CRM Project Management
January 04, 2012
Visual representation of entity relationships and metadata can be very useful in a CRM project. Thankfully, Microsoft has provided pre-built Entity Relationship Diagrams (ERD) for the eleven of the most important out of the box entities in CRM2011. They are available here in Visio format.
You can also create ERDs for custom entities. The generator is buried deep inside of the SDK (…\sdk\samplecode\cs\metadata\diagram ). You will need Visual Studio and Visio 2010 to run the document generator.
1. First, open the above file path and open the file MetadataDiagram.csproj in Visual Studio.
2. Next, from the toolbar, click the Build Solution icon.
3. You could run the program now. However, it will map all of the entities, their attributes and their relationship to each other. This will take a very long time, but more importantly, it's complexity may render it useless to most people. What I have found useful it to map one entity at a time, or at the most two or three.
4. In order to draw one or more specific entities, click the debug tab, then enter the logical name in the Command line argument box. You can enter as many entities as you would like to map here. For instance, if you would like to map accounts, then simply enter "account". If you would like to map an custom entity then enter "new_entityname". If you would like to map the relationships between you custom entity and accounts, then enter "account new_entityname". Remember, that will map your new entity, accounts, and the relationships between them. If you want a map for accounts and another map for your custom entity, you will need to run the program twice.
5. To run the program, hit the Start Debugging button in the toolbar.
6. This will bring up a command prompt. It will ask for a CRM server and a port. It is very simply orgname.domainname.net (no https:, etc.) Then you enter your username and password just as you would if you were logging into CRM as a user.
7. The program will run (usually a few minutes) and create a Visio document in the path: (..sdk\samplecode\cs\metadata\diagram\bin\Debug ). The name of the file will be simply "account.vsd". It is important to note that if you use the program to create another account diagram, and there is already a file called "account.vsd" in the Debug file, the command prompt will issue an error and the document will not be created. It is a good best practice to move your finished files from the Debug folder as you finish them.
A sample of the output is below. This is for the entity 'sharepointsite' in ootb CRM.
October 27, 2010
Implementing a new Microsoft Dynamics CRM system and strategy will most likely modify the way employees work, which inevitably will lead to some users unfortunately resisting change. After all, it is human nature for employees to initially not want to modify a routine or procedure that they are currently comfortable with doing and that has met expectations in the past. The fact that some users may be slow to embrace Microsoft Dynamics CRM poses a challenge, as firms want to maximize their return on investment in CRM as quickly as possible. In order to increase Microsoft Dynamics CRM user adoption and overcome those resistant to change, companies must find ways to motivate and actively engage the user base.
For all Microsoft Dynamics CRM deployments, firms of all sizes should have an Executive Steering Committee with a designated Project Sponsor. As the firm’s CRM champion, the Project Sponsor must be readily available to support and encourage new Microsoft Dynamics CRM users as they become acclimated to their new system. The firm’s CRM strategy should be well-defined prior to the implementation and often communicated to its users. It is crucial that the executives emphasize that the Microsoft Dynamics CRM application will enhance the users’ productivity, save them time, and optimize their interactions with all stakeholders, from clients to partners to suppliers to prospects. It is also important to clearly articulate the benefits that the solution brings to the organization and how it will help the firm and each individual user meet concrete short-term and long-term goals. In order to set the right expectations, all departments should be informed of their specific roles during the implementation and as users of the system. Workflows that may have to be adjusted should be identified and conveyed to the appropriate functional units. The Executive Steering Committee should also relay to the users which Key Performance Indicators will be tracked and reported in Microsoft Dynamics CRM in order to instill more accountability and establish a new higher standard of excellence. Additionally, the Steering Committee should always provide users across the organization with brief updates on the progress of the CRM implementation milestones. Lastly, it is highly recommended that a detailed training plan be devised and shared with the users well in advance of the actual training dates.
To help facilitate a smooth implementation and increase user adoption, Project Sponsors must advocate that CRM is so much more than just a software application. It is an ongoing strategic initiative that goes well beyond the initial purchase and roll-out. In order for Microsoft Dynamics CRM adoption to increase more rapidly, it is crucial for Project Sponsors to 1) reiterate and remind the users of the firm’s strategic vision and commitment to CRM, 2) provide users with recurring updates on the implementation timelines, 3) seriously listen to user feedback and suggestions, and 4) provide users with thorough and ongoing training.
