Sonoma Partners Microsoft CRM and Salesforce Blog

Don't Cut Class: 5 Reasons to Attend End User Training

Today's blog post was written by Kayla Silverstein, Marketing Specialist at Sonoma Partners.

This June, we’re offering End User Training for both Salesforce and Dynamics 365 (formerly Microsoft Dynamics CRM). Why should you and/or members of your organization attend user training?

668_CRM_end_user_training_

Here are 5 reasons you should consider signing up:

1. Get the most out of your investment.

CRM is no easy spend. A CRM deployment costs not only money, but precious time and resources.  In training, we’ll show you how to integrate CRM into your daily processes in a way that not only makes your life easier, but also contributes on a larger scale to the success of your organization. Maybe you’ve already been tracking prospective client information with some sort of data management system. Now you can learn how to take the work you’ve already been doing and multiply it across your organization by making it visible, accessible, and easy to organize in CRM. On the other hand, if you’ve never engaged with any sort of customer relationship management software before, get the knowledge you need to hit the ground running. This isn’t just a lesson in button pushing; this is about teaching you how to do your job more efficiently and with a greater, long-lasting impact to your organization.

2. Increase collaboration across your organization.

Training your team on how to use CRM can build a community of collaboration at your organization. We’ve seen pushback from some sales organizations who are hesitant to share best practices or critical information, afraid they’ll divulge their “secret sauce” and lose out on future deals to other sellers. In training, you’ll walk away with the tools to communicate a message of internal collaboration that leads to internal success. We’ll discuss techniques for combatting commonly asked questions, such as, “I’ve been winning deals with my methods for years. Why should I change things up now?” Learn how to explain CRM and its role in the broader scheme of success for your organization. If done effectively, you can see your employees engaging with a tool they understand.

3. Ease the transition.

No one likes change. Adopting an entirely new system and trying to integrate new operations into your daily routine can seem daunting. By attending a training session, you will equip yourself with the foundational knowledge to thoroughly understand the system. Training also helps ease those early adoption jitters, allowing you and your team to walk away with confidence over your investment. From there, you can relay that confidence to further encourage other early adopters to get on board. More confidence means more users, which means an overall more effective system for your organization.

4. Hear real stories from real customers in the same boat.

Training sessions offer plenty of time for discussion between users. Gain a network of people outside your organization to discuss creative solutions to the challenges you might be facing internally.

Maybe you haven’t completely rolled out CRM to your organization and are looking to vet out a new partner. Engage with CRM professionals and their current clients before you make the decision to invest with a partner and/or move forward with a complete deployment for your organization. Training can be a great trial period to feel out a consulting partner and determine whether you think their CRM philosophy and methodology is what you’re looking for.

5. Learn the language.

Certain fundamental concepts around CRM can be extremely helpful to learn before you dive in. Understanding the basic terminology of CRM, how the system is structured, how you are expected to interact with the tool can be vital to starting on the right foot when it comes to not only using the new system but explaining it to others at your organization.

We see customers with grandiose goals for their CRM implementations who are disappointed when it takes longer than anticipated to get off the ground. Just when you were learning to ride a bike – training wheels are important! Taking the time to set yourself up for success with CRM can make the difference between a tool your team understands and is willing to use vs. a solution they struggle to see value in.

Convinced yet? You can read more about our upcoming training sessions here. We hope to see you there!

Topics: CRM Best Practices

CRM: When Homemade Doesn't Cut It

Today's blog post was written by Kayla Silverstein, Marketing Specialist at Sonoma Partners.

There are a lot of scenarios in which homemade is best – be it chocolate chip cookies, cozy knitted socks, or an old-fashioned rocking chair. When it comes to building a CRM system to meet the complex needs of your business, a homegrown CRM system will not provide you with the business tool you crave.

SP_Homemade_CRM_blog

Customer Relationship Management tools are critical to building relationships and growing businesses. Market-leading platforms like Dynamics 365 (formerly Dynamics CRM Online) and Salesforce are market-leading for a reason – they are used by organizations of every shape and size to improve sales performance, proposal generation, marketing automation, and so much more.

