Forrester Gives Dynamics 365 Highest Possible Score for CRM Product Vision

As a leader in a Microsoft-focused technology firm, it isn’t a big leap to say I’m a fan of Dynamics 365 for sales, marketing and PSA.  I’m clearly not alone.  In addition to 10’s of thousands of buyers, it looks like the analyst community is giving Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 platform high marks.

Microsoft recently shared this new report from Forrester, titled “The Forrester Wave: Sales Force Automation Solutions, Q2 2017”.  In the report, Forrester details how buyers are reshaping modern selling and the tools they’re utilizing.  Forrester wrote, “With all the hype around artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, Microsoft shows considerable maturity in both its execution and vision for how advanced analytics will transform selling. Customers rate Microsoft’s pace and penchant for innovation very highly. The potential around analytics only improves with its acquisition of LinkedIn.”

forrester_wave_dynamics-crm_2017

Forrester evaluated solutions for 10 of the leading CRM vendors across a number of criteria and gave Dynamics 365 a near perfect score for their product vision.  The 10 vendors included companies like NetSuite, Salesforce, SAP and Oracle to name a few.  The evaluation included analysis and scoring across 35 criteria and each vendor had to:

  • Offer a solution suitable for enterprise organizations with complex requirements. Each of the products included in this Forrester Wave deliver a broad range of functionality within its core capabilities and provides a platform and business user tools to extend this functionality to meet the unique needs of each of its customers.
  • Provide a solution targeted at multiple industries. Evaluated vendors target buyers across a diverse range of industries and sales models, including B2B, B2C, and B2B2C.
  • Have a product in general release and in use by customers. The solutions have a specific release that was generally available at the time of data collection for this evaluation, with references available for contact.
  • Appear regularly in Forrester customer inquiries. Each of the included applications is of high interest to a large sample of Forrester customers, as evidenced by the frequency of appearance in inquiries.

Data Sources Used in Forrester Wave

Forrester used a combination of three data sources to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each solution.

Vendor surveys. Forrester surveyed vendors on their capabilities as they relate to the evaluation criteria. Once they analyzed the completed vendor surveys, they conducted vendor calls where necessary to gather details of vendor qualifications.

Product demos. They asked vendors to conduct demonstrations of their products’ functionality and used findings from these product demos to validate details of each vendor’s product capabilities.

Customer reference calls. To validate product and vendor qualifications, Forrester also conducted reference calls with three of each vendor’s current customers.

“Microsoft delivers on intelligent seller productivity” – Forrester 2017 Q2 Report

It seems as if the wins just keep coming for Microsoft and the Microsoft customer ecosystem.  Advancements in the product, integration with ERP, marketing and LinkedIn offer deep, demonstrable value for customer seeking to sell and service more effectively.  In an age where “digital transformation” is fast-becoming the most common path to a competitive edge, it seems like they’re on the right track.

Dynamics 365 PSA (Project Service Automation)

In addition to becoming one of the fastest-growing sales, marketing and customer services solutions, Dynamics 365 has made inroads in a long list of industry and specialty areas.  The architecture lends well to free-thinking business leaders and technologists.

Our company is well-know for helping project-driven companies, so Dynamics 365 Project Service Automation is a natural fit for many of our clients.

When is Dynamics 365 for Project Service Automation (PSA) the right fit?

March 11, 2017 by @Robbie Morrison

“Because it is based on a CRM platform, the solution is fairly flexible and many per-company customizations can be created without back-end programming.  Integration with Office 365 and other Microsoft tools is robust as well.  However, this flexibility comes with a price. While the solution provides strong collaboration benefits between sales and delivery resources, it is most effective for companies with smaller delivery teams and less complex projects.

Features included with Dynamcs 365 for Project Service Automation

Examples of companies that might benefit from Dynamics 365 for Project Service Automation are marketing and media firms, light management/consulting firms, smaller IT services firms, and many other white-collar consulting firms.  Although I’m calling out smaller companies, it could be a great fit for large companies as long as their project delivery is still fairly simple.