Customer Effective can certainly tailor an extensive training program to meet your unique needs and increase your CRM user adoption. We can lead and assist with the training of end-users to help them use Microsoft Dynamics CRM more proficiently and consistently.
September 27, 2009
Ask yourself: How effective is my CRM program? Am I getting everything I need to manage my business and make informed decisions?
If any of your answers aren't backed by CRM supported facts, then you should keep reading. If you've partnered with Customer Effective in the past, you know about our User First Design Formula. Nearly everything we do is weighed against it's impact to the end user - from the Executives to Administrators to End Users. Within the methodology we feel it is extremely important to inspect what your business does and surface value-added detail through CRM. Yes, we are talking about Dashboards and Managing by Metrics.
A common approach taken to resolve this business need leverages SharePoint and custom web parts. All of these are exposed via CRM. Recently, Customer Effective has added a new tool to it's CRM project toolkit. If you are a customer working with us, you know about Interactions. Our value added add in that truly provides a one stop shop for that 360 degree view of what is happening with your customers, prospects and organization. Effective Dashboards bring additional tools to the end users. Out of the box, CRM doesn't provide end users a simple way to build visual elements and add them to your deployment. The SharePoint approach is still extremely valuable and a recommended strategy for projects that really push Business Intelligence. Effective Dashboards can supplement this approach or be utilized on it's own.
Effective Dashboards gives trusted end users or Business Analysts, where security appropriate, the ability to create a dashboard on the fly that leverages CRM entities. You can take this responsibility out of the hands of the IT department to build specific web parts and manage a SharePoint site. Imagine being able to build a dashboard based on CRM records from within CRM. Salesforce.com commonly targets this "missing" functionality in CRM. For Customer Effective, that is no longer an issue. In fact, we believe we now are able to address Business Intelligence in a way that Salesforce.com cannot. You now have multiple BI delivery points and possible solutions. Did I mention we will bring this to the table for all of our projects going forward? As part of our project offerings, we bring all of our toolkit items to the table for your use.
What do you need to know about Effective Dashboards? Just like views, Effective Dashboards leverage Advanced Find functionality. You have the ability to create both System-wide and My Dashboard applications. Yes, you can drill through the dashboard charts and graphs to CRM records. It honors your security model. You can create a dashboard to look at your business metrics and expose it in CRM in hours instead of weeks.
You can learn more about Effective Dashboards and the rest of our project offerings, hear real world examples from our customers and gain a deeper insight into Microsoft CRM at the Customer Effective User Conference. The event is being held October 29th and 30th in Greenville, South Carolina.
You can find more information about the User Group here: Customer Effective 2009 User Conference. If the User Conference doesn't fit your schedule, you can contact us at (877) 252-2171 or (864) 250-2170.
May 18, 2009
Recently, I've been writing for MSDynamicsWorld.com. This website discusses all things Dynamics. There are news articles, best practice advice and general information about CRM as well as AX, GP, NAV and SL. You can check out my latest column on the importance of Executive Leadership in a CRM Program right here -
November 23, 2008
No matter how focused your efforts, user adoption is always the final sticking point in a successful CRM program. You can select a knowledgeable, proven partner to aid in your implementation. You can be proactive in your CRM program by reviewing processes and establishing a Steering Committee. You can provide the exact technology needs to the users and train them thoroughly. At the end of the day, if your users aren't able to see management using the CRM technology AND if the CRM program doesn't provide operational value to them - adoption will be an issue.
We will spend a few moments on sales adoption. Common issues with sales management and user adoption fall into a few buckets:
- CRM becomes a Friday morning pipeline update database, nothing more - nothing less.
- Management doesn't leverage the data in CRM, especially dashboards and reports available for knowledge building and intelligent decision making.
- There are no carrots for the users - only sticks are employed to force user adoption.
