Category: CRM


MS Release Outlook Customer Manager

CRM, Home Page

Microsoft unveils a new, lightweight CRM for those not ready for Dynamics 365: Outlook Customer Manager

New service targeted at small businesses building better customer relations

It’s launched a new service and mobile app called Outlook Customer Manager that’s available as a free add-on for those with an Office 365 Business Premium Plan, starting today for those in the First Release program and rolling out worldwide over the next few months.

The app builds on Bookings, its customer scheduling app, and is designed to hit at the same small business segment.

“Outlook Customer Manager gives you a complete view of your interactions with each customer, helps you track tasks and deals in progress, and surfaces timely reminders. You can stay on top of customer relationships right from Outlook, with no need to install or learn separate tool,” Microsoft wrote in a release announcing the new software. “And as your business needs grow, you can move to Dynamics 365 to take advantage of enhanced customer information, process efficiency and consistency, and deeper financial and customer insights”

The app looks like a slick way to bring varying data sources — from calendar items to customer contact information — together in one place and allow smooth transitions in case one employee needs to hand off things to someone else.

On desktop, the application just surfaces as a new tab in Outlook (see above), and on mobile it has its own dedicated app:

The mobile app is iOS only for now, but Microsoft said it will be rolling out to other operating systems soon.

ERP Implementation – The Traps.

CRM, Projects
Published on May 6, 2016 Vinay Bansal

ERP implementations are littered with tales of lost millions and withdrawals after implementation. Many of the most experienced IT consultancies/ Software Providers have failed. So what are the secrets? What are the traps? This question could produce at least a book, and probably a sequel. Here are a few things the Software Provider is not going to tell you about. They are by no means the most important, but they are missed in many implementations.

ERP Systems

Most organisations do not understand the costs associated with an ERP system when they first commence the implementation. The benefits are usually well understood. The costs do not surface until well into the implementation – and why should the Software Provider talk to an organisation about the costs and difficulties when they are trying to make a sale?

On the surface, there are very attractive reasons for going ERP. Benefits include:

  • A single system to support rather than several small and different systems
  • A single applications architecture with limited interfaces
  • Access to management information unavailable across a mix of applications
  • Access to best practice systems and procedures
  • More integration hence lower costs
  • More “automation” of tasks Generic Costs and Impacts

The costs and impacts are understandably not played up by the ERP Vendors. Some of those are:

  • Implementation effort will be bigger then ever talked about or even imagined. We are yet to hear from an organisation who have implemented ahead of schedule and under budget.
  • Because of the richness of functionality, the “toy box effect” can take over. Users see all the functionality available and suddenly they want it now. The scope can grow out of control.
  • The existing environmental mix between what is done manually and what is done by the system will swing dramatically after implementation. Many more tasks will be automated. Automation will significantly reduce the flexibility of how you operate as a business.
  • Users need to become more computer literate. Many see this as personally challenging – even beyond their ability – and will not cope, or leave the company.
  • The word “Enterprise” in ERP means that whatever happens in one area has a ripple effect in other areas. Understanding the implications of actions of one area, on other areas of the company, is not something that happens overnight. Training tends to focus on how do I do my job. It should also focus on what are the impacts of my job, in other areas.
  • Near enough is no longer good enough. Data integrity becomes critical. The computer cannot make human judgments. If stock is moved, it is no good somebody remembering where they put it. The information needs to be put into the system or there will be a domino effect. E.g. Stock is moved from location A to location B and the information is not put into the system. The system will tell someone to get the material from A and when it is not there, they have to go looking. At the same time it is telling someone else to put new material in B, but B is full. The first person finds the original material in B and logs it into the system. We now have double the quantity in the system again and it doesn’t reorder. And so it goes on and everyone is blaming the system.
  • ERP systems tend to replace old systems. As such it is a quantum leap for all areas of the company. It is replacing the trusty Ford with a high performance Ferrari. This happens at a Technical level as well as a Business Level. New ways need to be learnt in a very short space of time.
  • Things have to be done consistently. No longer are we able to do something one way in one branch and another way in another branch. The system is going to determine how we do things in all locations. Even within one location, special treatment may not be possible any more without changing the configuration of the system. If the system says you can either have 0, 15, 30 or 60 day credit terms, you can no longer offer 45 day terms without changing configuration. If consistency can be implemented, there is good potential for cost savings as well as getting rid of special arrangements that reduce profit.


Corporate Culture

All the points above contain technical issues or business issues which can be managed if they are identified soon enough. Training can show people the impact of their actions in other areas. QA programs can focus on quality of data. What most managers who have been through an ERP implementation, will tell you, is the biggest impact is on “Corporate Culture”. It is always underestimated and never overestimated.

Corporate Culture is a combination of two things.

  • The type of people who are employed by a company. Their personal values, skills, habits etc.
  • The way the organisation works. The focus, decision making process, attitude to staff, stability, etc.

Both feed off one another. Job applicants who feel aligned with the way the organisation works and comfortable with the style of person who interviews them, will likely get the job, and perpetuate the Culture.

To successfully take on an ERP system, an organisation needs to change it’s “Corporate Culture”. · It may need to change from being highly flexible and not paying a lot of attention to consistency or accuracy, to one of being almost obsessed with detail. · Of being prepared to have Business Practices that are actually adhered to rather than just being documented and forgotten. · People need to change from focusing on turnover to focusing on profit. ERP makes profit far more measurable down to Department, Customer and Material level. ·

Staff need to change their focus from their own job, to the whole organisation. What they do in their area has impacts in places they may never have envisaged. None of this is easy, and in many cases will be unachievable. Some people will not be prepared to make the change and will either leave of their own volition or be asked to leave. This is the cost of ERP.

Another dimension to “Cultural Change” is the timeframe in which the change is to be made. It basically needs to happen over a few days. One week you can bend all the rules and get away with it; next week the system will not let you. No matter how much training and preparation takes place, it cannot prepare many people for reality. That is not to say the preparation should not take place. The preparation will ease the pain, not take it all away. The more preparation the less the pain. On the positive side, some people will take to the system like the proverbial duck to water. These people tend to be (but not all are) younger, newer employees who have had experience in other organisations. They know the benefits of a good system and are frustrated with the current one. They will jump at the chance to make use of the new technology.


Change Management

Change Management is about setting expectations that lessen the pain of change. People involved in a change expect to go from A to B. Perhaps where they are actually going is to C. Change Management is about getting them used to the idea that C is the real destination.

To give an example, any new system is bound to have teething problems. If users expect that all is not going to run smoothly on day 1, and that they may be working back late for the first week because of problems bedding in the new system, they are less likely to reject the system when it does go wrong. On the other hand telling staff that this is going to be a great new system with no problems can only lead to disappointment and rejection when bugs appear. As such, change management is measurable.

Measuring attitudinal changes is not a complicated process. Properly managed, we can see how people feel about the changes over a period of time, and how they shift in their expectations. The results of money spent on change management can be seen. Not putting in the effort before implementation, will cost an organisation after implementation. What is the cost to an organisation of a system that is forced upon people, and with which they feel little ownership? They will either sink it, or ensure it never reaches it’s potential. Either way, the organisation will never get the return on investment it imagined.

Other experiences.

A survey of organisations that have implemented ERP’s was carried out recently. It identified “10 Common Causes of Disaster”.

  • Change Management and Training.

    This was mentioned as the major problem with implementations. Changing work practices to fit the system is a major difficulty. Also mentioned were training across modules and starting training sooner.

  • To BPR or not to BPR

  • It is difficult to draw the line between changing Business Processes to suit the system or retaining Business Processes and paying the cost, in dollars and time, to change the system. As time and cost squeeze the implementation, the usual path is to not modify the system, but to change the way people work. This feeds back into Change Management and Training.
  • Poor Planning

    Planning covers several areas such as having a strong Business Case, to the availability of Users to make decisions on configuration, to the investing in a plan that captures all the issues associated with implementing it.

  • Underestimating IT skills

    As most people are upgrading from old technology, the skills of the staff need to be upgraded as well. The upgrade is also going to place significant demands on a team who are geared to maintain an old but stable environment. Usually this effort is underestimated.

  • Poor Project Management

    Very few organisations have the experience in house to run such a complex project as implementing a large-scale integrated solution. It usually requires outside contractors to come in and manage such a major exercise. It can be a fine line between abdicating responsibility and sharing responsibility. Many consulting firms do a disservice to their clients by not sharing the responsibility.