Here are 3 things you’re missing out on when you choose to invest in a homegrown CRM system:

1. No updates for you.

When you invest in Salesforce or Dynamics 365, you have access to the tools, functionality, and integrations your team needs to productively operate. From forecasting to integrations, incorporating these features in your homegrown platform can come at a huge cost. The market-leading CRM platforms provide access to today’s vital features and tomorrow’s future innovations. Technology is moving faster than ever, and investing in a name brand platform ensures you can keep up.  

With a homegrown CRM system, the only updates your system is going to receive are the ones you create. By comparison, both Salesforce and Dynamics 365 release updates 2-3 times a year. With these updates, you’re getting access to new features, tried and tested for users just like you and your team. In our experience, we’ve seen about 200-500 new features per release. That’s anywhere from 400-1,500 features a year! How many features do you think, even in your slower seasons, your development team could put together? Probably not 1,500.

2. Forget about custom UX.

Investing in a thoughtful, engaging user experience design provides your team with a tool they  want to use. When you configure Dynamics 365 or Salesforce in a way that satisfies your team’s daily operations, you can present your employees with a trusted platform that uniquely meets their needs. Investing in custom UX is one way to drastically increase both user adoption and the quality of data in your CRM system.

With the steep costs of developing custom UX within a homegrown platform, you could be left with a system that your users will not adopt. With inconsistent use, the system grows stale and underutilized. When you work with Microsoft Dynamics CRM or Salesforce, you can build completely custom mobile applications, enhance simple controls, or deploy fully-branded portals. The sky is the limit!

3. Lack of support.

CRM implementations are naturally works-in-progress. Your different teams are utilizing the system for a variety of means, and odds are, you won’t be able to update every department at the same time. This is one of the reasons Salesforce and Microsoft dedicate time and money to an array of support networks for their users. As a customer, you can access crowdsourced information from blogs and partner channels, to self-help portals to get you the answers you need and fast. Support for your homegrown solution is at the mercy of whoever is around to assist. To set yourself up for success in the long term, invest money where you can get continued assistance and resources to support the road ahead.

If you have questions about how your organization can start investing in a Salesforce or Dynamics 365 solution, feel free to drop us a line.

Feel you’ve gone past the point of no return with your homegrown solution? Don’t panic. We offer a variety of resources to help get you back on course. Start with our eBook on The Trail to CRM Triage, helping you begin the 5-step trail to solve stalled or static CRM solutions.

Topics: CRM Best Practices

The 10 Dashboards Every Project Manager Should Use

Today's blog post was written by Brian Kasic, Principal Consultant at Sonoma Partners.

In many types of business environments, using dashboards is a common theme for daily management. But have you ever used it to manage your team or group? I like thinking, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure!” As I became a program manager and supervisor of a large team, I really started taking this concept to heart and have used it ever since. However, it’s harder than it seems to pull off managing via dashboards successfully. Today’s blog is about the key elements I use on a daily basis to manage a multi-million-dollar project with a 75-person project team disbursed in multiple time zones across the world.

The ideal scenario is looking at dashboards targeted for each individual.

They show the most important items to accomplish for that day, tell you what to expect in the future, easily demonstrates progress for what’s been accomplished, and can also be run to create an instant status report. 

CRM systems are ideal to enable you to manage in this fashion. They are easily adjustable, intuitive, and simple to export data for deeper xls analysis. You can also create the underlying dashboard data and enable your dashboard to be drilled into for cases when you want to see a specific team or individuals progress. They can be secured to target various groups of executive management or be available to the entire team.

Here are my top 10 dashboards organized from the viewpoint of a program manager. They can be used for different members of team, such as the individuals in the nitty gritty details all the way to executive management have varying interest in each one of the themes. Each person plays a part in supporting the details that make them usable. The dashboards only work well if you have a process to consistently and accurately supply them with data and give feedback on what they are telling you. If not, you are out of luck. So before you start dashing around spinning up dashboards, please make sure your underlying data is consistent and clean. Also ask yourself, “Once I have this dashboard, how am I going to use it?” You should be able to take action on every dashboard you use. If not, question its value.

