Abstract: My next few blog posts will be focused on showing Microsoft Dynamics CRM as a “xRM” platform. I plan to show real-world usages of Microsoft Dynamics CRM specifically as it applies to professional services organizations.
Business Requirement: Tracking time
Proposed Solution: Microsoft Dynamics CRM
In most professional services organizations you need to track employee time as it relates to your customers. This might mean tracking time against projects, cases, and/or customers. Often times we find customers using timesheets that are either paper-based or tied to an accounting system that is severely lacking in functionality. Tracking time is generally a cumbersome task yet a crucial component to generating revenue for a professional services organization.
Utilizing the power of Microsoft Dynamics CRM we have developed an innovative approach to capture and manage time within a professional services organization. The time application is developed using Microsoft Dynamics CRM (xRM) and is accessible both through the Outlook and Web clients. Time entry can be accomplished in multiple fashions which makes it more likely that data is captured accurately, timely and with less resistance from the entire organization.
How it Works: The fundamental component is that we integrate time tracking to opportunities (projects) that our sales team closes using Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Once an opportunity is closed a project record is created within Microsoft Dynamics CRM. At this point, a project manager is assigned to the project and this person is responsible for building out the project team. Members of the project team are then assigned to the project within Microsoft Dynamics CRM and they are able to begin billing against the project (I will get into more details of managing projects in a subsequent blog). Simply tracking time to a project is not sufficient because you often times need to track time to specific items and sub-items (etc.). The PM is able to transfer items from a functional specification document to the project in Microsoft Dynamics CRM making it available for the project team to track time to specific tasks.
Time Summary Dashboard:
In the Time Summary Dashboard you can enter time, view the week at a glance, view the total time for the month (billable vs. non-billable), and view past weeks of time. In most cases, this is where an individual will go to see how they are performing based upon the expectations of the organization. Note: The Time Summary Dashboard is available both within Microsoft Outlook and Internet Explorer.
Time Entry Options (Flexibility is the Key):
We recognize that individuals work in different fashions so we have created multiple ways for individuals to track their time. The key is making it as convenient as possible to enter time. Whether onsite working with a client, working from home, or working in the office everyone can easily enter their time into Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
Batch Time Entry: This tool allows you to enter your time in batches. I use this one the most because I can enter my time on a daily basis in a very fast and efficient manner. Think of this like a traditional paper time sheet where you are adding entries like line items. You can constantly make changes to the entries up to the point where you decide to “submit” your time for the day/week/month (whatever your business requires). The Projects, Items, and Project Tasks are all fed from Microsoft Dynamics CRM based upon the project information created for the specific customer. Everything is tied out to security so that only the people who have access to that project see the related Items and Project Tasks.
Time Buddy: This application resides on your desktop and can be configured to launch during the initial login to your PC. This is a great application for people who have to track time very closely to specific project tasks and clients. You have the ability to start and stop time while tracking the time to a specific project, item, and task. You can also manually update time by simply entering in your own hours and minutes.
Old School CRM Time Entry: If you just had to do it you can always revert back to a core Microsoft Dynamics CRM form and enter in your time.
Once everyone has submitted their time you can setup workflow rules for managers to approve time. This is an optional feature but one that can add a lot of business value (like automatically sending email notifications to managers who are delinquent in approving time) . Time approval is managed within Microsoft Dynamics CRM by simply marking time as “Approved.” After all the time is approved you can then run Utilization Reports. Since all of this data is being stored in the Microsoft Dynamics CRM database we can create reports with Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services. In addition, we can use the native Advance Find functionality of Microsoft Dynamics CRM to query the database on an ad-hoc basis.
Example Utilization Report:
To complete the story of Time Entry we integrate all of this time data into our accounting package. The best part about this integration is that it doesn’t matter what you are using for an accounting system. We can very easily integrate to your accounting system and write these time records to your accounting database. In our implementation, we create invoices based upon this integration and display all of the invoice information back within Microsoft Dynamics CRM for account management purposes.
There you have it – Tracking time in Microsoft Dynamics CRM made easy. This is a great example of how you can leverage the CRM application as a “xRM” platform.