If you fall into one of these categories it's time to consider inspecting your processes or direction. Here are a few simple ideas to counter the adoption issues described above:
- Give the Account Executives functionality that increases or optimizes their selling time. Sales staff are paid to sell. Give them the tools to make that happen. While updating an opportunity record can seem tedious (but very necessary), augment by providing address mapping integration or automated workflow to remove manual tasks like trip reports. A recent customer's Account Executives rely heavily on their Sales Support staff through various points in their selling cycle. By giving the AE's visibility into the planned enterprise-wide sales activities of the support staff, the AE's are able to more quickly solidify meetings that require support team members for a prospect or customer product demonstration. They no longer have to manage this during every instance with phone calls or email strings back and forth to the support team.
- If you find your sales staff is not adopting CRM because they don't perceive management to be leveraging the information going into CRM, try running your pipeline meetings - in a group or individually - from your CRM dashboards or reports. This is a technique that you can use to supplement or remove the common stick approach that requires opportunity management in CRM or the AE will not get paid. Sales staff will understand management is making decisions based on CRM information and they will see management taking ownership of the CRM program. This is a powerful message. Don't expect after one pipeline meeting to have the light switch change. Be diligent.
- Inspect your sales processes and continue to ask for feedback on what will help optimize sales efforts. We previously mentioned map integration or workflow. Each sales process is different - inspect what your users need, plan to address their needs, COMMIT to the users you will help them and engage you CRM IT team or partner to work through the enhancements. If you are not using a dashboard, I strongly suggest you start by examining your Business Intelligence needs.
These are just a few examples of sales adoption issues. Feel free to share in the comments additional tricks or steps you've taken to improve on a process that makes your organization succeed - Successful Sales.
September 24, 2008
For high availability CRM deployments, it is recommended that you have additional environments for test, Dev, and QA, so you can manage changes to your configuration without impacting users. This is also a good idea for disaster recovery, so if the production environment fails you can roll over to one of the other environments.
To have a valid test environment, you need to closely approximate your production CRM environment, with current configuration and data. So what is the process to "refresh" the data and configuration in your test environment to match the production environment?
Step 1. Deactivate test CRM organization using CRM deployment manager. On the test CRM server, open Deployment Manager by going to Start-->All Programs-->Microsoft Dynamics CRM-->Deployment Manager. Open the Organizations folder, select your MSCRM test organization, and click Disable from the right side menu. Note you will need to be a deployment admin to perform this step.
2. Delete test CRM organization in Deployment Manager. Once you have disabled the Organization, you will be able to delete it.
3. Drop test MSCRM database in SQL Server Management Studio on the test SQL environment.
4. Restore backup of prod MSCRM database to the test SQL Environment
5. Import organization to the test environment using the CRM Deployment Manager. In Deployment Manager, click Import Organization, and follow the wizard to point it to the the restored MSCRM database.
August 04, 2008
When planning your deployment of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 for Outlook, it is important to consider what contact records to synchronize from CRM to Microsoft Outlook contacts. The default synchronization rule is to sync contacts owned by me to my Outlook Contacts; however, this can be changed. Say you are a sales manager and don't have any contacts assigned to you, you may want to have all of your team's contacts synchronized with your Outlook so they show up on your Blackberry. Or you may be a major account rep with 5,000 contacts assigned to you in CRM, and you don't want to have your Outlook Contacts overloaded with all of these contacts. You can modify this rule to include contacts based on virtually any criteria, or you can disable it altogether so no contacts are synchronized.
To modify the synchronization settings in Outlook go to CRM --> Modify Local Data Groups and double click on the My Contacts group to edit the synchronization criteria.
Note that it is important to configure this immediately after installing and configuring the Outlook client, especially if the user has a large number of contacts assigned to him that he does not want to synchronize with Outlook Contacts. The reason is that if you do synchronize (happens every 15 minutes by default) without changing the sync rule, all of the CRM contacts assigned to the user will be added to Outlook Contacts, and if you change the rule or deactivate the rule after the synchronization happens, the Contact records that were created will not be removed from Outlook.
To understand why this is, it is important to understand how the logic of the Outlook synchronization works.
If I synchronize a CRM contact that is not owned by me with my Outlook and later that contact is deleted from CRM or I modify my sync rules, that contact will be removed from my Outlook Contacts.
If I synchronize a CRM contact that I own with my Outlook and later delete the contact or modify my sync rules, the contact will not be removed from my Outlook Contacts.
