Today's post is written by Jeff Meister, Principal Consultant at Sonoma Partners.
The release of Microsoft CRM Online Spring Wave brings some great news for those of us focused on delivering quality customer service to our clients.
In addition to the integration with two recent Microsoft acquisitions, ADX Studios (customer portal) and FieldOne (field service), Microsoft is also releasing a new Project Service solution. Project Service is a PSA (Project Service Automation) solution that provides an end to end solution for delivering professional engagements and will be ideal for service-based firms.
Today, I wanted to walk you through a high-level overview of the functionality based on what we've learned to date about the solution.
CRM has traditionally handled opportunities with product line items. Project Service updates this functionality to handle what sales of service projects would need. Some key highlights would be contracts and labor rates, collaboration, practice lines, price lists and quotes; all while following your pre-defined sales methodology and best practices.
This is where things start to get interesting. This aspect of the solution brings key components from MS Project, and embeds them directly into CRM. Users are able to store templated project plans which are then modified and used for estimating, definition and timeline/budget tracking throughout the project lifecycle. Having these tools accessible within CRM allows for more accurate quoting, ensuring profitability and resource estimates are aligned early in the sales process. It also provides enterprise visibility to project status.
The solution takes the pre-sales planning work and applies that to your staffing model for demand fulfillment. This can be done across various staffing models. Whether or not your project manager or team members access the demand pool directly, or if you have centralized resource managers, resource scheduling can be done via the new solution, taking into account availability, capacity and skill sets while maintaining competencies and proficiencies.
(On a side note, we are really excited to see where this part of the solution can go when paired with machine learning!)
Time and Expense
This one is easy…mobile and desktop support for time and expense entry, with routing and a built-in process for approval. Having these data points tied directly to the project in CRM also provides the ability for immediate impact to project financials. Plus, you can access these functions through mobile applications.
Having all the project related data (contract, time reporting, expenses, billing details) under one roof allows us to easily source our invoices directly from the solution. We don’t believe this will be a full blown replacement for an ERP backend, especially at the enterprise level. That being said, this is a great direction to see the product headed, and we expect integration with other ERP systems to be available.
The Project Service solution will have built in BI capabilities around actual records for financial events, profitability, and utilization. It is also expected to have content packs available for PowerBI, allowing for rich dashboards and ad hoc analytics.
Sonoma Partners was fortunate enough to be an early participant with this process. The solution uses native functionality in conjunction with custom screens to deliver an intuitive and very compelling application targeted for firms that manage projects, time, and resources. The solution is easy to install and configure on your base CRM Online deployment.
As mentioned above, Project Service is available as part of the Spring Wave for CRM Online. And, we have our fingers crossed that we will see solution available for the on premises version at some point as well. Pricing details are yet to be published, but check back for more details as those become available.