  • Technology Trials

    The effort to build interfaces, change reports, customize the software and convert the data is normally underestimated. To collect new data, and clean the data being converted, will also require an effort that is beyond what is normally expected.

  • Low Executive Buy-in

    Implementation projects need Senior Executive involvement to ensure the right participation mix of Business and IT, and to resolve conflicts.

  • Underestimating Resources

    Most common budget blow outs are change management and user training, integration testing , process rework, report customisation and consulting fees.

  • Insufficient Software Evaluation

This involves the surprises that come out after the software is purchased. Organisations usually do not do enough to understand what, and how the product works before they sign on the bottom line. The Bleeding Edge ERP is so massive and integrated that reporting and linking to other systems (either your own or your customers and suppliers) can be much more difficult than you expect. Companies looking at ERP need to examine how they accept online feeds from a customer, or a customers’ customer, and examine the technological enablers as well as the implications of these technologies inside of the Business.


All this leads to a list of likely problems with an ERP system.

  • The cost is likely to be underestimated
  • The time and effort to implement is likely to be underestimated
  • The resourcing from both the Business and IT is likely to be higher than anticipated
  • The level of outside expertise required will be higher than anticipated
  • The changes required to Business Processes will be higher than expected.
  • Scope control will be more difficult than expected
  • There will never be enough training – particularly across different modules

Most important of all, and the single biggest failure point for ERP implementations, is the need for change management. The need for change management is not likely to be recognized until it is too late. The changes required to corporate culture are likely to be grossly underestimated. It is going to be hard enough to cope with the technical issues without having to address major people issues as well.

6 CRM predictions for 2016

CRM, Home Page, Strategy

So what will be the big trends in CRM in 2016? Here are six predictions.

CRM software will become even more social. “In 2016, we’ll see a lot more CRM providers adding new social media features, whether that be tracking customer interactions or suggesting new contacts,” says Marc Prosser, cofounder, Fit Small Business. “Nimble is out ahead on this, but expect others to add these features while their team (and others) devise new ways CRM can take advantage of social media.”

Mobile CRM will become a must-have. In 2016, “we’ll see CRM go mobile in a big way,” says Prosser. “So far, most mobile CRM apps have focused on providing a basic phone-ready version of the desktop version, usually without the full set of features.” Over the next 12 months, however, “expect to see CRM mobile apps adding features that interact with map and note-taking apps.” Also, “CRM will become less hierarchical and easier to use on the go.”

Sales reps will rely on “mobile CRM [to] keep connected and in touch with prospects and their sales manager,” adds Sean Alpert, senior director, Product Marketing, Sales Cloud, Salesforce. “Real-time data [will] keep reps in the know about everything from usage rates to open service tickets to breaking news about the prospect they’re about to visit. And, mobile CRM [will become a] powerful sales tool as more and more reps eschew traditional slides in favor of showing a demo on their phone or pulling up the latest analytics or dashboards on their [mobile] device.”

Integration will be the name of the game. “It’s increasingly important that your CRM be able to seamlessly integrate with your ecommerce platform, your marketing automation software, your analytics software, your accounting system… the list goes on and on,” says Katie Hollar, CRM expert at Capterra, an online tool for businesses to find the right software. “Rather than spending hours downloading and uploading CSVs of data from one system to another, CRM users will demand that their provider build these native integrations with other platforms to make them more efficient. And if CRM vendors can’t keep up with the demand, users will switch systems, finding one that works better with their existing infrastructure.”

“CRMs will evolve from sales-oriented tools to truly integrated marketing and sales platforms,” predicts Kathleen Booth, CEO, Quintain Marketing. “There has already been some movement in this direction, with many CRMs, such as Salesforce, offering integrations with marketing software. But in the future, integrations will be replaced by all-in-one software platforms that truly marry the needs of sales and marketing,” she says. “One example of a company that is doing this successfully right now is HubSpot, which added a free CRM to its marketing software last year. Expect more companies to enter this market in 2016.”

Vertical CRMs will give traditional CRM solutions some serious competition. “In 2016, the ‘verticalization’ of CRM solutions will be accelerated,” says Adam Honig, cofounder and CEO of Spiro, a personal sales app for salespeople. “A real estate salesperson has different needs than a medical device salesperson, and companies are increasingly realizing that they could benefit from using industry-specific CRM solutions like Veeva, Vlocity and OpenGov,” he says. “These vendors’ built-in best practices and processes provide a level of expertise that companies just don’t get with a generic CRM solution.”

As a result, “horizontal CRMs will start being replaced by industry-specific vertical CRMs that help you navigate the specific challenges of your industry,” says Anatoly Geyfman, CEO, Carevoyance. “Healthcare is a big example of this,” he says. “Veeva, a CRM for the pharma [and life sciences] industry, was in the first wave of these, but the wave is not over.” Now, as a result of an influx of industry-specific software solutions, “even Salesforce is releasing industry-specific features and brands for its CRM product.”

More CRM platforms will be equipped with predictive analytics capabilities. “In 2016, CRM systems will have analytics engines behind them that will enable the ability to provide real-time offers to customers based on predicting what they will want next or what kind of product or service they might buy next,” says Rebecca Sendel, senior director, Data Analytics and Customer Experience Management Programs, TM Forum, a global industry association for digital businesses.

“Predictive analytics combined with CRM data gives marketers and salespeople the chance to learn, at a deeper level, customers’ habits and then react to those in real time,” says Vicki Godfrey, CMO, Avention, a provider of data solutions. “This makes for more personalized interactions, which leads to increased sales, better customer relationships and reduced churn rates.”

Look for the CRM of Things. “We’ve seen the Internet of Things (IoT) make major headway this past year, and CRM will begin to reap the benefits in 2016,” says Dylan Steele, senior director, Product Marketing, App Cloud & IoT Cloud, Salesforce. “Companies today want a complete understanding of their customers, and with billions of connected devices generating 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day, it’s more important than ever to know how this data can create an even more personalized customer interaction.”

So expect to “see smart devices linked to CRM, enabling automated business notifications, follow-ups for sales support, and billing processes that will redefine immediacy for customer service,” says Kevin Roberts, director of Platform Technology at, a cloud ERP solution provider.

By Jennifer Lonoff Schiff CIO Nov 23, 2015 6:09 AM PT

Cloud Applications – Out of Sight, Out of Mind?

CRM, Home Page, Strategy

Very interesting reminder….

I’m just completing a project where all the telephony for the client I am working for has moved to a cloud service provider – every part of the service from ACD, SIP Proxy, SBC and the associated reporting tools and user management all reside there.

It has been a very interesting project from both a technical and planning perspective, one of the biggest learns that I have taken away from it is the knowledge that even though a platform might sit in the cloud it is very important to consider the service that is being provided and what you, as the client needs to have in place to make it an overall success.

Of course it’s possible to have Cloud Storage as a Service or Telephony as a Service but before you look at taking on such a project have you thought of:

  • demarcation points
  • incident management ownership and accountabilities
  • operational resilience
  • how much your provider really knows your business

I would advocate a move to the cloud for many applications, however just because an application resides there it does not mean that it is ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

Microsoft Dynamics, the real ERP alternative to SAP

CRM, Home Page, Projects, Strategy

Last Thursday 19th of November, Microsoft gave at last more details about its new Microsoft Dynamics Ax and since them we can start giving more details about this new revolutionary ERP platform. Cloud based (but later alter mid 2016,  also On-Premise), modern HTML5 interface based on Office 365 look and feel, Power BI, Real Time Analytics with On Memory Database Technology, Office 365 & CRM Integration, Machine Learning and much more.

This new version present a huge leap in technology but maintaining the proven functionality that have helped thousand of companies along the world to optimise their processes and continue operating in a more challenging and more interconnected economic world.

The objective of this post is to focus how Microsoft Dynamics compares to SAP. The other big player on the  ERP market who is still dominant for implementations in big companies, specially in their homeland Germany where they have still about 50% market share and worldwide about 20%. That means a lot of new customers for Microsoft Dynamics when they get the opportunity to see that Microsoft Dynamics offers much more for their money.