Think about a company that provides creative design for television ads vs. a consultancy that deploys large, integrated ERP systems.  The latter may take anywhere from 6 months to 3 years and require multiple milestones, different skill-sets and formal call-center or on-site support. Other business that may struggle with CRM-based PSA are Architecture and Engineering, Construction, Software Publishers or even specialty manufacturers.”

Learn more about Dynamics 365

If you’re a Dynamics 365 customer and you aren’t taking advantage of the sales, marketing and customer service offerings, now is the time.  Visit sbsgroupusa.com to watch video demos, testimonials and walk-throughs of the product.  It won’t be long before you’re as big a fan as I am.

Best Regards

Eric

About Eric Forgo

Eric serves as the Director of Business Intelligence and CRM for SBS Group. He is responsible for developing and driving innovative solutions, overseeing related services and ensuring SBS Group customers derive maximum business value from their technology investments.

Eric has spent more than 20 years in the Microsoft ecosystem, holding executEric Forgo, SBS Group Directors BI and CRMive positions with leading ISVs and consulting firms where he led teams in the deployment of Microsoft ERP and CRM. In addition to his technology background, Eric spent the early part of his career in financial management. He is a CPA with a BS in Accounting from the University of Connecticut and an MBA from Boston University with a concentration in Finance.

 

Revenue Leakage in Project-Driven Companies >> Are you working for free?

In a professional services firm or any project-driven company for that matter, everyone knows that the difference between profit and loss can hinge on the slightest changes in some very key metrics.

Accurate tracking of billable expenses, efficient capture of hours delivered, timely billing and hourly rates are just a few of the revenue and profitability challenges that our customers deal with daily.  Inefficient systems and processes often handicap these metrics and result in unrealized billable revenue.

Project and Services companies deal with Revenue Leakage

Unfortunately, most companies are never able to recover unbilled revenue.  Even if a project or services contract allows for hours to be billed down the road, or expenses to be filed later, it is unlikely a customer will be happy about it.  Providing a positive customer experience is just as critical as ensuring that all potential revenue is invoiced.

When revenue opportunities are missed in these ways, we refer to it as revenue leakage – money earned but never collected.

How to approach revenue leakage in project-driven companies

According to Ernst & Young, revenue leakage can account for 1 to 5 percent of anticipated EBITDA being lost.  When was the last time someone said “Ya know, if we increased utilization by 2 points it would impact earnings by 3-4 times that”?  How about this one: “Our DSO is completely unacceptable.  We’re averaging 75 days from the delivery of a service to payment.  Our customers are paying on time, but we’re taking 45-60 days to produce a services invoice.  They aren’t unreliable, we are.”

Revenue Leakage Impact of EBITDA Projections

Changing these metrics is usually easier said than done and requires a measured, cooperative approach between senior management, operational leadership, and delivery teams.  The right technology can provide a platform for improvement, but training and guidance provided on a regular cycle is equally as important.

Identify and understand the leaks.

Take this on as an internal project, but don’t get immediately hung up on fixing the most obvious “leaks”.  Be sure to conduct a comprehensive discovery of related processes and systems that might be hampering the collection of billable revenue.  Estimate the total impact and create realistic goals for getting the correct systems and processes in place.

Plug the leaks.

As your project kicks off, remember that often multiple issues are interconnected and can be fixed as part of the same sprint.  If the leaks are a result of outdated or inefficient software, you may find that proven systems like AXIO Professional Services or Progressus come with built-in process guidance to help get things on track.

Don’t get too comfortable.

The job isn’t finished when you’re comfortable with the changes you’ve made.  Inefficient processes tend to develop over time with employee churn or changes elsewhere in the business.  Sometimes contracts or project plans are created that lack governance and become the norm.  You will want to build regular reviews of leading indicators and key metrics that help to alert you when things begin to move in a negative direction.

Be sure you can count on your ERP, PSA and CRM solutions.

Most companies, large and small, depend on a symphony of solutions to run their business.  Managing revenue streams often depends on multiple solutions being utilized by a variety of individuals that need to work together seamlessly to optimize results.  Consultants and field services people, accounting, billing, and sales people all need to communicate and have visibility into client data.

