Michael Cross – Microsoft Dynamics CRM Consultant

Using Microsoft Dynamics CRM to improve your relationships with customers and increase your sales and profits.

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Most Valuable Tool for Microsoft Dynamics CRM? Scribe Insight!

September 8th, 2009 · No Comments

Just about every single project I do with Microsoft Dynamics CRM includes migrating data into CRM from other applications (ERP, Outlook, GoldMine, ACT!, Salesforce.com, Siebel, etc.), and many involve integrating other systems with CRM.

While Microsoft CRM includes two free tools for data migration (Import Data Wizard and Data Migration Manager), I have found that most jobs involving complex mappings or transformations and/or a lot of data require a more powerful and easier to use tool.

For me, that tool is Scribe Insight from Scribe Software (http://www.scribesoftware.com).

Scribe Insight really makes the job of migrating data so much easier. Not necessarily easy, as data migration is almost always a relatively complicated job, but easier than when using other tools.

Scribe Insight is also the only tool I have used to integrate other systems with Microsoft CRM (e.g., Microsoft Dynamics GP, legacy databases, websites, etc.). The console feature makes it easy to build the integration processes and monitor their status.

Pricing for Scribe Insight depends on the license type (permanent for ongoing systems integration or a temporary license for one-time data migration), as well as the components you need for systems integration (e.g., adapters for Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Dynamics GP), but it is relatively inexpensive and well worth the investment, especially when you consider how much time is saved in professional services when an experienced Scribe consultant finishes the job relatively quickly.

If you are going to implement Microsoft CRM, and you know you require data migration or systems integration, then be sure to consider Scribe Insight as your first choice. Check their website and blog for white papers and valuable posts. You can also contact me by e-mail (mcross at michaelcrossconsultant dot com) or comments on this blog.

→ No CommentsTags: Data Migration/Importing · Systems Integration

Avoid Problems and Use Change Management Processes and Procedures

September 2nd, 2009 · No Comments

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is so easy to customize/tailor to your needs that it’s tempting to just go in and make the changes and get them done with and make the users happy with your fast response.

Not so fast!

Sometimes even the simplest changes, such as adding another picklist value, can wreak havoc on a stable system, especially when you have JScript or custom code implemented.

For example, say you have a business process that depends on a picklist having one of two values. If the user selects one value, both JScript and a workflow rule are triggered. If the user selects the other value, a different JScript and a different workflow rule are triggered.

What happens if somebody wants to add a third value to the picklist (which is very easy to do in Microsoft CRM), and you go ahead and add it without thinking? Well, chances are you have just broken your business process because this third value has not been accounted for in the JScript or workflow rules. Not only that, you might have just made it easy for the users to populate the database with bad/inaccurate data.

Therefore, the best way to avoid unintended negative consequences from customizations is to consistently practice disciplined change management processess and procedures.

In a case like this, you would want to be sure that the system administrator checks for any JScript or workflow rules that might depend on that picklist attribute. You can ensure this is done by creating a checklist that is followed for each customization.

You should also document each request and the resulting customization so that it is easily accessible and visible to the CRM system administrator. This enables the administrator to quickly get up to to speed on how the system is setup, and why it was setup that way. This is especially important if the CRM system administrator changes over time and the new person does not have the history or experience with the initial implementation of Microsoft CRM.

So be safe, go slow, and follow a consistent process and procedure. You’ll be glad you did!

→ No CommentsTags: Uncategorized

THE best new feature of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 (Titan)

November 15th, 2007 · No Comments

What’s the best new feature of Microsoft CRM 4.0?

  1. Improved workflow functionality
  2. Built-in report designer
  3. Additional entity relationship options (many-to-many, system-to-system, etc.)
  4. Duplicate detection
  5. Improved data import and migration functionality
  6. Built-in mail merge templates

My vote goes to the several new options for entity relationships, including many-to-many, system-to-system, and self-referential.

These options go beyond the user and make Microsoft Dynamics CRM even more powerful as a platform for business growth.

What’s your favorite new feature? Why?

→ No CommentsTags: Customize · Titan / 4.0

E-mail marketing with AWeber

August 19th, 2007 · No Comments

If you are serious about generating leads using the Internet, nurturing the leads until they are ready to buy, and then building relationships with your customers after the initial purchase, then e-mail marketing is an absolute must!

There are many inexpensive solutions available, but the one I like the most (so far) is AWeber.

Why? Well, like almost every other e-mail marketing service provider out there, AWeber’s e-mail marketing solution is easy to use, the company is serious about preventing and fighting spam, and it’s inexpensive (anywhere from $15 to $20 per month, depending on how far in advance you pay).

There are two key differentiators from other services:

  1. AWeber provides the ability to e-mail RSS feeds so that it can be used on your blog to send e-mails of blog postings. Of the other of the popular services I have checked, only iContact (formerly IntelliContact) provides this capability, but at a much higher price.
  2. AWeber charges by number of subscribers, rather than number of e-mails sent. The flat monthly fee allows for up to 10,000 subscribers in your database. Each additional 10,000 subscribers is $9.95 per month. This means that you can have unlimited campaigns, lists, follow up messages, broadcast newsletters, and message size.

