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What type of Microsoft Dynamics 365 project best meets your needs?

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Are you planning a Microsoft Dynamics project?  Or perhaps you are already in the middle of one?  Perhaps the key decisions rest with you?  Perhaps you inherited a project?  As you have probably realised, not all projects are created equal. Some projects are amazingly successful and deliver huge benefits to the organisation. Some projects are less successful, and some are downright awful.

Knowing what the nature of project that will meet your needs is, is a big step on the way to project success - now and into the future.   Given that up to 80% of projects fail, and 14% of CEO's would junk their current CRM, this is a good start.  Knowing the sort of project helps you find the best mix of resources for your project, to manage your timeline and to set expectations.  It will also help you deal with 'doubting Thomases', who tell you that your project should take less time or more time or be done differently or use specific people, just because that is how another project was done.

If your project is feeling confusing, like an abandoned rubik cube, perhaps is it because the type of project is unclear. rubikcube2 sm 

Often the decision makers have thought about:

  • Pricing - fixed price or Time and materials?
  • Resourcing – in house or external; onshore or offshore?
  • Methodology - Waterfall or Agile or Surestep?
  • Cloud or on premise?
  • Tender or not?

but not given much consideration to the overall project type. However this is hardly surprising as this is rarely spoken about, especially by vendors.  Although the project type is not hard and fast, knowing the type helps enormously in planning.  

The type of project that suits you will vary depending your current situation - do you have some Microsoft Dynamics 365 deployed, or is this your first steps on this journey?  Do you already have licences?  Are you totally responsible for the project in its current state, or have many (or all?) of the people involved in the project previously moved away?  How much expertise do you have in your organisation now, both technical and user?  Can you access current design documentation?

When I’m in conversation with my clients about the project they are planning, many of them struggle with this question. And this may be after the funding has been secured!!

Starting a Dynamics CRM or Dynamics 365 project can be a daunting task even for the most experienced decision maker. How do you ensure that you know enough about the benefits, pitfalls and how the technology fits with your business? For sure there is oodles of information on the internet, but how do you safeguard yourself against people who are mainly interested in selling licences or billable hours?  Most decision makers do not have time to read the entire internet, but it can be difficult to find an organisation that focusses on your success.

There are two broad groups of projects:

  • New to Dynamics 365 - greenfield projects
  • Existing Dynamics 365 - extension projects

However, it becomes more interesting and useful, when you break this down further:

  • Pilot
  • Lift and Shift
  • As is > To be transformation
  • The Drive By
  • The small cogwheel
  • Organic growth
  • Simple upgrade
  • Complex upgrade
  • Decoupled Dynamics 365
  • Rescue

Each of these projects has different characteristics, and requires slightly different approaches for success.

Greenfield (or new installation) projects may be

  • Pilot
  • Lift and Shift
  • As is > To be transformation
  • The Drive By
  • The small cogwheel
  • Decoupled Dynamics 365

Existing Dynamics 365 may be

  • As is > To be transformation
  • The small cogwheel
  • Organic growth
  • Simple upgrade
  • Complex upgrade
  • Decoupled Dynamics 365
  • Rescue

Pilot

pilot 

 

Just like this pilot boat is guiding a much larger ship out of Sydney harbour, a pilot project acts as a guide for how Microsoft Dynamics 365 will work for your organisation.

A pilot project is usually an easy decision – get proof that Microsoft Dynamics 365 is a fit for your requirements before you invest in a full blown project.

Tips for success with your pilot project

  • A pilot project is a guide. This does not mean, as in the old days, that everything will be thrown away at the end.
  • One of the best ways to ensure success with your pilot project is to keep the scope tight. Select one team, or a small number of users, and base the pilot project on their use cases. Run a scoping workshop with an experienced consultant to get the best low hanging fruit for you.
  • Bring in expertise – be that internal or external.
  • Run some training – even before the scoping – so your team know what is available out of the box.

Lift and Shift

 liftshift

 

Lift and shift is bit like moving house. You take everything that you have and move it to another technology, with little or no change on the way. The old ‘house’ may be a proprietary sales or case management system or it may be a bespoke application.  Sometimes it is another CRM technology that has not worked out for you.

