Posts Tagged ‘Microsoft CRM’

Until about a year ago, IES had been managing most parts of its operations via Excel spreadsheets, Cichelli says, and as a small business with a desire to turn around service jobs on time and improve customer satisfaction, they knew that simply tracking customers and prospect data online wasn't going to be enough to justify a CRM investment.


IES needed to improve its overall customer experience, and as the company's operations manager, Cicchelli knew that a better customer experience meant going beyond sales and marketing to track the performance of service jobs from start to finish, bringing in departments and steps behind the scenes that run the risk of falling through the cracks, leading to unexpected delays and dissatisfied customers.


IES needed more than CRM – they needed a solution that could boost their performance along the full range of operations, from quoting new business to gathering customer information, tracking orders from suppliers, tracking service jobs, and managing customer service communication.


For IES, a Dynamics CRM solution that could model the tasks of various departments as well as generate alerts for Cicchelli based on key performance indicators opened up a new world of operational efficiency. As Cichelli explains, he already knew the amount of time various parts of a customer job should take under normal circumstances, but tracking those things without a central system was nearly impossible before.


Things can go wrong in so many ways and for lots of reasons, and Cichelli says that having a tangible list of alerts for the tasks makes a world of difference.


"Alerts have definitely been worth getting and asking for" in his CRM solution, he says. IES worked with Hero Technical Solutions, a Dynamics CRM partner based in Hamilton, who developed the cross-department approach for IES. "I think it is one of those things where if I get an email and read it on my Blackberry, then by the time I get back to the office I may forget. These alerts are forcing me to keep updated on these jobs. It's increased tenfold how we've been able to improve customer service. "


Dynamics CRM creates alerts created automatically when a task slips past its allotted time, and they show up in Cicchelli's management dashboard in a list that categorizes items into critical, high, medium and low severity. Once an alert is in the system, it's Ciccelli's job to investigate the root cause, make sure his team is taking any corrective steps – including alerting the customer if needed – and remove the alert at the right time.


Every department in the 18 person company is now hooked into CRM in some way, usually with the department heads managing their teams' responsibilities like job tracking, billing, and order management.


"CRM is the hub of our business now," says Cicchelli. "We depend greatly on it. [For example,] when a part is ordered it is put into CRM – even prices paid for items."


Cicchelli sees several ways IES could improve on its CRM investment if they can find the budget, starting with getting more users hooked into the existing process. From a competitive angle, he also sees an opportunity to create some type of customer access to their jobs – perhaps with a portal solution – to boost their engagement and visibility into jobs.

The heart of the changes coming to Dynamics CRM focus around a re-imagined application layer and interface that Patterson believes need to come into line with the new generation of business users accustomed to streamlined apps and lots of easily surfaced data. The CRM team will attack this goal with work on accentuating improvements in areas like structured and un-structured search, machine learning, smarter integration of CRM entities in the UI, and a more seamless experience within other improving parts of the Microsoft landscape like Windows 8 and Office.


"We will focus on differentiated scenarios," Patterson said. "We will be fusing the walls and seams of our applications together."


Some of the specific improvements that will be coming in the next three service updates include an updated browser interface, starting with sales functionality, that is aimed at removing popups, integrating data from different entities, and beginning to reduce the visibility of the ubiquitous ribbon interface.


Dynamics CRM Roadmap


Another key change is the move toward what Patterson described as a process-driven UI, starting with sales and service process flows. "We want to pioneer a new way to work," he said. The user experience in general will move to align with Office 15 and Metro to "tie into the best of where Microsoft is going from a design perspective…We are focusing less on activities and more on outcomes. Today CRM tells you have to do work; tomorrow it should tell you how to get work done."


The Fall 2012 release


The next planned release, now called the Fall 2012 release, has features that Microsoft categorizes among the areas of Experiences, Application, and Platform. Experience-related features include the delayed cross-browser and CRM Mobile capabilities, as well as Office 15 compatibility and the beginning of a new process-driven UI that Patterson demonstrated. The release will also include application enhancements in opportunity management and case management, along with platform-related enhancements in service monitoring, analytics, bulk data load, and multi-instance support.


The updates to the browser interface will begin in the Fall 2012 release, Patterson said, as select browser-based elements are reworked with an eye toward guiding sales reps through the management of their leads with a more holistic view of relevant entities displayed in the context of process.