Join us in an upcoming webinar or visit our on-demand video library to find out how SBS Group has developed the processes, systems, and means of automation to tailor Microsoft Dynamics 365 for project and services companies.   If you don’t find what you’re looking for, please feel free to reach out to me directly with any questions about reducing revenue leakage.

5Reasons_email-400

Best regards,

Robbie Morrison
Chief Solution Strategist, SBS Group

About Robbie
Robbie Morrison has spent nearly 20 years helping customers build and deploy elegant technology and business solutions.  From start-ups to enterprise-class organizations worldwide, his knowledge of the Microsoft Dynamics ecosystem and Robbie-2017products helps SBS Group customers maximize ROI on technology investments.

Today, Robbie serves SBS Group customers in his role as Chief Solution Strategist where he provides thought leadership and manages the development of B2B solutions.  Robbie received his MBA from the University of Georgia, Terry College of Business.
https://www.linkedin.com/in/robbiemorrison

[webcast] Five Reasons Project-Driven Firms Switch to Dynamics 365

I’ve been asked this question a hundred times in many different ways, but it all comes down to “Why should a project-driven company switch to Dynamics 365?”.  It sounds like a simple question, but the answer can be a little overwhelming.  Of course, that never stops me from venturing an answer.

How is it overwhelming? 

At the risk of sounding like a software sales guy (which I’m not), I’d have to say that the answer is dependent on who’s asking.  The overall value to a traditional professional services firm is different than other project-driven companies, like machinery manufacturers or specialty contractors.  Research companies, government contractors and communications providers all gain massive value in different ways, but all have one thing in common:  Their business success is directly tied to large projects.

5-Reasons-Project-Driven-Companies-Switch-Dynamics365-02-02

A picture is worth a thousand words.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a 45-minute webcast should be more than enough to get the point across.  Join me on August 25th, 2017 at 11:00 a.m. EST and I’ll do my best to provide an answer to this question.  I’ll be….

  • Sharing the top five reasons we see project-driven companies switching to Dynamics 365.
  • Introducing you to the products our clients utilize to enhance Dynamics 365 for project-driven companies
  • Drilling into contracts management, project management, revenue recognition and other topics critical to project-driven companies.

Who should attend?

This webcast isn’t for everyone, but it will be of value to just about anyone interested in learning what modern business management systems look like for project-driven companies.   IT leadership, services directors, sales directors and certainly owners and executives will all benefit.

Does size matter?  Yes, but we will be outlining multiple options for large or global enterprise firms as well as SMB firms with less than 250 employees.  Although the implementations for each are distinctly different, the core value and challenges are quite similar.

If your company is planning to upgrade any of their core systems – like ERP, PSA, CRM or even office productivity, you may find that this event holds value.  If you want to know more about the value of “the cloud” or mobile access, then definitely join.

I hope to see you online.  Registration is easy, just click here to RSVP then login to join me on August 25th at 11:00 am Eastern.

5Reasons_email-400

Best regards,

Robbie Morrison
Chief Solution Strategist, SBS Group

About Robbie
Robbie Morrison has spent nearly 20 years helping customers build and deploy elegant technology and business solutions.  From start-ups to enterprise-class organizations worldwide, his knowledge of the Microsoft Dynamics ecosystem and products helps SBS Group customers maximize ROI on technology investRobbie-2017ments.

Today, Robbie serves SBS Group customers in his role as Chief Solution Strategist where he provides thought leadership and manages the development of B2B solutions.  Robbie received his MBA from the University of Georgia, Terry College of Business.
https://www.linkedin.com/in/robbiemorrison

My favorite features from July 2017 update of Microsoft Dynamics 365 For Finance and Operations – Enterprise Edition

One of the most awaited releases of Dynamics 365 For Finance and Operations is now available (The July 2017 and Platform Update 8). Lot of new capabilities and exciting new features across all the functional modules and quite a few technology stack improvements!!In this post, I will highlight some of the most important new features that are my favorites so far, that I think are going to helpful for customers in big time.

First thing first! Starting with the July release, there is a change in the naming of the Dynamics 365 apps . Earlier we had “Dynamics 365 For Operations”, which basically represented the Enterprise edition of Dynamics 365 and “Dynamics 365 For Financials’ which represented the Business edition targeted for SMB customers.

