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The Negative Effects of a Disjointed CRM Environment


Today's post is written by Adam Barr, a Senior Consultant at Sonoma Partners.

An accurate, relevant and unified CRM environment is one of the most powerful assets an organization can employ.  The ideal environment  would be designed to support efficient business processes, all of which are aligned to corporate strategies and goals.  It would be connected to provide all critical customer data, equipping the right people with the right information at the right time. Ultimately, it would be a tool used to provide a superior customer experience throughout the customer journey. 

That’s the ideal scenario. The reality for many CRM environments is that over time, they become disjointed as the industry, customer or company evolves.  The effects of a disjointed CRM environment can be far-reaching, but can be boiled down to three primary categories: 

  • Customer Satisfaction
  • Employee Productivity and Retention
  • Company Performance

Customer Satisfaction – The Customer is King

Today’s customer is armed with more resources, information, and channels than ever before.  The evolution of the customer purchasing process now spans multiple platforms and communication channels, including phone, email, web, social, chat, and mobile.  The desire of the customer to leverage whichever medium is convenient for them has profoundly reshaped how companies offer products and support. 

This evolution has changed how your customer’s learn, choose, review, and advocate for products or services.  A customer’s heightened expectations for quick and agile service without compromising quality further emphasize the need to have a CRM environment supportive of a unified customer journey.  A disjointed CRM environment decreases the likelihood of a company meeting, yet alone exceeding, these growing expectations.  

An online purchase should offer a smooth transition for the customer. Whether they need to call customer service to follow up on the order, or if they chat with technical support a week later about their questions. 

The CRM environment should underpin all interaction channels throughout the customer journey.

Routing to different resources or leveraging various communication channels should offer a consistent and unified experience.  Requiring a customer to hold while an agent sifts through multiple records or separate databases can create a poor customer experience.  Overtime, poor customer experiences lead to highly dissatisfied customers.  Dissatisfaction may not only create a loss of the current customer, but potential future customers as well.   

Not all unhappy customers complain.  In fact, more dissatisfied customers are likely to simply (and quietly) switch brands.  Customers who experience poor service often share this with their personal networks to save them from having the same experience.  Happy customers are loyal customers and loyal customers are valuable customers.  

Employee Productivity and Retention - Happy Employees are Productive Employees

A disorganized or disconnected CRM application can be devastating for employee productivity, performance, and potentially, retention. 

Imagine the impact created in an environment where a support agent does not have access to key customer information in a unified fashion, includingcontact information, active contracts, recent orders, previous conversations, and support tickets.  This may require employees to manually stitch together their own story of that customer, all while maintaining high levels of customer service during the interaction.  Not only does this create a poor experience for the customer, but it can easily lead to employee inefficiency, frustration, and low levels of morale. 

Issues can compound when faced with the reality that it is rare for customers to strictly have a one-to-one relationship with a company resource.  Various team members are involved throughout the customer journey.  Product and Marketing Managers may interface with customers while they conduct their research, where sales representatives may be engaged during the evaluation and selections of a product or service.  Finally, service and support agents are often engaged post-purchase to ensure retention.  For the sake of satisfaction and efficiency, it is imperative that these “hand-offs” are seamless and smart.  

Company Performance – CRM Impact on the Bottom Line

CRM costs money.  All environments will have ongoing costs.  Some costs will be very obvious, like software and hardware.  Others are lesser known, such as training of the system users, development of technology and support resources, and re-engineering of processes and markets as customers evolve.

The costs of a disjointed CRM environment are exponential when considering the impact to business decisions, customer experience, and employee morale. 

All which ultimately impact the bottom line.  A CRM environment that is not designed  to enable success may consistently breed poor customer experiences, which will result in a poor reputation amongst customers and partners.  This will not only drive away current customers, it may cause potential future customers and high quality talent to look elsewhere.  Fewer customers equals lower sales.  Fewer qualified candidates results in greater overhead to capture talent, or potentially missing out on the best talent altogether.  

A misconception of many CRM programs is that the implementation of a new technology will lead to an increase in overall performance. 

Customer journey

Often overlooked is the people (employee and customer) and processes involved.