Apart from other soft reports you would see out there, I can report from own experience. I work on the Microsoft Dynamics world since more than 8 years and I am actually based in Germany where I have contact with lots of companies that uses SAP but also I had an intensive experience with the new SAP version S/4 HANA with Fiori in the last 6 months.  Even I was in the SAP central in Walldorf to take part in an official SAP HANA course 🙂

I want to focus my comparation on several points. On the Cloud, the development experience, the BI platform, the On Memory database, the functionality, the availability of professionals and formation possibilities and last the qualitity of the IT partners.

Cloud platform

With the arrival of Satya Nadella, Microsoft took the courageous way of betting for the cloud, at that time Cloud was considered still a Hype and only companies like Salesforce and Amazon were at the forefront of innovation on the cloud. This all changed and since 2010 Microsoft is innovating on the Cloud building its Microsoft Azure with an extense geographical presence allowing customers to have their data near their operations. Even in countries like Germany it is provided a german only cloud with the colaboration of local partners like T-System.

Products like Office 365 and Microsoft Dynamics CRM are a huge success  and the pace of innovation it is quite impresive  but it doesnt mean that Microsoft presents a incoherent set of products because all of then are easily accesible from the main Microsoft Azure platform. Even casual developers can start playing developing web/mobile applications with technologies like Machine Learning and Big Data with only a single account and maybe not to expensive fees after the free account expires. This is specially important because you build a developer community that gives exponential innovation.

SAP cloud offer is based, mainly in the purchases of another companies like Ariba, Concur and Fieldglass. These are great products but it is absolutely not a homogeneous set of products giving confusion to the customer. SAP it is also building their datacenters and providing more an more their business solutions on the cloud which have damaged fees from products on premise but this year they are almost doubling the cloud business from the numbers of last year. As developer you can also start playing a little with HANA on the cloud developing web applications but it still languishes behing the developer community build by Microsoft.

Development experience

The development experience with SAP from the point of view of someone that comes from a world of modern programming languages is a horror story. With the new Microsoft Dynamics Ax you will develop your business code with X++ and some task with C#. Everything from a unique development platform,  Microsoft Visual Studio. Developing in Microsoft Visual Studio is just a pleasure because of the productivity of the tool, their options and the nice look and feel.

Instead developing business applications for the new SAP S/4 on HANA implies to learn ABAP, XSJS, Java, SQLScript HTML5, CSS and Javascript and to use  several development IDES like ABAP Workbench, ABAP Development Tools for Eclipse and SAP WEB IDE. Just learning ABAP is a nightmare and the language itself is a obsolete language that comes from the first versions of SAP. ABAP was at it early stages only a language used for reports and because of the back-compatibility it involved in a procedural language and last in a object oriented language in an artificial way. It first name was already “Allgemeiner Berichts-Aufbereitungs-Prozessor”, which means something like general report processor. There is always a rumour that SAP would like to kill ABAP but it is still there on the last version SAP S/4 because almost all the business logic is builded with ABAP. That forces the developer to learn how to develop with OData in order to build interfaces between the logic, the new database and the new HTML5 based interface. Obviously the developer have not very extra time left to think about developing business code when he has to spend too much time so much languages and interfaces.

When you are a Microsoft Dynamics Ax developer you have inmediately access to all the info you need to be productive. All the database tables and business classes are pretty well documented. Just try to google CustTrans on Google and you will get access to the Microsoft Site on MSDN where the table is descripted. Just try to make the same with SAP, to find out, which table contains the customer transactions and maybe you will spend quite a lot of time just to try to find basic info.

Last about the development of user interfaces in the last version of Microsoft Dynamics you just have to know about one technology, HTML5. And everything could be made with only drag&drop and coding on the events and on the methods for the form object on Visual Studio. There is no need to be a WEB geek in order to develop business applications on the Cloud.

Meanwhile with SAP you still have to learn to develop with the old Dynpro, maybe Web Dynpro, maybe SAP PERSONAS, and last with FIORI. Setting FIORI to start working it is also not a work for novices and require a not so easy configuration. Last, developing for FIORI is it not the easy task that SAP tries to sell you. You will have to go much more on the HTML details but also build the interface with OData between the business code and the ABAP code. That in case the business code is in ABAP, because is the business code is in HANA nobody, even most of the SAP professionals, doesnt know still where the hell would be the business code.

BI platform

Microsoft BI offert for Microsoft Dynamics implies the cool new Microsoft Power BI and the new services from SQL SERVER 2016. That´s it! Just take a look at the new Power BI and you would be impresed. On behind will be powered with an On Memory database that will deviler results in light speed.

On the other side with SAP you will find a myriad of products and offers that makes not easy to understand which one do you have to use. Some of then are more apropiate for the managers, anothers for your department leaders and finally others would be more appropiate for the shop-floor. So you will have to choose between SAP Lumira, SAP BW, SAP Crystal Reports, SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence, SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards, ….

This is absolutely not easy but also not cheap!

On Memory database

In the field of On Memory database maybe SAP have the advantage with its HANA database. Now Microsoft with its SQL SERVER 2016 seems to be serious about On Memory and this is the main reason because Microsoft Dynamics Ax would be only available on Cloud until mid next year. Microsoft have to wait until the On Memory technology available on Azure it is available for On Premise systems. It that case I would recomend big companies with million of transactions per day to ask for a realistic perfomance test of both platforms in order to decide. If HANA copes better with such a huge amount of data it could still makes sense to spend so many money in a complicated platform like SAP. In another case, if you dont process millions of transactions per day you are trying to kill a flea with a sledgehammer.


The new Microsoft Dynamics Ax comes with not to many changes on the functionality, that it is important because the functionality that comes from Microsoft Dynamics Ax 2012 R3 it is already proved and not too many changes are needed. That it is a little like SAP that maintain its functionality given in modules like MM, SD, FI, CO, MCM and develop industry solutions based on that.  Allmost all the functionality provided by SAP it is included in Microsoft Dynamics. I can also say that on german if that sounds more professional for you: Lieferbeleg erstellen, Materialen Kommissionieren, Warenausgang buchen, …. everything it is available in Microsoft Dynamics Ax to implement your processes in the most optimal way.

One curious thing about SAP implementations it is that your company it is supposed to work the way that SAP dictates in its implementations. Even on the analysis phases of a SAP project the users are simply presented some SAP powerpoints about the functionality and the users have to present their GAPs. That could be good in cases of companies that doesnt have clear how they have to work or optimize their processes but if you have a clear view of your company and you  want to be ahead of the competition you will need much more. An example of that company is Inditex in Spain (Zara stores). They have build their own system using no standard software because they are a step ahead of the rest and adapting to processes thought by others would make then slower. But that is a radical option that no everybody can implement. Microsoft Dynamics Ax presents a flexible solution that you can adapt and that will grown with you. Obviously making changes to the system without understanding the standard functionality is also not a very good idea.

Availability of professionals and Formation possibilities

It is report that SAP consultants in Germany could make almost 100.000 € and developers even reach the 80.000 € mark. That it is only a hint of how expensive would be your SAP project if you choose SAP. To become a SAP professional almost the only way is to take part on the expensive courses at SAP due to that the system and it myriad of options it is quite innacesible for the casual guy. Even if you work on a End User it would be not very easy for you to learn to use the system without some SAP support. There is some initiatives from SAP like OPEN SAP but most of the courses doenst offer more than just marketing of new technologies.

To become a Microsoft Dynamics Ax Developer you doesnt need too much requirements. It is enought to be a .NET developer with some SQL Skills to make the ladder. Once you have the option to play with a system at an End User or at a Microsoft Partner you can learn quite fast if you have the right colleagues with you. Microsoft provides also on its Customer Source and Partner Source plenty of formation documents and if you wish you can also attend some of the official Microsoft Courses which will speed up your skills on the products.

So I dont see any scarce of Microsoft Dynamics professionals, even SAP consultants could become Microsoft Dynamics consultants quite easily and on the way providing great ideas to their colleagues. In Germany I experience a quite incompetent recruiting process, where companies have some positions open for months of even for years because they look for someone which Microsoft Dynamics experience but also with fluent german, when in most of the cases that it is absolutely not needed.