Dynamics CRM Browser Sales Demo

A preview of the updated view of a Lead in Dynamics CRM coming in Fall 2012


"CRM is getting some logic," Patterson promised the audience. By logic, he seemed to be referring to putting more thought into aligning with the way sales reps work, or perhaps should work, in their CRM system. For example, making a phone call directly from the lead information is nice, but entering call notes should also include the immediate ability to schedule a follow up activity without changing screens. And lead information should include a view of all stakeholders at the lead's organization, as well as visibility of competitors for the deal.


In other words, the CRM team is looking to create one seamless flow that gets away from the idea of creating and clicking through various entities with related pop up windows. Patterson called out pop-ups more than once as a liability to Dynamics CRM, saying it has cost partners some important deals.


But Patterson qualified the demo with a note of caution, saying, "We're learning as we go [with] this paradigm…this is about building a great sales application."


Winter 2013 release and the Metro app preview


After the Fall 2012 release, a Winter 2013 release – meaning between January and March 2013 – will continue the Office 15 enhancements, along with more process-driven UI. The big introduction in the Winter 2013 release will be a preview of new Metro CRM app. Re-imaging Dynamics CRM in Metro is "about taking what we know about information and putting it on its head," said Patterson. "We need to innovate to deliver the right kinds of experiences and that's what we're excited to do in our Winter release."


Dynamics CRM Metro app Sales Home

The sales overview page in the Metro app preview


The Dynamics CRM team is looking for something profound in a Windows 8 native Metro app, by their own account. In a demonstration, Patterson showed off flow-oriented refresh for sales functionality. A touch interface moved the user between opportunities, tasks, and sales funnel visualizations while minimizing the need to click through to new screens.. The demonstration focused on interface choices designed for better alignment with real working needs, like intuitive ways to build and view a sales team around the right roles, as well as a holistic view of an opportunity that shows an activity feed, sales data, activities, and team information in a stripped down, Metro-style interface.


Dynamics CRM Metro App Team management


Managing a sales team across multiple roles in the Metro app


Dynamics CRM Metro app Opportunity

Viewing an opportunity in the Dynamics CRM Metro app demonstration


One of the most intriguing aspects of the Metro approach is the potential for a responsive UI that broadens the applicability of a single interface across multiple form factors. If the approach can be extended to more areas of the product and out of the native Windows 8 app and into the browser, mobile, and tablet devices, it could become a replacement to multiple mobile apps somewhere down the road.


New investment in marketing automation, other areas coming


The road ahead for Dynamics CRM will also include new investments in marketing automation, sales automation, customer care, and interaction management. Patterson called out marketing automation as one of the biggest opportunities for a Microsoft investment. "We want to help our customers drive more engagement either on their own web sites or through social media. It's an area that we haven't touched for some time," he acknowledged but it will receive renewed attention.


One option for a marketing automation investment could be the acquisition of one of the existing players in the marketing automation space, most of whom have grown quickly in the Dynamics CRM space in the last two years. With the CoreMotives acquisition earlier this year by SilverPopClickDimensions stands out as a strong candidate if Microsoft chooses to go the acquisition route due to its total focus on Dynamics CRM and its Azure pedigree. Another player yet to be acquired is SalesFusion, although they are not a pure Dynamics shopw – they also integrate with Salesforce, Sage, and SugarCRM.


Asking the hard questions on competitiveness


Microsoft's competitiveness in CRM is in question, and the product's second place stature in the market won't change without a significant shift toward identifying and capitalizing on new areas of competitive advantage. And Patterson wants to win. He discussed a range of changes in the marketplace that are negatively affecting Dynamics CRM wins today, including feature gaps in RFPs, feedback from old and new users, and even interviews with customers of competitor CRM solutions.


Patterson spent a good deal of time explaining his view on the meaning of platforms as they apply within Microsoft. It's a term and an idea that can be both a competitive advantage and a hindrance to product development. For example, integration of technology from acquisitions like Skype, Yammer, and Windows 8 seem to be at the top of the list for important new competitive differentiators, but there is less interest in investing R&D resources in thinking about more "platform" aspects of the present or future Dynamics CRM solution.