Starting with the July release, the naming will be as below.

Dynamics 365 For Operations => Dynamics 365 For Finance and Operations – Enterprise Edition (For Enterprise Customers)

Dynamics 365 For Financials => Dynamics 365 For Finance and Operations – Business Edition  (Suitable For SMB Customers)

You should notice this name changes, when you login to the new version.

Default Landing Page

Here are some of my personal favorite features and functionality fro this latest update of Dynamics 365 For Finance and Operations.

Embedded PowerBI and Analytical Workspaces for all D365FO licensed users:

Microsoft Power BI is the backbone of Dynamics 365 for delivering critical business intelligence to all users of an organization with rich interactive visuals, dashboards and reports, with appropriate drill downs, data filter options etc. When Dynamics 365 was first released, users had the option of consuming preconfigured or customized Power BI dashboards and reports from their PowerBI online workspaces right into their workspaces within Dynamics 365. This is a great capability and allowed users to mash up data from Dynamics 365 or even from external data sources and then see them all together right on their workspaces. However, this required every users to have at least a free PowerBI.com subscription to be able to do this.

With the July 2017 update, Power BI Embedded services are integrated into Dynamics 365. Embedded Power BI is a Microsoft Azure Service that allows to embed the dashboards and reports directly into Operations workspaces of Dynamics 365. Embedded Power BI is an ideal way of presenting near real time data insights, with Direct Query to the Entity Story (Data warehouse for Dynamics 365). These embedded dashboards and reports are available for all users with the base license of Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations and does not necessarily require the user to have a PowerBI.com subscription.

The diagram below shows the key difference between the PowerBI Online and PowerBI Embedded services.

power-bi-embedded-overview

The good news is, Microsoft has already shipped several out of the box PowerBI asset files within Life Cycle Service starting with the July 2017 release, which can be simply included in the Dynamics 365 deployment options to get instant access to readily available dashboards and reports across all major business areas. Below are some of the sample examples of these embedded Power BI dashboards and workspaces in Dynamics 365.

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Prospect to Cash Integration between Dynamics 365 for Sales and Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations using Common Data Services:

This one is a HUGE step forward!! Since Dynamics 365 launched back in February 2016, the Primary objective and goal for Microsoft was to combine the best of Dynamics CRM and ERP worlds and provide a unified experience to end users, so that they can advantage of best of breed functionalities within the Modular apps for Sales and Financials & Operations and still be able to integrate the data flow between these apps seamlessly to get a 360 degree view of their business. We have seen steps Microsoft has taken in last several months to get the Common Data Service (Azure Public Cloud data storage) Platform ready for prime time along with the supporting surrounding services such as Microsoft Flow and PowerApps. With the July release, these all are coming together as a first significant step towards truly unifying the CRM and ERP worlds. This is the beginning of the departure from the traditional custom 3rd party integrations between CRM and ERP.

The following key scenarios are supported currently with this integrations, primarily in the Supply Chain side. More to come in future. I have not got chance to test this end to end yet. Will share some details when I am able to test it in coming weeks.

  • Maintain accounts in Dynamics 365 for Sales and sync them to Finance and Operations as customers.
  • Maintain contacts in Dynamics 365 for Sales and sync them to Finance and Operations.
  • Maintain products in Finance and Operations and sync them to Dynamics 365 for Sales.
  • Create quotes in Dynamics 365 for Sales and sync them to Finance and Operations.
  • Generate sales orders in Dynamics 365 for Sales for existing products and sync them to Finance and Operations.
  • Generate invoices in Finance and Operations and sync them to Dynamics 365 for Sales.

Mobile Apps/Workspaces:

Mobile workspaces/apps were introduced with the Update 3 release of Dynamics 365. Since then, these workspaces have been evolving and Microsoft continues to deliver more and more mobile workspaces covering various mobile business process scenarios. Some of the key mobile workspaces that were released in the July 2017 update are as below.

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The highlight of these workspaces is the mobile app for Project Timesheet Entry and the Expense Management app. I provided my views on the preview version of these mobile workspaces in my earlier post. These workspaces have added significant amount of new features with the July 2017 release. The Expense management workspace now support end to end expense management from receipt capture, new expense report creation, submission, expense approvals and expense status inquiry and so on. Below are some screenshots of the mobile workspaces released in the July Update.