IT Partners

Microsoft Dynamics Ax is on the market since more than a decade and there is plenty of Microsoft Partners in which you can confide, some of then are specialized specific sectors like retail or industry. Companies like my actual company Alfapeople, MODUS Consult, COSMO Consult, Avanade, HSO, Impuls and SPH are good examples of them, and in Spain Prodware, AxAzure, Iniker IFR and Quonext are examples of high productive spanish Microsoft Partners. Worldwide I can mention companies like Sunrise Technologies, HSO and K3 but also the network of Alfapeople 🙂

SAP Partners there is also a lot out there specialy here in Germany, some of them lying on offices that look like palaces that shows how much money was won with SAP in the last decades. Now it is time for them to prove if they are worth their money and for all the current SAP users to take a look at Microsoft Dynamics Ax. They would be surprised to see how much money they can save and but most important how they will be able to become more agile reacting more quick to the needs of their customers in a more interconnected, cloud oriented world.

Pedro Rodriguez Parra
Dynamics Ax Developer at AlfaPeople GmbH

CRM activity Records

CRM, Home Page

Microsoft Dynamics CRM has different Activity entities, showing actions from the CRM users.  ActivityPointer records are automatically created when an Activity record is created, enabling developer to retrieve different Activity types with one request.

Activities are the actions users do in CRM, often tracking the interaction between users and customers.

CRM has lots of different activities

  • PhoneCall
  • Task
  • Letter
  • Email
  • Appointment
  • Fax
  • Custom Activities

Tracking the activity of users/customers, records the time spent on CRM records. For cases, you can see activities associated with the case.   Tracking activities allows different people to work a record with a full knowledge of the status of the case.

Activity facts

  1. Activity is an entity in CRM, you can look at it in the custom solution
  2. The activity entity is non-editable.
  3. Activity schema name is ActivityPointer e.g ActivityPointer = Activity
  4. ActivityPointer is not the same as Activity Party

Microsoft ActivityPointer description

“Task performed, or to be performed, by a user. An activity is any action for which an entry can be made on a calendar.”

What’s the purpose of the Activity Entity?

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.

Albert Einstein

To understand a CRM functionality, you need to understand its purpose.   Once you understand what it’s used for, how it works and why it works in that way.

The purpose of the Activity entity is in the schema name – ActivityPointer.  Developers can retrieve all activities with one request, instead of multiple retrieves using the different activity types.

The activity views allow you to show all activities for a record, despite the activities being different types (e.g. Email, PhoneCall, Task)

The CRM SDK has a great page on Activity entities.

The diagram shows why understanding Activities is important, Activities are linked to the primary entities in CRM.  Activity entity acts like an interface between primary entities and individual activities.

ActivityId’s are the same because an Activity record is created by CRM when an activity record (Task/PhoneCall/Email/etc) is created.

Activity Types

Doing an advanced find, you can use the Activity Type field on the ActivityPointer entity to see what Activites types can be ActivityPointer records.  The Activity Type is a Global option set

activity type


from the CRMHosk Blog

Microsoft to open UK datacentre

CRM, Home Page, O365, SharePoint, Strategy

The new UK-based datacentre is said to be opening from late 2016, though it sounds like the MoD will begin using it sooner than that.

O365 and Azuze UK data centre coming 2016

At his keynote speech at the Future Decoded event in London yesterday, CEO Satya Nadella stated that  customers in the UK would at last be able to store data within the country, allaying fears (even I not actual legal impediments) around governance and data protection.

In addition to Microsoft Azure and Office 365, the UK datacentre will support Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online sometime afterwards. Microsoft will also offer Azure ExpressRoute to provide customers with the option of a private connection to the cloud.
“At Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more,” says Nadella. “By expanding our datacentre regions in the UK, Netherlands and Ireland we aim to give local businesses and organisations of all sizes the transformative technology they need to seize new global growth.”

He added that the new local Microsoft cloud regions will enable data residency for customers in the UK, allowing data to be replicated within the UK for backup and recovery, reduced network distance and lower latency.

Nov 11, 2015

Data Loader Service: How to Use (Part 2 of 2)

CRM, Home Page

Data Loader Service: How to Use (Part 2 of 2)

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This blog post is the second in a two-part post about the Data Loader Service.  The first post can be found here.  

This post details a quick walk-through of how to use the service and various features.

Configuring Data Loader Service

There are 2 steps that need to be completed before this service can be used.

Step 1: Deploy the Data Loader runtime for a specific CRM organization

Data Loader for every CRM organization needs to deploy a new runtime module to ensure data isolation across organizations and to stay closer to the data center of the specified CRM organization.

1. Click on “Deploy runtimes” tile

2.  Click on the “+” button and fill in the data in the pop up screen. Select the CRM organization that you would like to import data to and click “Deploy“ button on the page.

3.  Deploy will take approximately between 15-30 minutes.

4.  Your deploy is ready when the grid reflects “Running” status as below

Step 2. Configure the flat file format.

1.  On the main dashboard click on “Configure file format” tile.

2.  In the “Configure file format” page, click on “+” and enter the necessary information pertaining the flat file format. Here is the example of the standard CSV format.

3.  Click save.

Now you are ready to start importing data into CRM organization.

Importing data

1.  Click on the “Import” tile on the dashboard

2.  This will start a wizard, follow the steps. Here you can upload data for more multiple entities as needed.

3.  On the “3. Map fields” step, the service will do the best effort matching, of the source file columns to the target entity. For the unmapped fields you could choose to complete that mapping or ignore.

Another key point to note is, the drop down for target fields also displays any alternate keys that were defined on the lookup entities. So you can map the alternate keys for your lookup columns.

4.  At the end of the wizard, give a name to the project and click on “Start data job”. This will start processing the uploaded files and import them to the cloud staging environment.

This is not starting the “Import to CRM” yet.

Viewing the Job execution details

1.  Click on the specific job’s card view on the dashboard.

2.  This will open the Job Details page, which is divided into 3 tabs:

  • Source tab.  This will display the success or error encountered while processing the files into staging table. If there are any records which the service was not able to import into staging, it will display it as an error with details.
  • Staging tab.  This is one of the important part of this service. This reflects all the records that were successfully imported in the cloud staging, in CRM, in errored etc. In this view user can run data quality validations and fix errors.
  • “Import to CRM” tab.  This tab displays the progress status after import to CRM has started.

Run data quality services

1.  On the Jobs details page, click on “Staging” tab

2.  To run DQS, click on “Validate” as shown below. This will validate two things, metadata validation and look up validation. Depending upon the number of records this might take a few minutes, and you could start validate on all the entities parallel if needed.

3.  At the end of validate, it will change certain records into “Not Valid” status – see the pic below.

Fix errors in Excel

1.  User can fix the errors in Excel, by clicking on “Download to excel” button. This button is in the staging tab as shown below.

2.  This will open excel. Click “Sign in” and enter the CRM credentials. Once authenticated, this will load all the errored records.

3.  Review the error message and fix the records. After the records are fixed, click on “Publish”. This will publish the fixed records back to staging. You would need to refresh the data in the staging grid to see the changes.

Start Import to CRM

After the data has been validated and fixed in staging, you are ready to start the import to CRM action. This will basically start import for all the entities in the current data job.

1.  Click on “Import to CRM” – as seen below.

2.  Once the import to CRM has started, the progress of the import can be viewed in “Import to CRM” tab

Any records that did not make it in CRM will remain in the staging grid in “Errored” status with detail error message that was received from CRM web service. The user can review the error messages and fix the records again in Excel and retry import. This service enables iterative import of data until all the records that are required are imported.

Refresh CRM Metadata in Data Loader

Once the Data Loader runtime is deployed, and thereafter if there are metadata changes or customization added on CRM side, then you would need to follow the steps below to refresh the metadata in Data Loader.

1.  Click on “Deployed runtimes” on the main dashboard

2.  Select the CRM organization in the grid and click on the refresh icon over the grid.

This will start refreshing the metadata. It might take several minutes before the refreshed metadata is reflected.


CRM Product Team

Data Loader Service: Preview Feature for Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online (Part 1 of 2)

CRM, Home Page, Uncategorized

Data Loader Service: Preview Feature for Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online (Part 1 of 2)

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Customers are facing challenges with data migration scenario, where each customer/partner has to write custom code or use 3rd party tools to import large volume of data. To help alleviate this pain point, Microsoft Dynamics team has developed a cloud Data Loader service for Dynamics CRM Online. The key benefit of this service is the ability to move your data between flat files and CRM Online, and cut down on implementation costs. We’re pleased to announce preview of this service that will empower organizations to better manage their data import/export processes. The preview supports only import operation, and the export will come in the next update of the feature.