"Don't ask what's new in the developer API, ask what's new in sales automation. We're not competing to do a better job in Azure or Sharepoint. The direction of the CRM team is to provide great CRM solutions," he told the audience.


Patterson says he hears stories of customers from the competition being delighted by the user experience they receive, but in Dynamics CRM the feelings apparently diverge among the generations – older workers seem to be quite happy the with the path Dynamics CRM has taken in Outlook and the web browser, but Gen Y workers looking for more of an app feel in terms of responsiveness, design, and ease of use.


In the end, Patterson's vision is to put an emphasis on making the tools of Dynamics CRM more competitive through whatever means necessary, not gilding the lily of today's Dynamics CRM. For example, whereas Outlook integration has been one of the bread and butter selling points of Dynamics CRM for the past few years, Patterson sees that advantage fading or already gone as competitors have worked to offer their own Outlook integration. So his search has apparently led the DYnamics CRM team to the technology that Microsoft is differentiating on now – things like better user experience through the Metro look and feel, smarter interaction between user and tool, and rapid adoption of key technologies like Yammer, Skype, and Windows 8.


As for the miss on R8, Patterson summed it up as a basic quality issue and a bitter pill to swallow for partners who had deals hinging on the delivery of the new features. "Mobility & cross browser are strategic bets," he began, "but we are not in the place we wanted to be [this close to the release]. TAP early adopters and at this point we are not satisfied with the level of feedback or with the level of deficiencies in the product at this late point the cycle.

So we will take more time, do more work and make this right to deliver a great experience for our customers."

If you're here, you realize very well that selection of the best customer relationship management software is critical to your business' image as well as continuity.

I'd like to give you an experience based Microsoft CRM vs Goldmine CRM review, so that you can match up the right platform with your requirements.

We'll first go over a brief overview of the CRM software provided by both Microsoft as well as Goldmine and then proceed to compare them on the basis of their utilities and what you need.


# 1 : The Microsoft CRM Platform

With it's service intensive "Dynamnics" CRM, Microsoft has tried to segment your marketing efforts into targeted groups of your consumer base. The idea being that it's easier to stear your sales funnels to a targeted group with a common set of needs, when the same effort is accounted for the same consumers in your customer service.

Ultimately, your lists of leads and continuity customers, along with their service history and analytics, can be ported into multiple formats that will be used in different formats of sales accounts, workflows and moving sales plans (hence the name "dynamics").

These will be used by your customer service team to form important cases and feed them into your consumer knowledgebase. It also allows you to manage several contracts and updates on them, all integrated into one complex byt powerful platform!

That's a pretty strong usage strategy for a CRM, I'd say.

Microsoft CRM uses .NETAJAX technology, which makes using it comparable to using a seperate client program. Easy to use SQL data.

With experience of having worked on it in different firms, what I've seen is that people use the Microsoft CRM due to it's tight integration with Outlook, Word & Excel and the user interface. Also,firms that had their data on Exchange and SQL preferred it.

The only places where the team didn't choose Microsoft was because they avoided everything from Microsoft and it was just a general negative feeling that would often lead to many problems.

Long run Cost:

Per user – Moderate
For large lists – Moderate
For multiple service divisions – Moderate


> Excellent Remote Access
> Intuitive interface
> MS product compatibility
> High level of customizability
> Easy extensions with the API
> Strong data structures with lower coupling


> Still a lot of clicking to get tasks done
> Restricted web interface

# 2 : The Goldmine CRM Software Package

This platform too focuses on list division, but the primary and stronger focus is on sales-automation and project scheduling. It's intensive. Even the calls monitored will have their own clocking module running separately with respect to project progress and consumer queries!

Though an advantage, many have found that for smaller servicing requirements, going over the entire reporting and synchronization process a number of times can, and does, get cumbersome. For bigger projects and a large number of customers for every product/service, it can work wonders.

Since this is again Windows based, some firms like to have it sitting right next to their Informix and Oracle databases. It gets easy to work with their tables when modifying them in windows with Goldmine.