Employee Expenses Management and Reimbursement related enhancements:

There are several new features and usability enhancements that are introduced for Employee Expenses management in the July Update. From all these features and enhancement, my favorites are as below.

  • Dedicated Expense management workspace

expense-workspace

  • Grouping of vendor invoices for different expense lines of an expense report, as opposed to create separate vendor invoices for each expense line, for reimbursement. This was one of the most talked about concerns in the earlier version (AX 2012), since it was causing problems creating individual invoices for each expense lines and there by causing issues in Check printing etc. Now with this release, you can optionally group all expense lines with the same method of payment to post as grouped vendor invoice instead of individual invoices. If you enable the grouping of vendor invoices, this functionality basically posts all the expenses of the expense report with same payment method on the recent transaction date from the list of expense lines.

  • Several usability enhancements in some key screens. Also, Employees can now track payment information for their expense reimbursements. Nice and very useful functionality, as this is one point that customers usually ask and they used to customize it in AX 2012.

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OCR interface for capturing vendor invoices automatically:

One of the most common asks from customers in the AP invoicing area is the functionality of OCR and vendor invoice automation. Organizations often offload the paper invoice processing to 3rd party OCR reader service providers. These service providers provide machine readable metadata for the invoice along with scanned imaged the invoice headers and lines. In the July 2017 release, the solution/standard interface to read these invoice metadata and invoice scanned attachments is in-built into the AP invoice process of Dynamics 365. 3rd party OCR service provider systems will be able to send metadata feed for invoices directly to D365FO.

This new functionality basically provides the following.

  • Out of the data entities invoice header, invoice lines, and invoice attachments.
  • Exception processing for invoices. A frontend UI for users to make it easy to track failed invoice imports.
  • A side by side invoice attachment viewer to imported invoices and exceptions.

Vendor Invoice

PowerBI reporting with Financial Dimensions:

This feature will be available with July 2017 Update and you will also need to have the most recent Platform update of Dynamics 365, which is Platform Update 8. This features let’s the power users or the BI report creators to add financials dimensions to the readily available aggregated measurements or custom built aggregated measurements in the Entity store.

With that, when the Entity store is periodically updated/refreshed, the financial dimension information of all the General ledger transactions will automatically be included in it. Then you can use those aggregated measurements to write joins, queries within Power BI to create any sort of financial report/dashboard within Power BI itself. Screenshot below shows just an example.

Publish financial reports from Dynamics 365 to SharePoint:

In the earlier versions/releases, you could generate financials reports and export/save it to your local computer. With the July 2017 release, you can now save financial reports directly to a SharePoint document library. The benefit of this is, you can setup alerts within SharePoint to notify you when new reports are available.

Note: I don’t have SharePoint configured in the demo environment, so not able to show the full experience.

FInancials Statement to Sharepoint

You could also extend this further and write a Microsoft Flow, to automatically send the reports directly to your inbox from SharePoint. Endless possibilities !!

Tools for upgrade from AX 2012 or AX 2009 to Dynamics 365:

You can upgrade from Dynamics AX 2012 to Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, Enterprise edition. The complete Dynamics AX 2012 database can be brought forward, and your AX 2012 codebase can be upgraded to Finance and Operations. You can migrate from Dynamics AX 2009 to Finance and Operations via a migration toolset to bring forward master data and opening balances. It would be interesting to test these upgrade experiences and tools as opportunity comes !! 

The Upgrade is now more predictable, which reduces the overall cost of the upgrade process. Upgrade starts with an automated analysis phase, which defines the preparation tasks required to reduce the time and cost to upgrade, as well as the ongoing future cost of Finance and Operations. Post upgrade, an automated validation phase provides statistics and metrics on the success of the upgrade process. The validation details can be used to quickly assess the state of the upgrade, so you can continue with functional testing and sign off.

In Finance and Operations there are no expensive upgrades needed to stay current and take advantage of continuous innovation. You can update to the latest versions of the product with a click of a button.