Unfortunately, at this time, AWeber’s solution does not integrate with Microsoft CRM. Maybe I can convince them to develop this integration in the future.

Anyway, if you need the ability to build your list of prospects and customers, and to easily stay in touch with them via e-mail, then check out AWeber. I think you will be happy.

→ No CommentsTags: E-mail Marketing

Is Open Source software for you? Read this article to find out.

July 14th, 2007 · No Comments

If you ever wonder whether open source software would be good for you (it’s free, isn’t it?), then I recommend you read this article on open source software.

The most illuminating part is the last two paragraphs on page 2:

“If you take this path, you become a software development firm, and that kind of company needs to be run differently than a traditional retailer,” says Dustin Roberston, vice president of marketing. “The to-do list for maintaining the site gets so jammed that if you don’t have developers to throw at it, the list just grows and grows.”

Backcountry has 25 developers and engineers on a staff of 260. And Jenkins admits that even open-source software has limitations that the best developers cannot overcome. In those cases, he’s perfectly happy to purchase old-fashioned licensed applications. “I’m not going to go the extra mile just to be the zealot,” he says.

Very interesting, isn’t it?

Now, if your company doesn’t have developers on staff, but you still want a CRM application that is flexible and can be customized with minimal programming, then check out Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

The architecture of Microsoft CRM allows non-programmers to customize the application to meet your needs. Microsoft calls this “Affordable Adaptability” and this is one reason why I love Microsoft CRM (although I’ll be the first to tell you it’s not perfect).

An example is the fulfillment process that I created for a client.

This example should give you some idea of what can be done with Microsoft CRM when the standard functionality doesn’t meet your needs.

→ No CommentsTags: Customize

Case Study on Designing a Fulfillment Process using Microsoft Dynamics CRM

July 4th, 2007 · No Comments

I wrote a case study on designing a fulfillment process using Microsoft Dynamics CRM and posted it on my companies blog. Check it out and let me know what you think. I would love to hear how other people have addressed similiar requirements.

→ No CommentsTags: Customize · Marketing

Managing Risk in a CRM Implementation

June 26th, 2007 · No Comments

In every Microsoft CRM implementation I have been involved in, there has been at least one item that I considered to be a risk (no surprises there).

The most common risk factors I’ve come across are:

  • Availability of qualified resources
  • Complexity of technical infrastructure and ensuring everything works
  • Complexity of functional requirements and impact on customizations, particularly custom programming
  • Third-party add-ons and utilities
  • Data migration
  • Systems integration

In the last project, two items ended up causing trouble.

The first was a third-party add-on that could not be installed correctly, or did not work 100% when it was installed. It took over two weeks and many hours of remote support sessions with the vendor, plus a patch to fix a bug, before it was working as expected.

The second was the technical infrastructure, particularly getting the outgoing e-mail to actually go out (solved by changing the SMTP settings), and getting the incoming e-mail to appear as activities in CRM (still a work in progress).

The lesson I learned? Identify as early as possible the risk factors and figure out how to mitigate those risks.

For example, don’t wait until the week before go live to install third-party add-ons, especially complex ones. Or if you think there is going to be a need for custom programming, then line up a programmer so they are ready when you need them.

Bottom line: Don’t sugarcoat the situation, and don’t make assumptions. Get into the details early and often, and you’ll be okay.

→ No CommentsTags: Project Management

Stick with Accounts and Contacts!

April 27th, 2007 · No Comments

Do you think that different types of organizations (e.g., customers, prospects, vendors, etc.) or people (customers, prospects, service providers, etc.) should be tracked in different entities within Microsoft CRM 3.0?

For example, should you leave customers within the Account entity, and vendors within a custom entity? Why or why not?

One reason why you should do your best to keep organizations within the Account entity, and individuals within the Contact entity is so that you can take advantage of as much native functionality within CRM as possible.

For example, did you know that sending an e-mail only works with Accounts, Contacts, Leads, Users, and Queues? So if you create a custom entity with an nvarchar attribute in the format of e-mail, Microsoft CRM will not be able to use that entity or field to send an e-mail, either manually or via workflow.

Want to use the Case Management functionality to track cases for customers and other types of organizations tracked using custom entities? Sure, you can do that. What they don’t tell you is that you should not expect to be able to send automated e-mails to the organization shown in the lookup for the custom entity.

This is just one example of limitations of custom entities.

So when it comes to companies and people, be smart and stick with Accounts and Contacts.

→ No CommentsTags: Configure · Customize

Finally! My official website!

April 25th, 2007 · No Comments

Well, it’s here! I finally got my act together and put together this blog-based website.

Now that I’m rocking and rolling, I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences as a Microsoft Dynamics CRM consultant with you. And I really hope to hear from you, as well.

Since there are so many other sources of information regarding Microsoft CRM, I will do my best to make this a solution-oriented resource so that it is worth visiting.

Are you ready? Let’s go!

→ No CommentsTags: Uncategorized