Long run Cost:

Per User – Moderate to Slightly High
For Large Lists – Moderate
For multiple service divisions – High


> Many 3rd party tools and add-ons
> Lots of features and modular orientation
> What it does it tends to do well


> User interface is complicated and overloaded
> Bad usability
> Not as customizable as Microsoft CRM


With the servicing part known to you, let's compare these on a technical basis, something many people writing a Microsoft CRM vs Goldmine CRM review goof-up with bias when giving their opinion. So hang tight…

# 1 : Ease of Use

Goldmine = BAD
Microsoft = EXCELLENT

# 2 : Ability to customize

Goldmine = Moderate, can add custom fields and views
Microsoft = Excellent, as it is really a development platform that you can add custom fields, views, tables and integrate it with your other key business applications

# 3 : Interface

Goldmine = Client platform on windows and has been improved with Premium Edition
Microsoft = Web based (better networking utlization)

# 4 : Software Complexity

Goldmine = MODERATE with a somewhat convoluted data structure
Microsoft = EXCELLENT

# 5 : Training

Goldmine = Needs tough training
Microsoft = Needs less training effort as it has Office look and feel

That said, I would finally give you my ideal choice. I have used both extensively and am truly better off with the Microsoft CRM. But again, that's my experience saying.

Your performance needs and target market will ultimately dictate what you'll love.

Both solutions offer free 30 day trial version so I would suggest that you try both and see which product you prefer.

CRM is an acronym from the phrase "customer relationship management." It will be the common expression used to clarify the management of potential customers through the sales process.

The actual CRM software cannot only arrange customer information, but additionally supplies a method to monitor sales leads and possibilities from the time they may be up to once the sale is sealed. It's an approach widely utilized for the control over a business connection with clients and sales leads.

It's really down to using technology to arrange and synchronize company processes, primarily sales activities, but additionally marketing procedures, customer support and tech support.

The general goals will be to determine, attract and seize new business, and keep the existing ones and also motivate former clients to get back together with the company. It details a business technique throughout the enterprise, such as the divisions of interaction together with the customer in addition to customer relationships sections.

Measuring is vital to the implementation of the strategy.

CRM is frequently an information program that may be manipulated manually, as a token program or perhaps an automated computer system. It truly is software created for taking care of customer relationships (CRM), which may be installed straight to a computer or perhaps a web-based program, accessible only on the internet.

Microsoft CRM systems are of help and beneficial in the handling of all the client information such as names, telephone numbers, residences and buying history where people in the common are already familiar and use Outlook every day because of the tight integration between Outlook and Microsoft CRM.

Technological innovation and the Internet already have transformed just how businesses and enterprises deal with CRM strategies since the technological developments also delivered a modification of the buying habits of the customer. and offer brand new ways for the business to convey together with the clients and acquire data on them.

With every fresh step drawn in the realm of the technology, especially the conception connected with self-service channels such as the Internet and smartphones, associations with customers are digitally controlled.

Many facets of CRM are dependent mainly on technology. However the strategies of an improved CRM system can acquire manage along with link data in addition to information concerning the client, so as to help you promote then sell services more efficiently.

Sales increase, improved client satisfaction, and substantial financial savings are benefits to the company.

Proponents point out the technology ought to be carried out only together with a cautious tactical and operational preparation. 

Successful CRM implementations are always more about refining and automating business strategies than technology

The largest challenges that the CRM might have is inadequate usability which is why Microsoft made the decision to tightly integrate Microsoft CRM which 80% of business already know and use.

By having an easy to use interface dramatically improves user adoption.

No CRM system can be considered a success unless everyone in an organization will use it.

Microsoft announced the release of their "November 2011 Service Update" for Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online and CRM 2011 on-premise/partner-hosted deployments.


Microsoft is stressing the release of "Wave 1" of its new work on social features of the new release, including activity feeds, a new mobile activity feeds client, microblogging, and conversations.


The service update also includes a new unified platform between Dynamics CRM Online and Office 365 which includes Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Lync Online, as well as access to Office web applications and, optionally, user licenses for Microsoft Office on the desktop. 


To see a video that goes into the new enhancements, click

What's New with Microsoft Dynamics CRM November 2011 Service update

What's New with Microsoft Dynamics CRM November 2011 Service update


The most common starting point for many organizations is reporting.  Many organizations need to improve reporting whether this means speeding it up, making it more flexible or reducing the reliance on internal or external IT experts to provide this information.  This is especially important when looking to add Business Intelligence to Microsoft CRM.