Support for Hybrid Cloud (Cloud + Edge) and Op-premise (Local Business Data) Deployment scenarios:

In one of my earlier posts, I explained some details about the 3 different deployment options that Dynamics 365 is going to provide. Starting with the July 2017 Update, both these deployment options are available. Customers who are keen on having an On-premise deployment of Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations to capitalize on their existing infrastructure investments or due to data security and compliance requirements, will have the option to deploy D365FO in Hybrid as well as On-Premise model.

d365-opr-deployment-scenarios

Microsoft published system requirements documentation explaining the detailed system requirements for an On-premise deployment of D365FO. You can find the information at this URL

There was system requirements document also that Microsoft published. See URL below.

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=55496

I will share more info about this in future as we move with some testing and some actual deployments for customers.

That was a long enough post :). There are several other features and functionalities across technology stack, Retail and manufacturing modules, that I have not highlighted here in this post. There is a lot to explore and learn!!!

Stay tuned and stay current !! Till next time..

Thanks // Sandeep

Sandeep Chaudhury is a Dynamics AX enthusiast with over 10 years of experience in functional consulting, Solutions architecture and systems integration, with expertise in the areas of Professional services automation(Project Management and accounting), Financials Management, Services Management, Sales and Marketing, Human resource management, Travel and Expenses Management and Procurement & Sourcing modules of Microsoft dynamics AX ERP. He has experience working with the new Dynamics AX (AX 7), AX 2012 R3, AX 2012 R2 and more.

Business Intelligence – the Missing Piece of the Puzzle for Professional Services Automation

I recently completed a 1,000-piece puzzle on a family beach vacation. It’s a good way to unwind, spend time together accomplishing a task, and escape the hot sun or rain. We finished the puzzle and it was rewarding, but have you ever reached the end of a puzzle and there is one missing piece or more? You placed 999 pieces but the picture is not complete. It reminded me that sometimes there are missing pieces when it comes to integrated ERP and Professional Services Automation (PSA). And most often that missing piece is Business Intelligence (BI).

BI Missing Piece of the Puzzle

PSA systems can measure utilization, backlog, and profitability. But most users report that there is plenty of room for innovation in analytics and BI. And you don’t want to be forced into integrating a third-party BI tool. You need it baked directly into your system. The key is to be able to drill into backlogs, trends, and accounts in real time.

Large professional services firms can find advanced project management functionality and enterprise BI in solutions like AXIO Professional Services, but small and mid-sized firms need something that better fits their needs, like Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, Business Edition.

Dynamics 365 for Professional Services SMB and Enterprise Editions

Enter Progressus for Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations, Business Edition

Progressus is next-generation PSA and ERP software, mobile-enabled and architected for the intelligent cloud. It adds advanced project accounting, project management and resource management to Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, Business Edition to provide the most advanced business management solution for mid-sized professional services and project-based businesses.

Project reporting, analytics, and forecasting are built right into Progressus in the form of:

  • KPIs – PM provides automatic access to project factors, where it is possible to see client rate, invoice rate, earning rate and efficiency rate per resource
  • Dashboards – Different windows to follow up on more projects in one window so each project does not have to be opened separately.
  • Extensive Data Views – View project data in a project summary, drilling down to view underlying information and get specific details about project transactions.
  • Easily Understandable Information – Enable project managers to analyze information more effectively by presenting project and task data in familiar profit and loss (P&L) formats
  • Income Analysis – Using Income analysis you can create forecasts of your cash flow, pipeline, turnover, expenses, etc.

Learn more about Progressus and that missing piece of the puzzle here. Let us know if you have any questions.

Best regards,

Robbie Morrison
Chief Solution Strategist, SBS Group

About Robbie
Robbie Morrison has spent nearly 20 years helping customers build and deploy elegant technology and business solutions.  From start-ups to enterprise-class organizations worldwide, his knowledge of the Microsoft Dynamics ecosystem and products helps SBS Group customers maximize ROI on technology investments.  Robbie

Today, Robbie serves SBS Group customers in his role as Chief Solution Strategist where he provides thought leadership and manages the development of B2B solutions.  Robbie received his MBA from the University of Georgia, Terry College of Business.
https://www.linkedin.com/in/robbiemorrison

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