Tips for success with your Lift and Shift project

    • Work with the functionality within Microsoft Dynamics 365 rather than forcing it to match your existing way of working – this can be forcing a square block into round hole.
    • Run some training with a professional trainer (who also knows Dynamics 365!) so your team know what is available out of the box.
    • Challenge the business process owners to simplify the process so it takes advantage of the best practice built into Microsoft Dynamics 365.
squarepeg roundhole

As is > To be transformation project transformation sm

 

Like the caterpillar becoming a butterfly over a period of a few weeks, the As Is > To Be transformation is a major undertaking.  It is usually an organisation wide move to new technology with associated process changes. This is probably the most wide-reaching type of project.

Tips for success with your As is > To be transformation project

  • Break the project down into several smaller projects with one overarching project and several sub-projects.
  • Do an initial high level scoping to gain an overall understanding of the project - as well as scoping each project.
  • Ensure that your Project Manager(s) are experienced in the Dynamics 365 functionality (ideally both technical and end user) and methodologies as well as Project Management.
  • Keep at least most of your resources local.
  • When scoping, include global reporting and data visualisation requirements from the outset.

Drive By

 drive by

 

A drive by project is rarely planned - not by the customer anyway - It occurs when a salesperson (usually), who is more interested in licence sales than your success, throws the licences at you, collects the commission then leaves you to manage the rest.

Too many vendors are too ready to tell prospect that Dynamics 365 'just works' straight out of the box. While Dynamics 365 is easy to use, that does not mean that it is easy to use without any guidance or training.

This is the sort of project that you want to avoid, if possible, – it is rarely a success.

Tips for success with your Drive By project

  • If you cannot avoid a Drive By project, bring in experienced resources who are more invested in your success than in (more) licences or billable hours.
  • Invest in training so you know what you have bought.
  • Convert the project to a more appropriate project from this list and continue from there.

Small cogwheel

 smallcog

 

Like this gold cog, which lies at the centre of a complex piece of machinery and keeps everything else turning, most organisations have small, discrete groups of users, who perform a key task. Small cogwheel projects are great for this situation.

Small cogwheel projects are discrete deplyments to meet the needs of a single team or department.

The users of these small cogwheel projects often become advocates for the system as it expands to take in other teams.

Tips for success with your small cogwheel project

  • Support these users - perhaps provide them with expert mentoring to help them with specific challenges
  • Look at third party add-ons such as Click Dimensions to meet the specific needs of these groups quickly
  • Encourage these people to ‘spread the word’.  

Organic growth

organic growth

 

Like the vegetables here, these projects are not constrained by having to conform to stereotypes.

They usually start small (small cog), but then grow until, without anyone quite realising it, they are key to the whole organisation.

They are usually not planned in any formal way, but still deliver benefit to their owners.

Tips for success with your organic growth project

  • Ensure that you have a Dynamics 365 product owner in place.
  • Encourage the product owner to become a Dynamics 365 evangelist.
  • Run health checks to ensure that the project has stuck with best practice, both in use and how it was deployed.

Simple upgrade

 simple

 

Keep your project as close to out of the box as possible. Ensure that your technical team (internal or external) do stick to supported techniques. This means that when you decide to upgrade, it is likely to be a simple upgrade.

Each major Dynamics 365 release introduces new functionality and some existing functionality will be deprecated. Deprecated means that you are being given notice that a feature will be removed in a future version, so you should stop using it. When that feature is subsequently removed something may break.

Tips for success with your simple upgrade project

  • Do an upgrade readiness check as a rehearsal prior to the upgrade, so you can ensure that your upgrade will work, and you know the timeframe.
  • If the upgrade changes the look and feel or how the users will use Dynamics 365, provide training prior to the upgrade, so the actual go live can happen smoothly

 Complex upgrade

complex

 

Too many Microsoft Dynamics 365 implementations look like Spaghetti junction - all over the place.

Complex upgrades tend to be necessary when you have integrations to various other business critical systems and dependencies on a range of other software products. Alternatively, perhaps your original implementation was heavily customised so there is a lot of code to move.  Some of this code may need revising to allow for deprecated features.