In the list below are key dashboard themes and the underlying ways they are used.

DASHBOARD TYPE #1: Resources

USE: Shows future staffing needs and if the team size should be increased or reduced.

ACTION: Moves resources from various areas of the project to maximize utilization.

DASHBOARD TYPE #2: Workload / Capacity

USE: Measures time estimates vs. time available.

ACTION: Adds more capacity to teams that need the assistance.

DASHBOARD TYPE #3:  Detailed Progress

USE: Shows past due tasks and ownership.

ACTION: Assists team members who have questions and identify problem areas within the project.

DASHBOARD TYPE #4: Project Blockers

USE: Assists in running the daily stand-up meeting to highlight items hindering progress.

ACTION: Identifies next steps to clear the impediments.

DASHBOARD TYPE #5: Communication / Status Reporting

USE: Generates a weekly status report with items accomplished for the past week and planned for the future week.

ACTION: Engages the team if areas are behind schedule or milestones were accomplished.

DASHBOARD TYPE #6: Escalations

USE: Highlights problem areas for upper management.

ACTION: Shifts priorities to address the items requiring management attention.

DASHBOARD TYPE #7: Daily Meetings

USE: Runs daily meetings with real-time data.

ACTION: Makes edits on the spot. Eliminates the need to take detailed meeting notes if all the data exists in the dashboards and is real-time within the system.

DASHBOARD TYPE #8: Variance Analysis

USE: Explains why variations happened.

ACTION: Takes action on variances that seem unusual.

DASHBOARD TYPE #9: Risk / Mitigation

USE: Shows risks.

ACTION: Documents plan to mitigate or reduce the risk area.

DASHBOARD TYPE #10: Roadmap / Project Plan

USE: Visualizes for the project team what is upcoming and gets visibility to the schedule.

ACTION: Updates the plan if circumstances change.

Hopefully in seeing my top 10 dashboards you can more effectively manage your projects and teams. If you ever have questions on this or other CRM management challenges, drop us a line!

Is your CRM

Topics: CRM Best Practices

Luxury in the Cloud: Preferred Hotels & Resorts℠ Moves to CRM Online

Preferred Hotels & Resorts markets over 650 distinctive hotels, resorts, residences, and unique hotel groups across 85 countries. They work with independent hotels to help them market both to individual travelers as well as organizations looking for locations to host large events and conferences.

Preferred-hotels

Preferred Hotels & Resorts used Microsoft Dynamics 4.0 On-Premise for many years. Michelle Woodley, Executive Vice President, Distribution & Revenue Management at Preferred, and team worked with Sonoma Partners to upgrade the long-outdated system. With an upgrade to Microsoft Dynamics 2016 Online, Preferred Hotels improved the user experience and interface of their system, took advantage of native functionality in place of overly complex customizations, and incorporated mobile functionality.

It was our pleasure to sit down with Michelle for a Q&A session on the progress of the project as Preferred Hotels & Resorts continues to roll out their new CRM solution to their users.

What motivated you to upgrade from Dynamics 4.0 On-Premise to CRM 2016 Online?

Michelle: Dynamics 4.0 On-Premise was simply not cutting it for us. It was very outdated, and we hadn’t touched it since its implementation in 2010. We recently upgraded many of our other systems, the biggest of which was the move to Office 365. Upgrading our CRM system to the cloud fit nicely within that plan.

Why is CRM important to your sales process?

We use CRM on our sales side to target multiple audiences. Hotel Development – selling to hotels – is one of our main sources of business. The second is Group Sales, who targets meeting planners to help them book hotels for their events. The third target includes the transient sales people for corporate and leisure, who work with accounts to bring further business to the hotels. These three different groups are fairly separate in who they’re targeting and in their day-to-day operations; however, to have all three in the same platform is incredibly important from a reporting standpoint and for integrations into other systems, such as billing and commission structures.