This new Data Loader is available as a preview to North American based Dynamics CRM Online organizations. It supports CRM 2015 Online Update1 and the upcoming release.


Microsoft doesn’t provide support for this preview feature. A preview feature is a feature that is not complete, but is made available before it’s officially in a release so customers can get early access and provide feedback. Microsoft Dynamics CRM Technical support won’t be able to help you with issues or questions. Preview features aren’t meant for production use and are subject to a separate supplemental terms of use for preview features.

In this post, I will be sharing the following high level topics for the Data Loader.

Key Benefits

Getting Started

Preview features

Known Limitations

Send us feedback

Key Benefits

  • Quick and easy to configure import of data
  • Eliminate writing custom code against CRM SDK for importing data and thus cutting down on the implementation time and cost
  • Supports bulk loading of data
  • It’s available at no cost

Getting started

The Data Loader preview is enabled by default for all CRM administrators. Use the following steps to access the service:

  1. Navigate to link
  2. Click on Sign in and enter your CRM administrator credentials.

NOTE: This CRM admin also needs to be a Service or Global admin in AAD (Azure active directory).

This will log you in the service, and you are ready to use.

For detailed walk through of how to use this service – refer to the blog post Data Loader Service: How to Use (Part 2 of 2).

Preview features

  • All data uploaded is encrypted
  • Support for update and creates
  • Support for flat files with any delimiter
  • Edit and re-use data mappings
  • Excel app for fixing invalid data in the staging db and iterate over the data
  • Parallel processing to support bulk loads
  • Import of multiple entities in one data project
  • Handles auto detection of insert order and relationships
  • Imports historical data like closed activities, older Created date
  • Achieve high throughput

Preview limitations

  • Only supported for North America geography
  • No support for email attachments
  • No Web API support for accessing the tool
  • Limited to flats files as source data format
  • Scheduling Jobs not supported
  • Dynamics CRM On-Premises is not supported

Send us your feedback

We are making this preview available so that you can try it and let us know what you think. Your feedback will help us prioritize work to include the capabilities you need most. We ask that you give us your questions, suggestions and report problems from right inside of the Data Loader user experience, it’s the Smiley feature as shown below.


CRM Product Team

Microsoft empowers business transformation

CRM, Home Page, O365, SharePoint, Strategy

“Businesses are hungry to seize new opportunities using technologies like machine learning and predictive analytics,” said Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft. “Only when businesses create a culture that empowers everyone to have access to data and insight that drive action will they be positioned to truly transform.”

Nadella demonstrated products and services built by Microsoft to empower industries, organizations and individuals to drive insight and action from their data.

“Microsoft Azure IoT services combined with Windows 10 IoT for devices and Power BI is fueling a degree of collaboration, visibility and insight from data unheard of in the oil and gas industry — from the oil field and operations center all the way to the boardroom,” said Gary Pearsons, vice president and general manager, Customer Support and Maintenance at Rockwell Automation.

There were several components of today’s announcements:

Tools for industries

  • Microsoft Azure IoT Suite. Microsoft Azure IoT Suite is an integrated offering that takes advantage of all the relevant Azure capabilities, simplified billing and easy provisioning to help businesses connect, manage and analyze all of their “things.” Available in preview later this year, this new offering will provide businesses with finished applications targeting common Internet of Things (IoT) scenarios — such as remote monitoring, asset management and predictive maintenance — to simplify deployment and provide the ability to scale their solution to millions of “things” over time. Azure Stream Analytics will be generally available next month as part of Azure IoT or as a standalone service. Currently in preview, Azure Stream Analytics helps customers process massive amounts of real-time, incoming data from “things” and services so customers can predict trends and automate service and responses.
  • Windows 10 for Internet of Things. Microsoft announced that Windows 10 will provide versions of Windows for a diverse set of IoT devices, under the Windows 10 IoT moniker. Windows 10 IoT will offer one Windows platform with universal applications and driver models that will span a wide range of devices, from low-footprint controllers such as IoT gateways to powerful devices such as ATMs and industrial robotics. Windows 10 IoT will also bring enterprise-grade security from the device to the cloud and native connectivity for machine-to-machine and machine-to-cloud scenarios with Azure IoT services.

Tools for organizations

  • Power BI is a service, now available in the U.S. and more than 140 markets around the world, that helps customers take the pulse of their business via live market operational dashboards, explore data through interactive visual reports, and easily share new insights with colleagues and customers. New Power BI connectors, dashboards and reports for some of the industry’s most popular data sources — including Google Analytics, Microsoft Dynamics Marketing, Zuora, Acumatica and Twilio — will be available soon.
  • The Spring ’15 release for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, expected by the end of the second quarter of 2015, will deliver significant performance enhancements, deepen interoperability with Office 365, and with new knowledge management enhancements, improve efficiency and collaboration between workers and businesses. The release also introduces Microsoft Social Engagement, the latest update to Microsoft’s social monitoring tool designed to enable people to monitor and engage in the context of their Dynamics CRM and/or Office application. The intelligence gained from this new solution will enable businesses to be better informed about what customers are saying across all social channels.

Tools for individuals

  • Office Delve, now globally available, uses sophisticated machine learning techniques to help people discover relevant documents, conversations and connections from across Office 365. In addition, Exchange Online and Yammer content is now accessible via the Delve experience.
  • The company announced the IT Professional and Developer Preview of Office 2016, a key milestone for the next version of Office on the Windows desktop. Office 2016 is expected to be generally available in the second half of this year. Microsoft encourages IT pros and developers from its enterprise customers to join the preview to prepare, begin testing and help shape the future of the product.
  • Skype for Business (previously Microsoft Lync) technical preview starts Monday, and the new Skype for Business client, server and service within Office 365 will be available starting in April. Skype for Business delivers an enterprise-ready voice and video collaboration experience based on the familiar Skype user interface, including the ability for Skype for Business customers to connect with anyone in the Skype network.

Customers and partners also highlighted the benefits of these products and solutions and demonstrated how they are taking the next steps to use systems of intelligence to transform their businesses.

Three Ways You Can Recover From an ERP/CRM Failure

CRM, Home Page, Projects

Recovering from a failing  project is an incredibly difficult process. It can require a change in project scope, a hard look at requirements, an introduction of new methodologies and clear project controls. In some extreme situations, the project team and consultants may need to be replaced.

After a sobering, no holds barred assessment; the following actions must be taken.

  1. Re-examine the ERP Software. Determining if the ERP/CRM software was originally a good fit for the organization is the first step to recovery. The recovery team must determine if the project team evaluated the ERP/CRM options appropriately or chose specific software based on invalid assumptions. While the software is often the immediate culprit, often times it is merely a symptom of the real failure issues: failure to provide adequate change management and/or clinging to outdated processes.
  2. Reorganise the ERP Project with the Experts. A failing ERP/CRM implementation shares many characteristics of bankruptcy. Reorganisation, refocus and accountability are necessary actions to begin the road to recovery. An independent set of eyes can avoid the blamestorming game, move the project into results-oriented brainstorming and ultimately get back on track.
  3. Identify, Educate and Provide the Resources to Move Forward. While it is tempting to throw the failure out the back window, walking away does not solve issues that required an ERP/CRM implementation in the first place. In fact, simply trying to erase the ERP/CRM system will do nothing but derail future effectiveness, agility and return on investment (ROI). The right resources are likely inside the organization and can be refocused on the revived ERP/CRM implementation with the right mix of leadership, change management and backing.

One thing seems abundantly clear: there are still a great deal of ERP/CRM and other software projects running off the rails. Blaming and rebooting ERP/CRM vendors is only one fix in a broader ecosystem that includes the government customers and the system integrators. Solving this problem requires close coordination and an independent catalyst to keep them on track, on time and on budget.

Written by Rich Farrell, Senior Manager of Client Services at Panorama Consulting Solutions.

New Knowledge Management in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 release

CRM, Home Page

In Today’s world, the success of an organization is directly linked to the quality of customer service it provides. The only way to do customer-centricity right is to offer customers the right information. Knowledge management is considered as one of the most important pillar of customer service that helps organization give their customers the right data at the right time to solve their problems.