This is by design to prevent personal contacts from getting deleted when they are deleted from CRM. Say I have my brother Bob as a personal contact, and I decide that I should add him to CRM since we are working with his company, so I track his contact record in CRM. Say later Bob gets a new job, so we delete him from CRM, I don't want my personal contact record for Bob (that I tracked in CRM) to be deleted from my personal contacts.
This underscores why it is critical to plan your synchronization strategy for Outlook users, otherwise you may be required to manually clean Outlook contacts.
Thanks to Larry Lentz for helping to clarify some of this.
July 23, 2008
As seen on the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Team Blog, the User Guide for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 has been released. Probably the best part of this news is that besides PDF format, it has also been released in an unprotected Microsoft Word .docx format.
This means that you can customize the User Guide based on your configuration (all 493 pages), or build smaller versions for users with limited roles. This will be a lifesaver for project documentation.
April 24, 2008
Thanks to David Yack for answering a persistent question with CRM 4.0: Will virtualization be supported? As Virtual Server becomes more common, and with the upcoming release of Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V, this seems to be a question that many clients are asking.
With 3.0, the answer to the virtualization question was virtual servers are supported for test environments, but not for production environments.
With 4.0, Microsoft has changed the support policy to fully support CRM running on Microsoft virtualization platforms for production environments, and partially support it for non-Microsoft virtualization platforms (like VMware).
You can read the KB article here.
March 18, 2008
All too often, Customers find they have selected the wrong partner too late in the game. The importance of selecting the correct partner to implement your CRM strategy is as important as selecting the correct CRM application. If you are selecting a partner for your CRM implementation you must consider several factors across the functionality you plan to leverage – marketing, sales and customer service. There are several fairly equally weighted factors in this decision:
- Two words – User Adoption. When selecting a CRM partner it is imperative that they understand and can articulate their strategy on successful user adoption. This is a MUST HAVE and ranks at the top of the list with selecting the right application for your organization and having an active long-term CRM strategy.
- Choose a partner that can PROVE competency in the tool you have selected. In my experience, I have recently seen a trend where “Rescue Missions” initially selected a partner who performs a number of consulting services across a myriad of products. They have generally found themselves with a partner who is competent in one area, ERP for example, and less experienced in CRM. A great litmus test is to find out what CRM application they are using. If they don’t answer with the CRM product you have selected or they are selling, a big red flag should be brought to the flagpole. If the partner manages their business with the CRM tool you are buying, you know they believe in the application and understand the value of setting performance metrics and CRM processes. Simply ask them to demonstrate how they use CRM.
- Common “Rescue Missions” share one or all of these themes: our go-live date slipped considerably or was never realized, we went way over budget and/or our CRM deployment didn’t fit our users needs. Ask the hard questions when determining your partner and get them to prove their quality.
- When working through reference calls, be sure to verify the partner’s ability to bring best practice guidance to the table. Best practices MUST include more than configuration best practices. Great partners will be a solid rock to lean on when you need to make difficult process decisions around marketing, sales and customer service when incorporating the CRM application’s use.
- By understanding what you think is best for your organization; you will be more informed when selecting your partner. You can reference a previous post entitled Tips to CRM Project Success: Pre-Project Kickoff that will give you some suggestions to prepare. If you have selected your partner and are now working through the cost of the project it is important to understand what you are getting for the amount you are paying.
- If you find yourself looking for a new partner, my advice is NOT to make your partner decision from the same criteria as the initial process. In a recent sales call, I spoke with a prospect who found themselves well over-budget with less than expected functionality. I was surprised to hear that the prospect was using the exact same decision making process to select this partner. In the case of Microsoft CRM, if you have to find a new partner and don’t know where to start, consult your Microsoft Account Manager.
So spend the necessary time, perform the due diligence required to make a sound decision and don’t forget the end game - you don't want to become a Rescue Mission. On time delivery, on/under budget of initial scope and a great user experience are important. Your partner should demonstrate they will be equally responsible for all three of these objectives. These are important for project health. Best practice guidance, successful user adoption strategy and a performance metric-driven focus are important to the success of your long-term investment.
March 07, 2008
A client asked me yesterday if I had an ERD for the system entities in Microsoft CRM 4.0. The good news (for me) was that I didn't have to create one—Microsoft has recently added very detailed ERD diagrams for CRM 4.0 to the download center.