“Without a doubt, there is no better tool than CRM for our sales organization to use to do their work effectively. CRM is integral to our operations.”

From an organizational perspective, we use CRM as a tool to protect ourselves. When someone leaves our organization, we know that their data stays with us in our system. Additionally, workflows in CRM help our sales team track projects throughout their lifecycle and informs management on the progress of these opportunities. Within each account, we can track related opportunities to give management and sales a complete picture of each customer in every step of the process.

What steps have you taken to ensure successful user adoption as you continue to rollout the new system?

We’ve found that a big part of ensuring successful user adoption is in paying attention to who is and isn’t adopting. We have some more senior sales people who are stuck in the way things used to be done, and we’re making sure we provide the training and resources they need to feel confident in using the new platform. From the beginning, it was crucial that we got our executive team fully onboard with the upgrade. This continues to be helpful as we rollout our new solution.

That being said, our biggest teaser to encourage our sales team to adopt the new system was mobility. They love having the ability to utilize CRM easily from their mobile device. We encourage them to look forward to future integrations as we continue to get off the ground and into the cloud.

“Mobile was our teaser to encourage people to adopt the new CRM system. People were very excited to have on-the-go access to the system and their account data.”

What is the biggest value-add of CRM to your business?

By far, the biggest value-add of CRM for us is the 360-degree view of the customer. We are a global company with over 250 employees around the world and offices in 20+ countries. No matter which office you’re in or where in the world you are, you can have complete visibility of a customer through CRM. I’ve had it happen to me when someone calls and asks me about an account. I can quickly go into the system and identify what role they play at the hotel, which events they’re going to, which marketing campaigns they’re on, etc. It’s a huge value-add and allows us to work more effectively together as a cohesive organization and better serve our customers.

What is it like working with Sonoma Partners?

We had a great team. I felt Sonoma Partners really understood our business and our needs. I always had the impression that they were on the same wavelength as us, knowing our pace and who to go to with questions. It was a fantastic partnership, and we look forward to continuing to work with them post-implementation.

Our many thanks to Michelle and Preferred Hotels & Resorts for sharing how the upgrade went and their progress thus far. We look forward to reporting back once they finish rolling out their new system!

Are you considering an upgrade to the cloud? Please contact us

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Topics: CRM Best Practices

Support: Keep Away from the Runaround, Sue

Today's blog post was written by Jeff Meister, Principal Consultant at Sonoma Partners.

Recently, I've had conversations with several customers around frustrations when it comes to dealing with the various support channels related to their CRM platform. Whether it be core platform support, partner support, or third party support, there always seems to be a great deal of runaround as it relates to getting the basics communicated in order to move on with the real support.

Here at Sonoma Partners, we have the same frustrations, but have worked to formalize a process as it relates to support to ensure all questions are answered upfront to avoid the back and forth. Below is a rough template we follow which covers a lot of the basics and will hopefully help get you to the right people, right away.

SERVICE REALITY CHECK

Additionally, if you feel that the “runaround” is starting, don't be afraid to ask for a phone call. Oftentimes a quick phone call can be much more efficient than going back and forth over email. One other suggestion is to include all parties involved in the communications. If you are working with a partner, you should keep them CC’d throughout the life of the case, as they might have additional input into the issue.

Unfortunately, we can neither confirm nor deny that this will make your support request process more efficiently, but I can tell you that this has improved our process and provided efficiencies in areas where we have historically struggled. Happy supporting!

Topics: CRM Best Practices

CRM for My Generation

Today's blog post was written by Kristie Reid, VP of Consulting at Sonoma Partners.

We recently hosted our third annual CRUSH event for professionals in the professional services industry to come together, share best practices, and gather ideas for improving the usage of CRM in their organizations. My favorite session was led by our very own Jim Steger and Ariel Upton where they discussed the different expectations of the Gen X versus Millennials. This discussion sparked a few ah-ha moments for me to keep in mind when designing CRM systems including:

  • Gen-X wants to have access to the information they want when they need it.
  • Millennials expect transparency and need to understand how they are adding value.