As Bob Stutz mentioned in his blog post, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 comes with a new knowledge management solution. With this new solution, you can quickly turn customer feedback and issues into knowledge articles. Content authoring and update of knowledge articles is enabled in the interactive service hub. Here are the main features that come with the Knowledge Management offering in CRM 2016 release:

  • Rich Content authoring – Knowledge management comes with a rich text editor that makes content authoring simple. It also allows advanced features like paste from word, and supports editing the source\HTML code.
  • Embedded images and Videos –You can now embed videos and images to the knowledge articles. Videos and images help in describing things better.
  • Versioning – You can now create versions of a knowledge article. It is possible to create major and minor version. This allows Knowledge manager to publish earlier versions and simultaneously have the authors work on the new (current) versions.
  • Translation – Knowledge articles supports translating a knowledge article in ~164 languages. It also maintains a link among all translations of an article. Please note that there is no out of box actual content translation that happens with Knowledge article. CRM just marks the article for translation so the knowledge manager can pick all the articles that need to be translated and pass it on to the translation vendors.
  • Knowledge Management dashboards – There are out of box interactive dashboards for Knowledge Manager (new roles introduced) and Knowledge Author. They provide quick glimpse of knowledge authoring stages.

Figure 1 My Knowledge Dashboard

Figure 2 Knowledge Manager Dashboard

  • Life cycle and article review business process flows – A typical knowledge management process like authoring, review, approval, expiry is enabled out-of-the-box through business process flows. These can be extended through customization and solution based on your business scenario.
  • Schedule Publish \ Expiry – Knowledge management supports scheduling knowledge articles for publishing and expiry.
  • Knowledge management context search – Knowledge management supports embedding the knowledge article search in any entity form in CRM. The search is set up to automatically search knowledge articles based on the configured field of a record.

This is a list of few main features of the new Knowledge management solution. More blogs will follow to cover these features in detail.


Why it’s time to STOP “Adding Value”

CRM, Projects, Strategy

It’s probably the most commonly proposed response to price pressures and commoditisation: if we’re not prepared to cut our prices, we had better add more value for the customer. It’s a reasonable objective, but the sad truth is that most so-called “value-added” strategies simply add cost and complexity without making the offering any more desirable to the customer. In fact, they often have the opposite effect. Continue reading “Why it’s time to STOP “Adding Value””

Students benefitting from individual secure, cloud-based document storage

CRM, Home Page, O365


When OFSTED ‘Outstanding’ West Kirby Grammar School wanted to upgrade and integrate its ageing systems to better support the faculty and high achieving student body, it turned to Microsoft. Using Office 365, Skype for Business unified communications, Windows Server 2012, SQL Server 2012 and powerful Window 8.1 tablets, the teaching and learning experience has been transformed with truly anywhere working. The school can confidently look to the future supported by a secure, cutting-edge platform that delivers unparalleled experience and the scope to develop and grow in line with the school’s success.

As one of the top 50 performing schools in the UK, West Kirby Grammar School has a highly driven body of 150 staff and 1,200 students to equip and empower each day. What sets the school apart is it’s passion for discovering and nurturing the unique talents of each individual child. That doesn’t start and stop with what the students learn, it embraces how they learn and how the school can help them gain confidence and independence. Liam Hayes, IT strategy leader, has been taking the school on a 3-year journey to integrate and modernise its systems and technologies to prepare the school for the next generation of technology and students.

Challenge – Disparate systems, restricted capability

West Kirby Grammar School’s IT environment had grown over the years into a patchwork platform made up of unconnected systems from different IT companies, and a basic PABX telephone system. The software had dated features and offered no real personalised or group working capability. Inflexibility made everyday systems management ever more complex and a large amount of time each day was spent dealing with malfunctioning tools, access and security issues. In such a high-achieving educational environment, IT was failing to support the teaching and learning environment. Liam began to develop a radical blueprint for a modern IT platform unlike any used by other local schools. “I wanted us to have the tools that enabled the teaching body to deliver their classes without restriction and to give the students what they needed to maximise their potential with every opportunity to develop and express themselves freely,” says Liam.

Solution – Cutting edge technology with efficient reliability

Liam chose a new environment based on modern Microsoft technologies. “Microsoft is unrivalled in the education space because it understands schools’ needs, and offers the richest products and most cost-efficient licensing models. There are no other vendors that come close,” he explains.

Liam selected Microsoft Gold partner, Nviron, to help take his vision to the next stage, ultimately implementing a solution which embraces the very latest IT applications, servers, connectivity, networking and a complete cloud-based communications and telephony system.

Today, West Kirby Grammar School works seamlessly and creatively with Microsoft Office 2013 and other productivity apps provided through Office 365, a cloud-based ‘Virtual Learning Environment’ powered by SharePoint, personal document storage for all students, staff and teachers in OneDrive for Business, intuitive Windows 8.1 virtual desktops and an integrated telephony, video conferencing and instant messaging solution enabled by Skype for Business. Windows Server 2012 Datacenter edition and SQL Server 2012 provide a flexible and scalable underlying server environment.

For the first time, teachers and students alike have access to the same set of incredible tools, services and capabilities unleashing powerful new ways for them to interact, access materials, submit coursework, give two-way feedback and share ideas. The technology has also opened up enriching new opportunities for communication outside of the school environment by equipping students to build relationships with peers in partner schools all over the world.

The classroom environment has been transformed; old PCs and laptops have been replaced with amazing interactive TV screens, modern desktop computers and the very latest Windows 8.1 mobile devices. Wireless connectivity across the school site empowers teachers and students to work creatively from any location, removing the physical barriers of the classroom.

“The potential we have from this technology is very exciting,” says Liam. “Nviron has given us a completely integrated technology and telephony solution that outshines other schools. The students face no barriers to learning and we are giving them the most dynamic environment possible to do that. Investing at this scale, I had to be sure that I was making the right choice and that it would last for at least 10 years. The new platform has prepared the school and everyone in it for the new technology age and our long term mutual partnership with Nviron will support us along the way.”

Benefits & Value for West Kirby Grammar School

Teaching and learning without boundaries

• Powerful Windows 8.1 tablet, with OneDrive for Business integration, bring creative teaching plans to life; students are using SmartSearch to quickly find information across the PC, apps and online and Microsoft Office applications to create and share content individually or in teams

• SharePoint underpins an extensive ‘Virtual Learning Environment’ used by staff and students to post documents, videos, blogs, learning materials and coursework, as well as provide valuable two-way feedback on classes

• Students benefit from individual secure, cloud-based document storage environments in OneDrive for Business from which they can store and access work, as well as manage teacher access for fast coursework submission

• ‘Single sign-on’ through Active Directory Federated Services, coupled with wireless connectivity across the school site, ensures users enjoy fast access to all applications and tools from any device without having to enter login information multiple times

• Windows 8.1 devices are breathing new life into practical subjects, enabling the students to research topics, create videos and ‘show and tell’ content outside of the classroom to support teaching topics

• Modern Office 2013 applications including Word, PowerPoint and Excel are used extensively by teachers and students alike for preparation and delivery of all class work

• Teachers no longer need to be onsite to work efficiently; cloud-based email and communications tools like Skype for Business enable them to work effectively from other locations in term-time and holidays

“We can engage students in ways that weren’t possible before – we’re no longer limited to the four walls of the classroom. Lessons are more dynamic and interactive.”

Unparalleled communication

• Office 365, SharePoint and Skype for Business provide everyone with integrated tools to interact and communicate in exciting new ways

• Skype for Business has transformed communication between students and teachers giving them the ability to send instant messages, speak and have video conferences at any time from school-owned or personal devices; this is directly impacting student engagement, support and results

• The new communications platform supports the students to have real-time two-way conversations with other students from partner schools in India and China for the first time, using video conferencing and screen sharing to interact, immerse themselves in the other cultures and broaden their learning experiences.

“Skype for Business is the jewel in our crown, giving us Voice, IM and desktop sharing. We can interact with each other and other schools on opposite sides of the globe as easily as if they were down the road. That makes the world a much smaller place for our students.”

Greater cost and resource efficiency

• New virtual desktops delivered by Hyper V and Windows Server 2012 have reduced the number of physical PC’s required, saving vital budget and energy costs

• Telephony services provided by Skype for Business have replaced the ageing, costly PABX device, dramatically reducing call costs and historic maintenance time

• By consolidating disparate systems and software vendors into one modern platform, West Kirby Grammar School benefit from a single predictable annual IT cost which can be more effectively planned and budgeted

• Microsoft’s advantageous licensing for schools has enabled West Kirby Grammar school to benefit from a range of tools that would have been otherwise cost-prohibitive. They have saved over £10,000 alone on the costs of provisioning Office 2013 to 1200 students and 150 members of staff.