You can download these diagrams from here. I also plan on testing out the Metadata Diagram creator included in the SDK, and will post a review later.
February 26, 2008
If you haven't done it yet, you should download the Microsoft CRM 4.0 Implementation Guide. It includes three fairly big manuals for Installing, Operating, and Planning a CRM implementation.
The other thing you will find is a zip file called "Planning Tools." This is a collection of about 35 Excel and Word documents separated by the following categories:
- Business Management Planning
- Configuration and Customization Planning
- Project Management Tools
- Service Scheduling Tools
There is a lot of good stuff in these tools. I wanted to highlight several that I have found to be especially useful:
- Business Process Questions.doc—This is a pretty extensive 12 page questionnaire designed to define a company's business process as it relates to CRM. You probably will want to edit it to be relevant to the specific company that you are sending it to, but it is a lot better than starting to write one from scratch.
- Workflow Planning.xls – This spreadsheet is handy for planning the workflow conditions and events that will be required for the implementation.
- Default Values for Drop-Down Lists.xls
- Default Values for Status and Status Reason Attributes.xls—I have found these two to be very handy because it give a one sheet list of all of the system picklists and status fields. They are great for external project work as you define what the picklist values should be, but internally I have found them useful as well. When I'm writing a report that I want to make conditional on whether or not an opportunity is open, I just check this spreadsheet to see if the open status name is "Open" or "Active."
February 06, 2008
The factors of a successful rollout of any CRM project are quite common. Heading the list are Project Scope Management, Buy-in from Key Management Players, Defined Performance Metrics and User Adoption. There are a few things that you can do as the client to ensure the proper steps are taken within your organization before you ever engage your CRM partner for project kick-off: (1) Build a responsible team of executives, managers and users able to contribute to the business needs of a CRM strategy, (2) understand your business issues and needs for implementing a CRM strategy and (3) acknowledge that successful CRM-based organizations continually work to enhance and optimize their CRM system long after the CRM implementation partner has helped deploy the configured solution.
Build a Core Team
A common misconception by businesses that decide to incorporate a CRM system into their infrastructure is that CRM systems are generally plug-and-play technology. Successful CRM deployments are not grounded in simple server installation or website access given to a set of users. Successful businesses build a Core Team that is responsible for understanding the needs of executives, management and its users. Then, they take those needs and determine measureable business value as objectives for the project. The Core Team should include recognized business leaders within the organization, successful team managers and users that understand both the business goals and the ground-floor practices of the user community. The Core Team should be empowered to make strategic decisions regarding the business processes and how they affect the entire user base of the CRM application.
Understanding Business Objectives and Processes
The Core Team should be able to easily define business objectives and processes for the three general user groups – executives, managers and users. Grouping resources into these three buckets will allow the Core Team to gain a sharp focus quickly. Executives are generally most interested in how the CRM information can help drive strategic business decisions, such as a sales forecast or successful first-call service resolution. Executives want to see the value CRM brings to critical aspects of the business. Managers need to know what their teams are doing and how they can quickly identify items where they can directly help their team members. Users want efficient processes, giving flexibility to work the way that they feel most comfortable. Spending time up front to discuss and document these items will go a long way to helping your selected CRM partner provide accurate estimates and identify those resources who can advise on industry best practices. Having this knowledge allows you to select the CRM system that fits your current model and future growth.
Balance fitting the Business to a System and a System to a Business
CRM systems are very rarely out-of-the-box fits for ANY organization. Configuring your CRM solution to address how you do business goes a long way when faced with critical business decision questions, executive buy-in and heading off user adoption issues downstream - even months after the project has commenced. Leveraging the business objective and process discovery, you will be able to prioritize those quick wins for the three user groups. CRM initiatives often fail because the decision is made to fit the business to the tool. It is very important to have a solid blend, leveraging the software’s existing functionality with your business specific processes. Building a phased approach to achieve the overall desired results allows the business to execute on a sound thought-out CRM strategy. Finally, engaging a partner who not only understands the CRM system selected, but also shows the breadth and depth of business knowledge required to provide best practice guidance is critical.
Spending the time upfront to address these three items will help your organization prepare and select the CRM system and partner best for your business. Additionally, the CRM partner will be able to help drive the project from a business perspective and not a technical perspective, which is often the key element of a successful CRM initiative.