So how do you take different wants and needs that you will get across your CRM user base and merge them into your CRM system to ensure a successful deployment?

The simple answer is to get them involved with your CRM program. Their involvement could range from participating in interviews during requirements gathering sessions, having them participate in your CRM Steering Committee, or having them act as your CRM Champions. In other words, make sure you focus on them as part of your Change Management strategy. But remember, that strategy cannot just focus on the executives and management for approval (typically your Gen-Xers). You must also identify what your user base wants and needs (and who better to target than the Millennials who are quickly becoming your largest audience).

Some things to ask understand from these different groups include:

  • What types of actions do you need to take on your mobile device?
  • What type of information are you expecting to see from your CRM system?
  • What is the best way to communicate upcoming changes with the system?
  • How do you learn new technology?
  • What don’t you have today which would make CRM a no-brainer to use if there?

The answer to these questions can help drive how you communicate, train, and prioritize your CRM program rollout and ongoing enhancements.

Does getting people from your organization from all generations still feel like an overwhelming task, don’t hesitate to ask for help

Dynamics 365: Editable Grids

Topics: CRM Best Practices

Building a Program in Perpetual Motion

Today's blog post was written by Adam Barr, Principal Consultant at Sonoma Partners.

In my experience implementing CRM, I have often been asked by clients, when do we know we are finished? Or, when is the application complete? Better yet, how do we know we’ve optimized our investment in CRM? The answer is relatively simple on both fronts: Never.

You should continue to invest into your CRM platform in perpetuity, defining success by hitting milestones along the way and measuring results.

This focus on building a program in perpetual motion will continue to stretch the optimization target while regularly adding value to your organization. 

The key difference I want to focus on is between projects and programs. If we are generally managing CRM in the same manner as a “set-it-and-forget-it” implementation, we are settings ourselves up to become another failed CRM statistic.    

Successful CRM programs are designed with a multitude of features supporting the organization cross-functionally which mitigates the risk of becoming stale. These programs focus on automating business processes, extending channels for customer touchpoints, and providing overall structure, efficiency, and consistency in your message. Saying a CRM program is complete is similar to saying, employee development has peaked and we're not expecting any future turnover - or - the way we interact and engage with our customers is working for us and there wont be any need to adjust our approach going forward...and all our competitors agree. Or - even more incredulous - the technology industry has plateaued and we won’t see any new innovations for our industry. Don’t brush these parallels off as just a dramatic ploy to get you to keep reading. Thought, I do want you to keep reading, so I ask you again, hear me out.

Think back for a moment, why did you invest in a CRM solution? A very common answer is to achieve the Utopian goal of obtaining a true 360-degree view of your customer. Why is this so important? Why do organizations dedicate significant resources, both human and financial, to achieve this goal? Why do you strive for consistent messaging, predictable interactions, and ultimately the ability to streamline or deflect non-value added touchpoints?

At the most basic level, it is because the customer is still king. For the foreseeable future, the customer will continue to be king. The challenge you are faced with is finding ways to optimize your customer value in perpetuity. You need to be able to manage process inefficiencies, balance employee turnover, minimize onboarding learning curves, and do so in a manner that is transparent to the customer to ensure they consistently have superior experiences with your brand. Frankly, your customer does not care about your internal processes, nor do they care about internal structure or any cost optimization pressures you may be facing. Your customer cares about having easy access to your product or service. Your ability to deliver said product or service in an environment that fosters a superior customer experience will drive brand loyalty and advocacy in the market.

CRM programs should underpin all initiatives that support these efforts. Internally, business processes should be reinforced through the CRM tool so the desired behavior becomes intrinsic simply through the use of your application. Externally, customers should have simple access to your company, on their schedule and through their desired channel. You need to provide them with a consistent experience regardless of when or how they engage with your organization. Connecting this omni-channel expectation to a shared CRM environment ensures a full understanding of your customer and mitigates any potential for a less-than-desired experience.  