This white paper describes a step by step approach to building business intelligence (BI) capabilities starting with reports and ending with a combination of dashboards, what if analysis as well as automatic alerts when certain key conditions arise.


To read this white paper click here

Last month, we talked about CRM Business Intelligence and since there was so much interest in that topic, let's go a bit deeper.

So many companies do a great job of capturing information in their Microsoft CRM system but are awful at being able to use that information to make better decisions faster.

What about you?

Are you quickly able to quickly segment your data base to execute a new marketing campaign so that it is targetted just those customers who have purchased a certain product in the last 18 months?

Are you able to identify the characteristics of your most profitable customers such as

* SIC Code
* Zipcode
* Company Size
* Position of purchaser
* Is company in growth mode or decline

* Etc

so that you can intelligently purchase a new list of prospects?

Do you know what the average lifetime value of a customer is along with the margin rate?

Do you understand the behavior of a customer who is growing discontent with your product or service BEFORE they stop being a customer?

If you use your website to either conduct sales or generate leads do you know things like:

* How many unique website visitors it takes to generate a lead
* How many leads it takes to set an appointment
* How many appointments it takes to generate a sale?

The point is to be able to successfully grow your business you must know your numbers (commonly called metrics).  If you do, then you are in a position to make better decisions faster.


To help you get started, we are offering you a free 60 minute Business Intelligence Quickstart consultation.  This offer is valued at $250, is limited to the first 8 companies that request it and expires on July 8, 2011.  Sorry, but this offer is limited to US based companies who have over 25 employees.

If you would like to take advantage of this offer, please contact us at 858-431-1820 or by email at info@rbdata.com and we will set up a mutually convenient time for your free Business Intelligence Quickstart consulation.

Aren’t we all? Attend this Microsoft-led webcast titled Productivity, Process & Time Management tips with Microsoft Dynamics ERP, Outlook and CRM at 10am PT on May 12th to learn about common time management challenges people face, and to gain insight on using technology you may already have to address these time management challenges. Learn how applying process, sharing data, and making a few simple changes can free up time and help prioritize the tasks most important to you. This is a must attend session for anyone that feels overwhelmed with the volume of things being thrown at them. Whether in finance, operations, sales, marketing, or customer service, if you use a computer, this session can help you better organize your time. We can’t guarantee you won’t still be overwhelmed, but we do believe some of the tips and hints in this session will be well worth the 1 hour spent.

To learn more about Microsoft CRM contact us at info@rbdata.com or call at 858-541-1820.

According to this Gartner Report, software as a service (SaaS) drives customer relationship management (CRM) market growth despite leaner budgets, while the competitive environment intensifies. Worldwide SaaS revenue within the enterprise application software market reached $9.2 billion in 2010, up 15.7 percent from 2009 revenue of $7.9 billion, according to Gartner, Inc.  

The market is projected for stronger growth in 2011 with worldwide SaaS revenue totaling $10.7 billion, a 16.2 percent increase from 2010 revenue.

Putting your Microsoft Dynamics CRM "in the cloud" may just be the answer for your business. Download this PDF

to learn more about adopting the cloud with Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online.

Efficiency. Seems simple enough right? If you look up the definition you may get 3 different explanations:


    1.       The state or quality of being efficient.


    2.       Accomplishment of or ability to accomplish a job with a minimum expenditure of time and effort.


    3.       Effective operation as measured by a comparison of production with cost (as in energy, time, and money.)

The ratio of the useful energy delivered by a dynamic system to the energy supplied to it.


Does it still seem simple enough?

Perhaps not, but it is a word that we hear every day in our businesses and impress upon our employees that they need to be efficient. 

How do you know if you are efficient within your company?

If you think you are efficient because your revenue is good, you may be mistaken.  It's definitely a benefit if you have good revenue, but you may still have inefficiencies which are hindering an even larger revenue potential. 


If you are struggling to hit your revenue goals, then this is a telltale sign that you can be more efficient in your operations.

As a business operates we need to look at our efficiencies on a daily basis to measure our successes.


Take some time to review your current software, reports, processes, cross-department communications and workflows to see if they still make sense in your business.  You may quickly find out where you can redefine your business to become more efficient.


For more information on how RB Data Services can make your  organization more efficient, contact us today at
858-541-1820 or at info@rbdata.com

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