Musings on project methodologies, Sure Step and Agile v Waterfall

Larger organisations tend to have thier own preferences for project methodologies and so you may have to adapt your style to theirs. Larger organisations often start waterfall but then resort to Agile to get functionality deployed more quickly. Sure Step is not necessarily a methodology but a framework of tools, templates, guidelines within which you can run Agile and waterfall for all types of Dynamics project – ERP and CRM. In the absence of any formal methodology, Sure Step is a good place to start from and most partners use some form of it. Note with Agile – a lot of people think it is about complete flexibility – it isn’t. Agile has a very controlled framework and the approach is very disciplined – personally I think it works better with Dynamics projects. Lastly, the methodology won’t ensure success – a solid disciplined approach with a customer who is clear about their objectives will work with Agile and Waterfall – people make projects work – not methodologies.
Note: Microsoft offer the following course on Sure Step. Course 80450A:
Delivering Microsoft Dynamics Solutions with Sure Step. You can also get certified in Sure Step through Exam MB5-858: Managing Microsoft Dynamics Implementations.


Couple of CRM and Outlook synchronisation facts

I was interested to find out recently that a tracked Task in Outlook will be deleted if the associated task in CRM is completed and deleted – I had previously assumed that the synchronisation link was removed but the record remained in both. Also, if a Contact is tracked (but not owned) by a user and it is deleted in CRM, then the Outlook record is also deleted – interesting but logical I guess. Useful to know if you are studying for MB2-868.

Happy CRM’ng


Reflections on taking MB2-868 CRM 2011 Applications Exam

Just sat this today (and passed) and wanted to reflect on what I think is one of the more difficult exams in CRM I have sat (previously did 3 and 4 Apps exam). There really is no substitute for hands on practice with the product and understanding the process end to end. The areas you really need to spend time on are:

Marketing Campaigns – Quick and Full Campaigns. Understand how campaign activities can be distributed and assigned. Make sure you understand how campaign responses are created and can be converted.

Lead Management – how can leads be created. What can they be turned into and what do you do if are disqualifying a lead.

Opportunity Management – up to Quote level and the interaction with currencies and products. Orders and Invoices seem to be less important. Look closely at closing an Opportunity.

Product Catalog. Understand how you get new products onto the catalog, how you can discount them and the use of write in products

Case Management – look at closing cases and what you need to create a case.

Contract Line Management – look at what is possible with templates and invoiced contracts. E.g. – what can you do if the contract runs out of time, cases etc.

Dashboards and Charts – look at what can be added to a dashboard, where you create charts from AND what you can do with system charts

Marketing Lists – look at these in detail – focus on member types and what lists can be associated with and the differences between static and dynamic

Service scheduling. As a lesser used area in CRM this can be challenging. Give yourself a model (e.g. car serving or training rooms) and work through it. Look closely at capacity modelling and how scheduling types work (Least busy, Random etc).

Understand what can be done with Outlook for CRM 2011. Look at the supported features for synchronisation and look closely at conditional formatting on views. There seems to be a bit of discussion on the web about this so be careful.

Queue items and management. Look closely at how items arrive in queues and how security relates to this. Finally, consider what can be done to manage an old queue.

Look closely at the Case Volume Report – this came up a couple of times on my exam. Look at how it can be structured and where it runs from.

Other hints:

Obvious one – read the question and try to get to the underlying theme – what is the point being made. Quite often the question indicates specific issues that you can miss if you don’t read the question thoroughly.

Be careful of answering the question by looking at the answers first – you might find the logic of the question is different – i.e. there is a NOT in the question.

Watch out for questions that ask for ‘Select All That Apply’ – it won’t tell you how many and sometime the answers are based on your judgment. For example – how do you perform a specific function with the ‘least effort’. I’m not a big fan of these questions but they are there and need careful consideration.

Work through and identify the questions you can answer quickly and mark the others for review that you aren’t sure of. You can work through the marked items with the remaining time.

Trick questions. I still think there are issues on the exam where changes to the product have superseded the question. Quick example (I don’t know either) is whether the chart designer supports multiple series – the technology does but is the question asking that?

Failed? Don’t worry – lots of people do and some of the best consultants do. This exam is thorough and wide ranging. If this happens, sit down quickly and write down all the areas you weren’t sure of and get back to the product to check. There are lots of resources out there which you will find – however, watch out – some of the supposed question banks have limited range and volume. Don’t trust an exam with a limit of 50 questions – there are 75 questions on the actual exam.

If you are looking for specific help on this exam or others for you or a team then do contact me.

Happy CRM’ng.

Peter (MCT and CRM MCP)

Marketing Lists – why and how

CRM 2011 Marketing Lists are tremendously powerful and flexible. Marketing Lists can be made up of Leads, Accounts or Contacts but not a mix of any of the three.
There are two types – static and dynamic. A static list is prepared once and users have to intervene to add or remove members of the list. A dynamic list uses an Advanced Find query to automatically update the list of members based on which records meet the defined criteria. So, why use a Marketing List? Well, they can be used as part of Campaigns and Quick Campaigns and re-used limitless times. However, they can also be used as the source list for a Word document merge and be used to prepare an Opportunity for each member (in the case of Accounts or Contacts). Note: the form used for the template Opportunity differs to the standard Opportunity edit form so developers using JScript be wary – and of course the ribbon for Opportunity won’t appear here either. If you do use the Opportunity template then of course the person preparing the Opportunity for the list members will become the owner. One option here would be to add a custom field to indicate whether the Opportunity should be re-assigned to the owner of the customer record and then tie a Workflow to that field to perform the Opportunity re-assignment.

Happy CRM’ng


Template Workflows

I always recommend that when building processes (either dialogs or workflows) you start by creating the process as a template. The first reason for doing this is reuse – you can quickly take a copy and build a variant of that process for an alternate flow. Perhaps more importantly, if you need to amend an active process you can again take a copy of the template make the changes and then quickly switch off the existing version and activate the new version. In this way you can keep the existing workflow running as long as possible before switching over – remember, a process must be deactivated before making changes.

Happy CRM’ng

Business reasons for using the Lead entity in CRM

The lead object in CRM is useful for several reasons. First, it allows you to profile and capture information about an ‘un-qualified’ customer in one object. This in turn allows you to segregate ‘un-qualified’ customers from rest of the CRM account and contact data. Finally, you can then quickly and easily qualify this data (or disqualify) and convert into the required Account, Contact and Opportunity data as appropriate. Note, that this can be performed in different combinations – so, the lead could actually just be an un-qualified Opportunity for an existing Account or Contact. Or the lead could be a new contact for an existing Account. Leads can be held in their own Marketing Lists so you can run specific campaigns for Leads. The key difference between a Lead and an Account / Contact is that you cannot associate transactional data (Opportunity / Quote etc or Contract / Case etc) with Leads. From a reporting perspective it is also important to note that if you do use a qualification process for Leads you can report back from Orders all the way to the Lead record. From a Marketing perspective it is also important to note that you can create Leads from Campaign Response records or qualify Leads from Campaign Response records. If you aren’t using Leads today – maybe you should re-consider.

Happy CRM’ng

Creating your own personal view from Outlook

The typical way many users create views is by using the Advanced Find tool. However, it isn’t necessary to start from here if you are using the Outlook view. Notice that when you are working from an entity view (say Account for example) you will see a View tab. When you click this tab you will see a button on the ribbon entitled Save As. This lets the current user make a copy of the current view as a personal view and provide a new name for it (security role dependant). Note also that if you have applied any Filters, these will be added to the new personal view.

Happy CRM’ing in 2013
Peter Clements