Disjointed CRM environments impact marketing initiatives, create misinformed or under-informed decisions, deliver inaccurate reports, decrease customer and partner satisfaction and retention, and impact employee productivity and morale. 

The environment needs to be designed to deliver the right information to the right resources at the right time.  Aligning with the modern, omnichannel-enabled customer will result in the ability to consistently deliver positive customer experiences.   

We can help you make sense of a disjointed CRM environment. Contact us today to get started.

Graduating Your CRM Beyond Pipeline Management
Topics: CRM Best Practices

Break the Ice with a Mobile Test Drive


Today's post is written by Kyle Gerstner, Principal Mobility Architect at Sonoma Partners

I believe that every company that has employees working in the field on a daily basis, needs to have a mobile solution. While this is easy for me to say, it’s not an easy initiative to undertake on your own. Some of the questions you may be asking could include:

"Where do we start?"
"What would the requirements be?"
"Why should we spend the money?"

Sonoma Partners offers a Mobile Test Drive package to help our clients tackle these issues, and get started on the path to creating an amazing mobile application.

One of the main components of our Mobile Test Drive is our ride alongs.  During these, our User Experience and Mobility experts observe representatives from the different user groups who would be targeted for a mobile application.  We are looking at what the users do on a day-to-day basis, what information they need access to, and get an initial idea about what the user base may want for a mobile application.  We go into these with a blank slate; no preconceived notions of how the users should be doing their job or what they need to do their job.

We use our findings from the ride alongs to help validate the business requirements for the application.  If you had a set of business requirements beforehand, we usually find some that aren’t overly useful, add some details to others, and find totally new requirements that we think would be valuable to add.  We also help prioritize your requirements, which is helpful when thinking of budgets or timing of feature rollouts.

Finally, we put together some high fidelity wireframes of what the application may look like and a simple proof of concept that you can run on a device to get a feel for how the app would work.  You can use these deliverables as a way to build internal excitement about the initiative and solicit feedback from your users about what you are planning on building.

Here are some examples of high fidelity wireframes and what your working prototype could look like:

Account View - History

Account - History

Account View - Call Report

Call Report

Account View - Information

Account - info.fw



A Mobile Test Drive will help your company figure out what mobile application to build, who will use it, and how they will use it.  I have found that starting with a Mobile Test Drive leads to a better end product and greater user adoption.

Here's how you get started:

1. Contact us to set up a time to discuss a mobile test drive
2. Watch and learn more about our Mobility Test Drive offering

The Negative Effects of a Disjointed CRM System
Topics: Enterprise Mobility

Introducing Dynabacus – Microsoft CRM Record Count Tool

Today’s guest blogger is Mike Dearing, a Principal Developer at Sonoma Partners.

Ever wanted to get an accurate record count of all of your organization’s companies, contacts, <enter additional entity names here…>?  Well, you aren’t alone.  Your current options to accomplish this are limited. They include doing excel exports, writing reports, or performing SQL count queries (if your deployment is on-premise). We decided to develop a user-friendly, managed solution that you can easily drop into any Dynamics 2015 on-premise or online environment to perform these counts for you.  Dynabacus (the Dynamics-abacus) gives CRM administrators the ability to get the record count of any number of entities (native or custom) simultaneously.  Administrators can also refine these counts further by applying personal and system views if they choose to do so.  Then with the simple click of a button, Dynabacus crunches the numbers for you using supported API calls and returns the results.


And the best part is, it’s available now for free! Download it today and let us know what you think!

Topics: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

Upgrading to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015? Here's What You Should Consider


Are you currently working with a version of Dynamics CRM pre-2015?  Have you not yet experienced the new flattened “single window” UI?  Do you not know what a CRM Solution is?  Or even worse, do you still use call-outs and deploy custom web resources to the physical CRM Servers (yikes!)?  If so, it may be time to start thinking of an upgrade to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015.

Upgrading any software can be a frightening thought and something you’d rather just put on the back burner.  However, delaying the upgrade has some negative impacts as well:  you obviously miss out on the latest and greatest features, and delaying the current pain of an upgrade may mean more pain down the road if you’re not on top of the latest software. Upgrading from 2011 to 2015 is much easier than 3.0 to 2015.  In other words, your current self can rest easy, but the pain you’re causing your future self is growing by the day. 