“We’re without doubt more efficient in many ways and the new environment allows us to really maximise benefit by giving us cutting edge tools at a dramatically reduced cost.”

Simplified, reliable systems

• Upgrading Windows Server 2003 to Microsoft Windows Server 2012 gives West Kirby Grammar School a reliable and flexible server template to roll out new desktops on demand and deliver a seamless, integrated IT service

• Microsoft Server 2012 HyperV delivers hi-performance applications like AUTOCAD to study groups via virtual desktops, providing vital topic-specific capability without causing strain on other parts of the infrastructure

• Simple management interfaces in Windows Server 2012 and Office 365, coupled with remote access capabilities, makes everyday management tasks quick and effortless to complete from any location; giving the IT team time back to focus on development of services

• SQL Server 2012 extends the server environment, integrating legacy line of business applications like SIMS (School Information Management System) for greater teacher efficiency and productivity

• Windows Server 2012 and Office 365 provide the school with the reassurance of cloud-based data security, reducing the need for onsite manual back-up and providing an extra layer of business continuity protection should a disaster happen

“The service we’re providing is noticeably more reliable – our ideal is to have IT forgotten about and that’s happening more and more. We’ve no worry about systems going down, losing data or having a security breach. All the historic niggles have gone away.”

Future growth assured

• West Kirby Grammar School now enjoys a reliable, integrated and cost-efficient platform to develop and grow in the future, in line with the schools own development

• Scalability is unlimited; new users can be provisioned quickly through Office 365 user-based services and HyperV virtual server creation supports fast addition of virtual desktops

• By investing in Microsoft technologies with a future-proof road-map, Liam has the reassurance that he can continue to consolidate systems, add new functionality and further embrace the power of the cloud as technology continues to evolve over the coming years

• Demonstrating investment in technology and empowerment of students is a vital ingredient for maintaining the school’s OFTSED ‘Outstanding’ status, as well as attracting new pupils and additional funding

“Looking ahead, our focus will be on continuity, mobility and adaptability. We have an IT toolset and platform that has a future, a platform that we can build on and develop. The school is a more diverse and dynamic place as a result.”

Liam’s Favourite Features: Mobility Efficiency Collaboration

“Saving to OneDrive from Office is a brilliant feature which makes working on the go and team collaboration so simple. Proofing and Synonyms from a ‘right click’ within Word and PowerPoint is a very handy tool. Video conferencing, desktop sharing and ‘whiteboarding’ in Skype for Business brings team work into the 21st century.

“We have an IT toolset and platform that has a future, a platform that we can build on and develop. The school is a more diverse and dynamic place as a result.”

Liam Hayes, IT Strategy Lead, West Kirby Grammar School

For more information, visit:

ExpressRoute for Office 365

CRM, Home Page, O365, Projects, Strategy

Announcing general availability of ExpressRoute for Office 365

Today we’re pleased to announce that Azure ExpressRoute for Office 365 is now generally available from these network operators:

  • British Telecom
  • Equinix
  • Tata Communications
  • TeleCity Group
  • Verizon

You can read about how Microsoft is using ExpressRoute for Office 365 in the Microsoft IT whitepaper, “Optimizing network performance for Microsoft Office 365.”

Connecting your network to Office 365 using Azure ExpressRoute

Depending on your network configuration, here’s how you can work with network operators offering ExpressRoute for Office 365 to establish a connection between your network and Office 365:

  • If your organization already uses Azure ExpressRoute, your network operator can simply turn on the connectivity for you. Since use of Office 365 generates additional network traffic, you should discuss the requirements for additional bandwidth with your network operator.
  • Organizations using IP VPN technology for a WAN provided by a network operator can ask the network operator to add Office 365 as a node on your WAN. Once Office 365 connectivity is added, Office 365 services appear as if they are on your WAN—like an offsite datacenter.
  • ExpressRoute can also support large or point-to-point network connections. If you have a large broad network, then you may already have a network connection in a co-location facility where Azure ExpressRoute is available. You should work with your network provider to identify the best way to connect to Azure ExpressRoute.


Frequently asked questions

Q. Where in the world is ExpressRoute for Office 365 available?

A. Your users can connect from anywhere in the world that your network operator provides access. Each network operator connects to the Microsoft network at specific locations. They can provide networking from the user location to the Microsoft network connection. You should discuss the options with your network operator. The locations where they will connect to Microsoft’s network are listed here.

Q. How do organizations purchase ExpressRoute for Office 365?

A. Organizations interested in purchasing ExpressRoute for Office 365 should have an Azure subscription and should discuss details of the connectivity with an Azure ExpressRoute partner.

Q. Are there any Office 365 services that Azure ExpressRoute cannot provide a connection to?

A. Today connectivity is available for Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, Skype for Business Online, Azure Active Directory, Office 365 Video, Power BI, Delve and Project Online. Services that ExpressRoute does not provide connectivity to include download of Office 365 ProPlus installation files, Yammer, Domain Name Service and Content Delivery Network servers.

Q. Is QoS supported on Azure ExpressRoute?

A. Yes. QoS is supported for Skype for Business Online over Azure ExpressRoute for Office 365.

Q. Does Microsoft provide tools to test for network performance issues?

A. Yes. We have the Office Client Performance Analyzer (OCPA), which was recently updated to add a number of new performance test metrics. Azure ExpressRoute for Office 365 may be a solution to network performance problems experienced by users. OCPA can be downloaded from the Office 365 admin console here.

For customers with Premier support contracts, Microsoft has a service offering for Office 365 Network Performance Assessment. Please contact your Technical Account Manager for details.

, on

5 Business Benefits you can measure from new CRM/ERP systems

CRM, Home Page, Projects, Strategy


Every organization has a different reason to implement a new ERP system. But the most successful ERP implementations are those that coincide with the desire to improve their tangible business benefits.

Unfortunately, most organizations have trouble realizing the potential of their new ERP systems and most organizations fail to realize at least half of the business benefits that they expect.

The good news? In general, most successful implementations deliver some common benefits. Below are five tangible business benefits that you can achieve with the right focus and expertise:

Increased revenues. Top-line revenue growth is the name of the game in today’s relatively weak global economy. Unfortunately, too many organizations leverage ERP software to minimize costs and neglect to capitalize on the opportunities to increase revenue growth. Modules such as CRM and advanced demand planning can help ensure that your sales team can sell more and that your operations are able to deliver on that customer demand. The key is to look at the inefficiencies in both your customer and revenue-related business processes to identify opportunities to improve your top-line revenue growth, which can be accomplished via your business process reengineering efforts.


Increased inventory cycle times. Most organizations hold too much inventory or build too much capacity to compensate for not being able to accurately predict demand for particular products or services. With modern ERP systems, organizations should be able to better predict customer demand and manage inventory accordingly – minimizing the need to unnecessarily stockpile excess inventory and capacity. We’ve found that this business benefit alone can be enough to pay for a new ERP system multiple times over within a few years of making the investment.


More efficient business processes. Most organizations have a hodgepodge of inefficient business processes, manual processes and legacy systems that are a bad combination of both grossly inefficient and expensive. New ERP software can often fix this problem, but only if those processes are carefully defined and reengineered. Don’t fall into the trap of ignoring your current business processes or assuming that your new ERP system will define your new business processes for you – both steps are required to ensure that you close the gap between your more inefficient “as-is” processes and your desired “to-be” processes. Defining your new business processes – along with performance metrics and transition plans to get there – will ensure that you leverage this commonly underutilized business benefit of ERP systems


Integrated business processes. Similarly, integrated business processes can deliver a great deal of ROI to organizations implementing new ERP systems. Better integration between customer service, production, accounting, sales and other key functions in your organization will help drive top and bottom-line financial growth. The key here – much like a few of the other business benefits identified above – is contingent on carefully mapping your business processes and defining a plan to transition to those new business processes. By carefully mapping your business processes and developing a transition plan, it is imperative to incorporate an effective business process reengineering and organizational change management plan to ensure success.