Only when your customer relinquishes their purchasing power. Only when technology vendors feel they’ve saturated the innovation market. Only when your employees have mastered every business process and your competitors decide status quo is good enough. Only then, should you consider your CRM program complete.

Is your CRM

Topics: CRM Best Practices

Apple AppStore Lessons for the CRM App Ecosystem

A few weeks ago, Apple released some important data about their AppStore:

  • AppStore revenue exceeded $28B in 2016
  • AppStore revenue grew more than 40% year over year
  • Sales of apps exceeded 90% growth in China in 2016
  • App developers received over $20B in revenue last year

Obviously the AppStore represents big business, and a massive revenue opportunity for companies looking to capitalize on the Apple ecosystem! When you consider that iPhone sales actually declined over the last few years, the massive growth of the AppStore becomes even more impressive. Apple continues to grow the value of their AppStore network, which in turns motivates more developers to create apps for the AppStore, which again increases the value of the network! Economists and other really smart people call this concept the network effect which basically states “a phenomenon whereby a product or service gains additional value as more people use it.”

NetworkEffect

While the AppStore numbers might get your interest, you might wonder what do $0.99 video games have to do with the enterprise CRM market?!?! We think that ISV’s (Independent Software Vendors) in the business software market should sit up and pay close attention to what’s happening in the AppStore…because the same network effects generating 40% year over year growth in the Apple AppStore will create that same growth within the two largest CRM ecosystems:

Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics 365 represent two of the leading and largest CRM applications in the world. Each of these systems offer their own app stores that work similar to the Apple AppStore, they provide a streamlined and easy way for customers to find and purchase add-ons for their system. Here’s a quick comparison of AppExchange to AppSource:

 

AppExchange

AppSource

Ecosystem

Salesforce

Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Sales
Power BI
Office 365

Launch Date

2006

2015

Approximate # of Apps

~3,000

~380 total apps
~130 for Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Sales apps

App deployment

Cloud only

Cloud & on-premise offering

In-CRM App Marketplace

Yes

Yes

Customer reviews and scores

Yes

Yes

From this chart, you can see that the Salesforce AppExchange owns a longer history and a larger selection of apps compared to Microsoft’s relatively new AppSource. However, we think that the Microsoft AppSource offers great growth potential for ISV’s because its ecosystem extends beyond CRM into Power BI and Office 365…and both of these related Microsoft platforms have large numbers of customers and high growth rates!

Stephen Cummins presented some interesting tidbits about AppExchange revenue:

  • He projected that average app in the AppExchange would generate almost $1 million in annual revenue in 2016.
  • Neeracha Taychakhoonavudh (Salesforce’s SVP of Partner Programs) said Salesforce will boost AppExchange revenues 5X over the next 5 years.
  • The top-performing apps in the AppExchange like Veeva, Apttus and Docusign each generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

So what does all of this mean for ISV’s? We think that every single business software company ABSOLUTELY needs to have an integration or offering on the Salesforce AppExchange and Microsoft AppSource. With the continued growth of the CRM market, these CRM app ecosystems will start seeing significant network effects which will generate amazing revenue opportunities for ISV’s.  

If your company wants help developing a new app for AppExchange or AppSource, please contact Sonoma Partners. We can help you refresh an old app, or build a brand new one from scratch!

Topics: CRM Best Practices

Shifting to a PowerBI World

Today's blog post was written by Keith Mescha, a Principal Architect at Sonoma Partners.

Power B-What?

There's been a bit of buzz recently in the CRM circles around Power BI and how it fits into the overall CRM landscape. There is certainly no shortage of blogs, podcasts and event demos showcasing the power of this toolset. On a personal note, I'm am seeing the same level of interest based on the meetings on my calendar over the past few weeks.

What we're finding at Sonoma is that the topic of Power BI is still very confusing for most customers. In this multi-part series we hope to help demystify some of the confusion through real-life examples and suggest some best practices based on learnings from our internal use as well as implementations with our clients.