How configured are you?

A good consideration to take when you do decide to upgrade is, how much of a beast has your CRM system become?  You may have had multiple vendors, multiple deployments, multiple internal project sponsors with different priorities of a CRM system, and years of band-aiding a system you don’t even want to think about upgrading.

In this scenario, it may be best to take a step back.  Look at the Dynamics CRM upgrade as an opportunity to clean up all the noise that has accumulated in your deployment and revalidate the work that has been done over the years.  Use this as your opportunity to deploy 2015 in a “clean slate” and interview the key business groups as if they don’t have a CRM system at all.  Just because something was built and functionality was added to your deployment, doesn’t mean it’s needed.  Ask the question “why?” and if nobody can provide an answer, seriously consider leaving it behind.

Going through this process means you’ll most likely need to write a process to migrate data from your current version, to 2015.  You don’t want to go through the upgrade process which would automatically take all your current customizations and migrate them to 2015.  Instead, you’ll want to start with a fresh install and reconfigure your environment based on the requirements you obtained during the “revalidation discovery” process.  E.g., there may be fields that drop from your schema going forward.

On the other hand, if your system is small, relatively new, and hasn’t had many deployments to it since go-live, you may want to have the upgrade process perform most of the heavy lifting for you.  This means you won’t have to write a migration process – the upgrade process will automatically perform any data conversion needed for 2015.

If your current system hasn’t been too configured, chances are that the changes you’ve made have been supported.  Therefore, they should automatically upgrade through the upgrade process with not much falling out for you to manually clean up.

Budget is a big driver of this conversation as well.  If you have a massive implementation, it may be quicker for you to start fresh and implement just those features you want to carry forward versus trying to upgrade an old archaic system with a lot of deprecated code.  However, if your implementation isn’t complex, and all your code was supported via the API and nothing is deprecated, an actual upgrade may be quicker versus redeveloping.

Pre 2011 vs. Post 2011

There are a lot of clients out there that aren’t on Dynamics CRM 2011 or greater.  If this is you, you’ll want to definitely consider adding more time to your upgrade process as 2011 introduced some pretty groundbreaking changes to the deployment model.

With 2011, all customizations and configurations are packaged up in a Solution.  This includes any custom web pages, JavaScript files, etc.  With versions prior to 2011, these files were manually deployed to the server which means that they would have to be converted to 2011 format prior to upgrading to 2015.  If you’re on 2011 or later, then that work has been done already for you.  If you’re on a pre-2011 version, then you’ll need to factor that time into your upgrade decision.

Continued Investments into Mobile

Microsoft officially entered the mobile space with Dynamics CRM 2013, and they continue to improve upon that story.  With the release of 2015 they made enhancements to the Tablet Client by introducing an offline story, and making the dashboards more configurable.

Now with 2015 Online Update 1, they have introduced a refreshed phone app that has the same rich functionality that the tablet app has.  There’s still a lot of room for improvement in these apps, and during our time at Convergence 2015, the mobile roadmap looked feature rich.  If mobility is something you’re looking to get into, upgrading to the latest version of CRM could go a long way as you’d get a free mobile app in the process.

Features, features, features

Of course, the main driver for upgrading usually is the features that the new product comes with, and Dynamics CRM 2015 doesn’t fall short in this category.  With 2015, and 2015 Online Update 1 (Carina), Microsoft has continued to add to its already feature-heavy product.  Key notable features rolled out in these latest versions are:

  • Multi Entity Search
  • Business Rules
  • Business Processes
  • Continued Mobile Improvements
  • Hierarchical Security
  • Hierarchy Visualizations
  • Outlook Sync Improvements
  • Folder Level Tracking – Outlook Email Sync
  • Refreshed UI with cleaner Site Map
  • Theming
  • Date Only Fields
  • Office Groups Integration
  • OneNote Integration
  • Immersive Excel
  • Export to Excel Improvements

If any of these features are something you’ve been waiting for in the product, an upgrade now may be a no-brainer.

If your organization is considering a Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015 upgrade, please let us help you decide the best way to approach the project.

Topics: CRM Upgrade Microsoft Dynamics CRM Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015