Sometimes complex upgrades are necessary when you have an xRM solution. If you are very unlucky, the vendor of your xRM solution will no longer exist, or be unwilling to support you, so you have to manage the upgrade without them

Tips for success with your complex upgrade project

  • Do an upgrade readiness check so you understand what the effort required will be.
  • Look at removing some of the complexity prior to the upgrade – it is quite likely that some of your customisation can be replaced with out of the box functionality
  • Bring in external help – if not the original vendor, people who have experience of this sort of project.

 Decoupled Dynamics 365

decoupled2
 

A Decoupled Dynamics 365 Dynamics that is not Dynamics – perhaps a completely different look and feel, or efven a totally redeveloped user interface, but leveraging the power of Microsoft Dynamics 365 under the hood - but nevertheless fulfilling a very useful function.

Dynamics 365 is a fantastic platform for building and logical and physical data models with automatically provisioned and supported web services, report models and security. Why go to the hassle of building your solution from scratch when purchasing some Team Member CALS can substantially reduce your development costs.

Tips for success with your Decoupled Dynamics 365 project

Scoping - just because you are leveraging Microsoft Dynamics 365, but not planning on delivering a traditional Customer Experience or CRM solution does not change the necessity for scoping your project

Document, but don't become embroiled in copious documentation for documentation's sake - this is one of the 'snakes' of projects that I discuss in 'Are you playing snakes and ladders with your CRM project

Invest in the training necessary to take advantage of best practice and out of the box functionality

 rescue  

Rescue

In an ideal world, these projects would not exist. Unfortunately, there are too many rescue project required. They usually come about because too much customisation was done without understanding the functionality – both end user and tools - that was available. 

A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.

There are many, many more configuration and customisation techniques available to you than adding fields – although some of my clients’ projects try very hard to convince me otherwise!

Tips for success with your Rescue project

  • Take it seriously by bringing in resources who know Dynamics inside out and upside down to help you get out of the situation
  • Prevent the situation from getting worse by ensuring that all the team receive the training necessary to take advantage of best practice and out of the box functionality moving forward.
  • Consider moving to a clean platform, and redeveloping the necessary functionality – leaving behind the mess

Although we can classify Microsoft Dynamics 365 projects as above, they are not all discrete and there is overlap between the techniques to survive them.

Even a small project should include scoping and training as well as well the more obvious implementation aspects such as configuration, and data migration.

None of us were born knowing our way around Microsoft Dynamics 365, so be prepared to bring in resources who can guide you and keep your project on the right path. Don’t just bring in an army of people – choose people who have real world experience in Microsoft Dynamics 365 across a wide range of projects.  A skilled solution architect will often save their weight in gold in the project costs.

Invest in training – and ensure that it is appropriate training. Vendors can confuse the different types of Dynamics 365 training, so your people do not get waht they need.

But most importantly, manage the ownership of the project.  The project should always be owned by the business with handovers managed so the ownership is maintained.

With all of the above in place,your Microsoft Dynamics 365 project should be a success story.

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Published by Gill Walker


Who is Gill Walker?

Gill Walker is many things:

  • She is an author who loves spreading knowledge of CRM and specifically Microsoft Dynamics 365 via articles such as this;
  • She is an expert consultant who has been helping her clients with their Microsoft Dynamics 365 (and previously Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Microsoft CRM) challenges since 2002;
  • She is a professional trainer who shares her wide knowledge of Microsoft Dynamics 365 with her training delegates – so they can implement and manage their Microsoft Dynamics 365 more easily and effectively;
  • She is a speaker who shares her knowledge of varied CRM topics with her audiences;
  • She is a troubleshooter – who helps organisations with their sticky problems.

Please feel free to contact her via linked in (https://www.linkedin.com/in/crmconsultant/) or email (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

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Opsis is an expert Microsoft Dynamics 365 consulting company. Our focus is your Microsoft Dynamics 365 success - not licence sales or billable hours. As Principal Consultant, Gill oversees all business operations and strategic planning and execution, yet she still believes in offering personal attention to each and every client, so as to understand their needs and offer tailored solutions.  We are based in Sydney, with clients in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Brisbane and across Australia.  We offer Microsoft Dynamics 365 strategy, Microsoft Dynamics 365 scoping, Microsoft Dynamics 365 implementation, Microsoft Dynamics 365 technical support, Microsoft Dynamics 365 advice and guidance, Microsoft Dynamics 365 training and mentoring.