Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Top Ten Secrets to a Successful CRM Deployment: Part Three–Technology

This is the last part of my “Top Ten” series from my MS Dynamics World talk “Secrets to a Successful CRM Deployment”.

Part One went through people aspects of CRM deployments
Part Two was about process issues with CRM deployments

This part goes through the new things in Dynamics CRM 2015 which contribute to a smooth deployment in order of, in my opinion, smallest to largest impact.

1. Data Sovereignty For Australia

This is really only for us folk in Australia. In the past, CRM Online was available for Australia through the Singapore data center. With the introduction of the data centers in Sydney and Melbourne, we now have the option of getting CRM Online without the data ever leaving Australian shores. Even the geo-redundant back-up stays in Australia. While data sovereignty is not a huge issue for most industries, for the finance industry there is still a lot of reservation about data heading overseas. One of the major regulatory bodies for the Australian financial industry, APRA, has, in the past, issued strong warnings about using online services.

While APRA’s position has relaxed over time, there is still concern in the industry about embracing the cloud. The new data centers remove this barrier by ensuring financial organisations can use CRM Online and guarantee the data stays within Australia.

2. Hierarchical Views

I talked a little about hierarchical views in my Corpse Relationship Management post. This new feature provides a graphical view of a list of records which are related to each other but is only good for one entity type at a time.


Where I see this helping deployment and user adoption is in helping users visualise their data in ways not possible before in CRM. For example, in the corpse example, where the hierarchy is the link of which zombies created other ones, it is clear that Jim Grim is very active at creating zombies whereas this information may not have been clear in the traditional form views.

3. Improvements in Business Process Flows

I must admit I have not yet fully embraced the flow bar at the top of the record forms but the idea of it certainly piques the interest of prospects during pre-sales meetings. The latest improvements bring it closer to being an integral part of the Dynamics CRM experience.

Process flows have come a long way in a relatively short period of time; they can now span multiple entities and multiple processes, for a given entity, are possible. The latest improvement is branching. Branching allows us to put conditionals into our process reflecting more closely what happens in the real world.

If you ever look at a process diagram for a real business process, more often than not there is a point where a decision needs to be made. Here is part of the standard sales process from SureStep. The green diamonds are decision points.


With the new branching options, it is these green diamonds that are managed with process flows. With a better alignment to actual processes, flows can be implemented in CRM and give a new employees a clear, guided process to follow, improving adoption and allowing them to learn the system and the business processes quickly.

4. Excel Export Fixed

Something that is a regular source of confusion for new users is the Excel export which is, more accurately, an XML export. When the export hits Excel, is throws an error because Excel is not sure if the XML file is Excel-compatible. Thankfully, the Excel export utility has been rewritten from the ground up and now exports ‘proper’ xlsx files. These work without error in Excel and work with Excel Online (the old format was incompatible with Excel Online).

One of the strengths of Dynamics CRM is their focus on giving normal users the power to analyse their data without requiring strong technical knowledge or expensive consultants. Fixing the Excel export so it works as the user expects is a great leap forward in assisting users to fully embrace Dynamics CRM.

5. New Email Editor Improved Business Rules

In my talk, I referred to a new email editor in Dynamics CRM. Unfortunately, Microsoft did not deliver on this one for Update 1 and we still have the old email editor with the new one being only available in Dynamics Marketing. However, Microsoft have improved the business rules as I discovered today when configuring a system for a client.

Business Rules (the configurable form behaviours) now allow for If-Then conditions and the grouping of conditions with AND/OR logic. So, for example, if you need a field to appear based on the value of two other fields, this is now possible.

While much could be done with JavaScript in the past, these new changes mean many form behaviours can be managed through codeless configuration. Making forms simpler and reactive to the user’s input is a great way to overcome forms which are “too busy” or “too hard to navigate”.

6. Folder Tracking for Mobility

A new feature which, for me, the jury is still out on is folder tracking for mobility. This feature brings the tracking capability, previously only available to Outlook to any device. In essence, the user simply drags an email to a special folder and CRM picks it up and tracks it to CRM.

Tracking is a very popular feature of the Outlook client and is often the driving reason for using the Outlook client. Bringing similar capabilities to any mobile device is likely to delight those users who use CRM on the road and also need an efficient way to get emails into the database against key records.

7. Custom Help Web Pages

An unsung hero for Dynamics CRM 2015 is the custom help web pages. While it was possible to create custom help web pages back in the v1.2 and, from memory, the v3 days, when CRM Online came out it became a lot harder. Thankfully CRM 2015 allows you to pepper CRM help with your own content. This is perfect for customised systems where the user may need assistance with a new entity or for the new user trying to get to grips with the system.

8. Global Search

Every user I show this to, loves it. CRM now sports a search box at the top of the web client. Typing in a key phrase searches multiple entities at once and displays the results in a friendly format in a flash, making it easy for users to quickly locate the record they are after.

In the project I am working on now, which is a customer support system, typing in the name of a client brings up their Contact record but also any Cases (Enquiries) they have raised.


For sales, this could be Accounts and Sales Opportunities. I created a similar search using workflows a number of years ago but there is no need for mine now that it is baked into the product and infinitely easier to administer.

9. Navigation Improvements

Dynamics CRM 2013 introduced the new touch-friendly navigation. The problem was it was not very mouse-friendly and, to locate areas of the system, often required scrolling around big tiles.


This is now fixed, going to a cascading menu structure which works for both touch and mouse users.


Without a doubt, for my clients moving from CRM 2011 to 2013, this was the biggest complaint. Those who have subsequently moved to CRM 2015 could not be happier and as this is the part of CRM users interact with the most, it is great Microsoft have made it so adoptable for all types of CRM users.

10. Themes

Many, many years ago, when I worked with SalesLogix, there was one thing I did to every demo system to guarantee a smile on the prospect’s face: add their logo to the system. That was over 15 years ago so it is great to see Microsoft bring the ability to add themes to Dynamics CRM.

With the new themes feature, you can add a logo to the web client and change the colours used in the product. An example of this is the canary yellow you can see in the previous example (their choice, not mine). Branding CRM with the client’s marque and colour palette helps the users see it as their system and warm them to it.


While more product-specific than the previous two articles, there is a lot to love in Dynamics CRM 2015 and Update 1 from a user adoption perspective. If you are still on CRM 2013, seriously consider upgrading for the new menu and if you are about to implement a new CRM system, consider using themes to make the system truly part of your business.

I hope you enjoyed this set of blogs and, while a set of books could be written on tips and tricks for CRM implementation and adoption, with any luck this provided some insights into how to manage the people and processes around CRM and what features of the product you can use to ensure the system gets the opportunity it deserves to thrive.


Unknown said...

This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I love seeing websites that understand the value of providing a quality resource for free
Microsoft Dynamics AX Training | Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Training

The Hosk said...

I'm not sure this list of 10 is as useful as the previous 2 lists.

I don't really see these as secrets to success for a CRM deployment. If you didn't do/use any of these features would the CRM deployment be at risk?

2 out of 3 is pretty good

The Hosk said...

I'm not sure this list of 10 is as useful as the previous 2 lists.

I don't really see these as secrets to success for a CRM deployment. If you didn't do/use any of these features would the CRM deployment be at risk?

2 out of 3 is pretty good

The Hosk said...

I'm not sure this list of 10 is as useful as the previous 2 lists.

I don't really see these as secrets to success for a CRM deployment. If you didn't do/use any of these features would the CRM deployment be at risk?

2 out of 3 is pretty good