to every channel of your business, you’re missing the critical information you need to stay ahead of your competition. You may not have a sales portal to your business, but your competition does and they are listening. They are listening to your prospects, your reps, and your customers.

The good news is many manufacturers who have become lean on the production floor are learning that applying similar principles in sales and marketing can also lead to increased production. These manufacturers know nothing is more important to their sales than an accurate visual of what is happening in their channel right now.

These forward-thinking manufacturers are looking at their complex sales scenarios, including inside sales, field sales, direct sales, reseller networks and partner sales and noticing communication gaps, redundant data and slow movement. They understand two things very clearly. First, they recognize the impracticality of trying to make good decisions using countless spreadsheets on multiple desktops with no consolidation. Next, they understand that their sales models include people who are not their employees but rely on them for business performance and that giving these non-employees a method to communicate allows their companies to monitor and adjust their performance. Then they ask, “How can we view the whole sales process in real time to better run our business?” And the answer is a sales portal which helps improve management and forecasting in these areas:

  • Account ownership
  • Distributor management
  • Order management
  • Support management
  • Pipeline visibility
  • Quoting
  • Closing
  • Messaging

A sales portal can also bridge the gap to your back-end systems and create a seamless communication protocol that empowers everyone in the channel, employees and non-employees, while providing accurate real-time visibility in a secure manner that can help accelerate the sales process.

View the Edgewater Channel Portal in action.

What can you monitor with a sales portal?

  • Real-time dashboards
  • Heat maps across the entire territory showing high and low performers
  • Inside, field and channel sales
  • Security between users accessing quotes and orders
  • 30/60/90 day forecasts
  • New revenue
  • Estimated close dates
  • Quote requests
  • Service requests
  • Customer loyalty
  • Announcements for tradeshows and product guidelines

With a portal you empower your sales force with the tools needed to succeed. Each user has a different security level and sees a custom dashboard. For example, a manufacturer’s rep can see how his or her overall pipeline is performing. The rep can see new leads, can adjust those leads and can notify you of constraints. As the manufacturer you can see the rep’s pipeline incorporated into yours, and you can help move sales along by knowing precisely where the rep is in the pipeline. You can also send discounts to your field reps immediately and see how those discounts perform real time.

With a sales portal you can allow all of your reps to have access to a common document library and collaborate via discussion groups where you  can include future products, sales literature, competitive information and more.

To see what is happening right now means opening a sales portal, which is as easy as opening a dock door in the warehouse – once you build it.