5 Ways to Make Digital Transformation with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Actually Work – Part I

By Bas Bergstra

Experienced with Microsoft Dynamics 365 implementations for some time now? Then you are probably also familiar with the term Digital Transformation. Even more so, chances are that if you have been working with Dynamics 365 for more than a few years, you probably already were helping transform the business of your customer before Digital Transformation became a buzz word.

Still, even though Dynamics 365 each year is well positioned in Gartner its Magic Quadrant for CRM and enjoying a steady growth of its user base, there are still many challenges to overcome when transforming organizations with that platform.

As a Consultant having worked with Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement (previously known as ‘CRM’) for many years now, I can totally relate to the challenges that we can run into.

Before zooming into the confrontations that might arise during your projects, let us break down the term Digital Transformation (‘DT’). The reason is that DT actually serves a goal, while technology such as Dynamics 365 is merely a mean to achieve the strategic objectives of our customers.

DT as a concept can be widely interpreted. Some organizations consider having a chatbot added to their website as a transformation in the way they provide service to customers, while others apply innovative technology to completely revolutionize business models in industries. Typical examples of disruptors such as Tesla, AirBNB and Uber have by now actually become a bit stale but are useful to illustrate the other side of the spectrum.

When looking at your typical project involving Dynamics 365 let us assume there is some degree of DT that your client is aiming for. Regardless to which extent ambitions are set, expectations regarding the level Dynamics 365 can meet then will be high. Especially when clients have completed a laborious RFI- and RFP process. The first challenge is then to manage their assumptions regarding the platform; this requires broad and detailed knowledge of the (latest) features.

Having completed the appropriate Microsoft certifications will certainly help a lot, even for the more seasoned consultants. This is contrary to a surprisingly common belief that learning theory only serves to successfully complete the exams. The actual benefit of certification is that it will trigger you to familiarize extensively with Out-of-the-Box features. For those of you who are still skeptical, the key is that preparing for an exam pushes you further and thereby encourages true commitment. Obvious reasons are the fact that you will then have a deadline to have completed your studying and the fact that Microsoft Learn is covering topics more extensively and effectively than ever before. In addition, checking YouTube offers tons of material, also listen to the relevant Pod casts to keep up.

With thorough knowledge of the Dynamics 365 features you might expect to be on pretty solid ground, when starting to engage with customers to determine a fit or gap for their requirements. And yes, as a starting point you are correct with that, but there is off course a ‘but’ leading to the second challenge. 

Customers typically do not express requirements for easy mapping to Dynamics 365. More often than not, specifications seem to demand for something different than what you learned when preparing for the Microsoft certifications. A common example is whether to map requirement for prospect management to the Out-of-the-Box entity Lead, Account or even Contact (in a Business-to-Consumer context).

Still, when having successfully completed the Dynamics 365 Sales exam you probably are able to effectively explain each feature and then together decide the adequateness accordingly. The key here is to consider standard functionality before entering the world of reinventing the wheel, by e.g. creating your own custom entity to manage a Prospect. A major drawback is that such entity will not leverage neat features such as seamless conversion of customer touch-points (i.e. activities such as e-mail or a web site visit) into a Lead for follow-up.

This concludes the first two ways to make DT with Dynamics 365 successful. Make sure to check my next blog with the more best-practices. Naturally I also highly value your feedback.

Link to part II of this blog.

Dynamics 365 – Transition to Unified Interface

By Robin Schaareman

Earlier Microsoft announced that in October this year (2020) cloud organizations need to be on the newest Unified Interface. Via the website https://runone.powerappsportals.com you can check what date is set for your own environments. You can postpone this date to a date which suit you and/or your organization more. Be aware that 1st of October is the deadline, after this all environments should be on the Unified Interface.

On the Microsoft website you can find a lot of information how to check whether your solution is ready for the Unified Interface. Most of the information will be about if the technical parts in your solution will still function after you transition to the Unified Interface. However this is really important it is just as important that all the end users will benefit/work with the new interface as well.

Since it has been changed a lot it is good to discuss a suitable approach to implement this feature. Via this blog I will share my approach in how I implement the new Unified Interface at a customer. It might be a standard approach but in my experience this was effective enough to bring the new feature in the organization.

  • Prepare with your team

Before you inform the users about this new feature it is important to check if your solution is applicable. If this is the case you can create a new App within Dynamics 365. This app can be used for testing all the forms etc and see how it looks. If it all looks good you can strip this new app to make the sitemap just with the minimal entities needed for sales to do their work. For example, accounts, contacts, activities and opportunities. This will be the app that will be used during a pilot period with the users. Create a separate security role so the users that will attend the pilot can access the new app.

  • Inform important stakeholders/champions

Most of the time at a customer there are some enthusiastic users which are happy to hear about new features or changes. These users can help you get a platform to all other users and make them enthusiastic as well! Get those people in a room and inform them about the new Unified Interface. Show them the benefits of the new interface (its faster than the “old” version 😉) and discuss your plan in how to implement this new feature. Important outcome in this meeting is a date and a list of users that can attend the demo/pilot.

  • Give a demo to the users + surprise pilot!

After you have set a date with the stakeholders you can give a demo to a group of users that will attend a pilot (which they don’t know yet!). During this presentation you can show the new Unified Interface and all the benefits that comes with it (tablet/mobile version etc). At the end you have a small surprise, users that want to attend a pilot can start with that right after the meeting. Show the users that they can access the new features via the new app and at all times can switch back to the more familiar interface (if they get stuck or something). Also try to explain that they work within the same database.

  • Discuss the outcome and way forward

During the pilot you need to be pro active and ask pilot users how it is going. If they found any issues or have recommendations just write them down and discuss them with your team and the other stakeholders. In the end you can facilitate a meeting with all the pilot users to discuss the outcome and which of the feedback will be implemented before the release. After that you can propose a date to go live 😊 at the beginning you can still make an app which contains the old version of the UI. For some users this can be helpful in the transition to the new UI. Like I said, pretty straight forward but in my opinion an effective way to implement the new UI. Hope this helps