The Basics

Power BI is Microsoft's analytics and dashboard Business Intelligence (BI) suite of tools and solutions. It's made up of a few main offerings:

  • Power BI Desktop – Free development tool for building data models and dashboards
  • Power BI Service – Online PaaS offering to host and share Power BI solutions with a monthly licensing per user subscription based model
  • Power BI Embedded – Online PaaS offering for embedding Power BI solutions into applications for external consumption with a session based subscription model
  • Power BI Mobile – Free mobile app for consumption of deployed Power BI solutions on a mobile device
  • Power BI Enterprise Gateway – On Premise software used to extend on premise data to the Power BI Service

For latest and greatest features and release notes, refer to the Power BI site.

Real-Life Example

Every company I know has data quality issues or challenges to overcome. Unfortunately, we here at Sonoma are not exempt. One of the things we constantly struggle with is incomplete data and stale data. Often times, we will create a record without knowing all of the various data points we typically want to capture. If we do not go back and fill that information in once it becomes known, we are left with an incomplete and potentially inaccurate record. The genesis of the original report request was to provide a means for the data steward team to monitor newly created records.

The original ask was for a custom SSRS report that listed out all Accounts that were missing specific data across a pre-determined list of fields. This report would then be provided to our data steward team on a regular basis to ensure the data is augmented appropriately. When one of my colleagues stopped by to chat about the report, I happened to be in the middle of building a dashboard in Power BI for a customer. He was curious what I was working on, and as we talked and he explained his need, I fired up a new instance of Power BI desktop in an attempt to solve the problem.

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Get Your Data

I pulled up the 'Filtered Account' view from the 'Get Data' option in Power BI. My User Account is a System Admin and the Filtered Account view resolves all the option set and lookup fields for us, so this was a quick and easy solution. When getting data for many of the source types, you have an option to Import or Direct connect. I’ll go deeper on that topic in my next post but for this solution I chose to import.

image


Shape Your Data

Initially Power BI pulls in all the attributes in the table, this can be a bit overwhelming so filtering down the attributes was our next step. My colleague had a list off the fields he wanted to audit and report, so I filtered down the data set to only include those attributes.

image

Within 15 minutes my colleague and I had a prototype dashboard built with the fields he needed, including a couple charts to use as filters. From there we iterated on a few designs, and ultimately landed on the below look and feel. End to end this entire process took a couple hours to build, including some custom columns to allow linking to our Account Forms on Dynamics and Salesforce.

image


Deploy Your Solution

Once we had a solid solution built in Power BI Desktop, I created a new O365 group for internal reporting, added a few users to the group and then deployed the Power BI solution to the Power BI service.

One key thing to note here is that we had to assign Power BI licenses to these users before they could login and see our dashboard. The fact that we wanted to schedule this a couple times per day and that we were managing this through our 0365 AD bumped us from the free to the paid license. We had a handful of users requiring access and plenty of licenses available so this was a decent option for us. If you have a different need there are other options, we can consider for staying on the free option.

image

Manage Your Solution

From there my colleague could interact with the report by logging into PowerBI.com.

image

After my colleague was happy with the presentation of the data and a few more cleanup steps, I was able to setup the data refresh of the data set in Power BI. We already had a Power BI Enterprise Gateway installed on our SQL Server for another solution, so including my data set in the refresh was very simple with just a few clicks.

Now that our solution was deployed, our data stewards have logged in and subscribed to the dashboards. Every morning they get an email with a snapshot of the dashboard and a link to access the dashboard where they get direct access to the records in Dynamics or Salesforce so they can easily update those with missing data.

In summary, the Power BI platform is a great set of tools that are easy to learn. There is quite a bit of information available through various internet communities, so getting started is easy. As shown here, from idea to solution was less than one day for a very simple deliverable. The toolset can extend into much larger solutions as needed, so please give us a call and let us help you take the next step in your analytics journey within your CRM applications.

In our next Power BI post, we will discuss in more detail the step of getting your data and how to decide on Data Import Vs Direct Query.