Higher employee morale. Although it may be a bit tougher to measure than some of the other business benefits mentioned above, employee morale typically increases over time as a result of a new ERP system. Transactions are easier to execute, there are less manual process workarounds and new systems are typically more intuitive and easier to learn. It may be more painful at first as employees are learning the new system, but those pains are typically short-lived and outweighed by the long-term advantages. A comprehensive and effective organizational change management plan can help ensure that you maximize employee morale as a result of your new ERP system.


The key to realizing any of these benefits is to define them up front and to establish key performance measures and targets. Once this is complete, then those benefits and metrics should be assigned to key business process owners to hold your team accountable for realizing those benefits. Only then can your organization do what most fail to do, which is to realize the full benefits potential of your new ERP system.

September 23, 2015   Eric Kimberling


CRM update 1 – Define calculated fields

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In Microsoft Dynamics CRM, calculated fields let you automate manual calculations used in your business processes. For example, a salesperson may want to know the weighted revenue for an opportunity which is based on the estimated revenue from an opportunity multiplied by the probability. Or, they want to automatically apply a discount, if an order is greater than £500.

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One Note Integration with Dynamics CRM 2015 Online Update 1

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In today’s world there would be very few who perhaps still use notepad or like application for taking notes. Majority use application like OneNote or EverNote to manage their notes. These application allow recording of rich data like pictures, videos etc within the application for later consumption. Recording notes traditionally in CRM has been through the Notes tab, that allows you to record multiple notes, but it has to be text. It supports file attachments though.

In the latest CRM Online release, Dynamics CRM would now provide a seamless integration to OneNote, this means you can now from within CRM directly record notes into OneNote and easily access them from within CRM.

Enabling this feature

This feature is built upon the Sharepoint Integration framework and requires that you have Sharepoint Integration enabled for CRM. So the first step would be to enable Sharepoint Integration

Navigate to Settings >> Document Management.

In this example we will “Enable Server- Based SharePoint Integration” and enter the valid SharePoint Url to integrate CRM with SharePoint account. 


Once we integrate SharePoint with CRM, the OneNote Integration option is listed in document management as shown below in the screenshot.


Then enable the OneNote and it will open “OneNote Integration Settings” in which we will select the entities for which we want to turn on OneNote integration. It will only list those entities for which Sharepoint Integration had been enabled.


Once the OneNote integration has been enabled, you now start seeing a new option at the entity level in the customization screen


For any new entity that you want to enable OneNote integration, you need to make sure, you check the Document Management and OneNote Integration options on the entity level.

Next run the Document Management Wizard to have the libraries created in Sharepoint for these entities.


Once you have the integration enabled, you would find a new option ONENOTE showing in the Social Pane on the form.


Since Sharepoint Integration needs to be enabled for OneNote integration, if you click on the onenote tab you would see the following error if no sharepoint library was already created for this record.


Once the library is created, clicking on the ONENOTE tab will automatically create a OneNote notebook for the record with the same name as the record name and an untitled page will show up in the notes as shown below


When you navigate to the Documents pane in the CRM, you will see the following files created in Sharepoint


Note: Do not delete the .onetoc2 file found in the Sharepoint library. That file is necessary for the integration to work.

You can click on the Untitledonenote file in the OneNote pane, to directly open the OneNote file in OneNote Online.


Adding a new Section in the notebook will add a new listing in the ONENOTE tab of the form.



You can create multiple sections but they will all be stored in the same notebook. Multiple notebooks cannot be created for a single record in CRM.

Changing the OneNote page name and the file name that appears in the OneNote pane.

Untitled is not a very descriptive or friendly name to have for a file. But unfortunately, the default file/page that is created for one-note integration is called untitled. What we found that renaming the Untitled Notebook after opening it in OneNote Online did not change the file name.

Also notice in the above screenshot, the date/time in the untitled page is also not the current date/time.

To fix this

  1. Go ahead and delete the default Untitled Page and the Untitled Section that shows up
  2. Create a new Section clicking the “+” button on the section

Give the name you want to see in CRM. In our case we have considered “CRM Section using OneNote App” and saved. The new section would be created in ONENote as follows:


This now also reflects the current date/time.

  1. When you come out of OneNote and navigate back to the OneNote tab in CRM you will see the updated name


  1. Another way to rename the section name is to do it through the desktop version of OneNote.

Security Privileges that control OneNote Integration

No new settings or privileges have been introduced related to ONE NOTE. However since it is very closely tied to Sharepoint Integration, privileges that control Sharepoint Integration essentially control the OneNote integration as well.

Suppose a user has a role with No create , read and Write privilege for Document Location as shown below :


If this user tries to create a ONENOTE clicking the Tab one note is not created or loaded and following error is displayed


And finally, the user needs to have access to the Sharepoint Document Library in Sharepoint to be able to access the onenote file.


You can now access OneNote file from right within Dynamics CRM, without the need to manually upload or download the file to make updates.

There’s much more, for more Dynamics CRM Tips and Tricks head on to Inogic Blog. If you have any questions on Dynamics CRM or need any help in implementation, customization, upgradation of Dynamics CRM or are looking to get more out of your CRM, feel free to reach us at today!

The post One Note Integration with Dynamics CRM 2015 Online Update 1 appeared first on Inogic Blog.

Microsoft Gamifies CRM

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Microsoft is integrating the sales gamification platform of its recent acquisition, Incent Games, into its customer relationship management (CRM) software. In other words, it’s turning its sales process into one big game, with the goal that making the work more fun will improve outcomes. But how well does this actually work?

Gamification is the idea of applying game theory and mechanics in non-game settings.  It plays on the psychology of games — the drive to compete and win, the behavior associated with certain small rewards like power ups — to make work tasks more enjoyable.

Microsoft’s latest acquisition and integration applies game theory to the sales department.

Lots of companies use contests to try to boost sales and revenues, but they’re often designed poorly, focusing on results rather than the behaviors that lead to those results.

Microsoft’s new program, FantasySalesTeam, chooses a different approach, incentivising many different parts of the sales process so that people have many opportunities to win and stay in the game. Using activity and results-based metrics keeps more people in the game, rather than just rewarding the top performers over and over again.

One criticism of the system is that it might take reps’ attention away from their work and focus it on the game, instead. Critics say that salespeople are already incentivised with salary, commissions, and bonuses, and that perhaps the problem is more one of big data than gamification: if data can be applied to a more comprehensive compensation management program, it could solve any incentivising problems.

But the results of FantasySalesTeam seem to speak for themselves. During a pilot testing program, reps who used the program closed 88 percent more sales at more than 200 percent higher average contract value.

Will gamification work for your business?

An increasing number of corporations in a variety of fields are incorporating gamification into their employees’ work day.

One reason this works is because, while work and play have many characteristics in common, the way people perceive them is very different. For example, in work when you are asked to perform repetitive tasks, you find them dull. But when asked to perform repetitive tasks in a game, you find them fun or engaging — just think of Candy Crush or Angry Birds as an example.

Some other areas where gamification changes the employees perception include:

  1. Feedback. Instead of a dreaded and loathed annual review the game provides constant, near real-time feedback that the employee wants to improve.
  2. Goals. Within a game, goals are generally extremely clear and easy to follow. The user knows what to do to move to the next level, earn points, or earn their next badge. Outside a game, work goals are often amorphous and ill defined.
  3. Compelling narrative. How often have you performed a job with no real connection to the reasons you were doing it? Within a game, there is a clear narrative that helps connect actions to results.
  4. Challenges and obstacles. Many times in a work environment, employees do their best to avoid obstacles and challenging situations; they want to maintain the status quo. In a game, however, new challenges and obstacles are relished and tackled on purpose.

Gamification is especially useful in areas including HR, education and training, team building, marketing, research and innovation, and now sales. In addition, it has the potential to change a great deal about how companies are run and performance is managed. With the aggregated data from an employee’s performance in the game, promotions, bonuses and layoffs have the potential to be much more transparent and fair.

In other words, say goodbye to the antiquated annual review, and hello to leaderboards and badges.

Bernard Marr Aug 25, 2015

Big Data is not about analysis …

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Its about the question …

If you are clear about what you are trying to achieve then you can think about the questions to which you need answers. For example, if your strategy is to increase your customer base, questions that you will need answers to might include, ‘Who are currently our customers?’, ‘What are the demographics of our most valuable customers?’ and ‘What is the lifetime value of our customers?’. When you know the questions you need answered then it’s much easier to identify the data you need to access in order to answer those key questions.  Together we could work out what your questions should be.