Topics: Analytics CRM Best Practices CRM for Professional Services Microsoft Dynamics 365 Salesforce

User Experience: K.I.S.S. User Adoption Problems Goodbye

Today's blog post was written by Kevin Mech, Senior UX Architect at Sonoma Partners.

A CRM platform is a major investment, and user adoption ultimately determines its success. A user’s experience with the platform is the difference between it being viewed as a useful tool or a mandatory burden. To encourage user adoption, the user’s needs must be fulfilled in an intuitive and simplistic manner.

The K.I.S.S. principle, or Keep It Simple, Stupid, is one of the best approaches for increasing usability and creating exceptional user experiences.

To an inexperienced user, CRM platforms are the antithesis of simple. To create the ideal experience, first consider the user’s needs. A company’s business processes determine an employee’s responsibilities and objectives. Be mindful of these objectives when considering an out-of-the-box CRM solution versus a customized alternative. CRM platforms are powerful but complicated, making it difficult to keep the experience simple.

Kevin mech kiss header image

Going Native

The "native" option is a CRM platform without custom modifications. CRM platforms are designed to accommodate the majority of business processes and user needs. If these processes align well with native CRM functionality, this solution is a viable option and the most cost-effective. However, the K.I.S.S. principle is most difficult to apply in this scenario, since these systems are also inherently complex.

To alleviate this complexity, understanding the user’s objectives is imperative. Map the objectives to areas in CRM that allow the user to complete them in the quickest and most intuitive manner available. To assist in this process, Sonoma Partners offers “ride-along” sessions where the discovery team identifies user needs through observation and discussion, and recommends the most user-friendly approach.

Custom Needs, Custom Experiences

Advanced business processes require customizations to the functionality and user interfaces within CRM for an optimal user experience. Such processes often require the user to complete multiple steps or redundantly perform a task within the constraints of a native CRM platform. The user may need to view an aggregate summary across multiple records, perform a custom search, or another use case that native CRM solves with a discombobulated or non-existent interface.

Once again, identifying the needs and objectives of the user is crucial. What is the user trying to accomplish? Why? How does the user currently accomplish the objective? Understanding the motivational factors behind a user’s actions reveals which pieces of data and functionality are relevant to a user in a customized interface. Initially, this option is more costly, but that cost is recouped through increased productivity and higher user adoption.

After the business requirements and user needs are understood, a customized user interface is created. Sonoma Partner’s user experience team designs the optimal experience for users to accomplish their objectives faster and more efficiently than in a native CRM environment. These customizations range from a small widget to a full screen design and often exist within the context of the native CRM interface. When native CRM creates a poor user experience, customization is a great way to encourage user adoption.

Custom-Tailored Mobile Apps

CRM has been desktop-centric for decades, however, not all CRM use cases revolve around a stationary computer. These users require a mobile solution that allows them to access and update CRM data while out and about. For example, many outside sales representatives spend time updating CRM records long after their face-to-face visits and calls occurred. If these users were provided with a customized mobile application, they could manage their daily responsibilities immediately without wasting valuable selling time.

CRM platforms have lightweight mobile solutions, but they are holistic and are not tailored to particular use cases. A custom application specifically targets user’s needs and surfaces the perfect amount of data required to manage their objectives. Sonoma Partner’s mobility team works with these users to conceptualize and develop the ideal phone or tablet application. This solution maximizes a user’s productivity, efficiency, and overall experience, immediately justifying the initial investment.

To ensure the user’s needs are met, a Sonoma Partners user experience architect accompanies several users on “ride-alongs” to observe them in their working environments. Ride-alongs result in key insights into a user’s daily objectives, pain points, and challenges. Focusing on these insights and following the K.I.S.S. principle results in an app that provides the user the perfect amount of data and functionality to maximize a user’s experience.

Keep It Simple

Make the most of your CRM platform by keeping the experience simple. Identify the objectives of your users and consider whether a native or customized solution results in the best user experience. This ultimately drives the greatest gauge of CRM success: user adoption.

If you ever need assistance to increase user adoption of your CRM solution, we are happy to help.

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Topics: CRM Best Practices