New Video Release: CRM (Dynamics 365 for Sales) Integration with Dynamics 365 for Financials (3 min)

One of the great things about Dynamics 365 is the native integration between different business functions. This short video is for current and prospective Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Financials customers looking for integration with a CRM application, in this case, Dynamics 365 for Sales.

In the past, financial applications that the accounting team used have been separate from the sales applications that the marketing and sales team used. This was important because these two divisions needed different information and needed easy access to only that information. However, maintaining, cross-referencing and updating two separate applications is incredibly difficult. What happens if a customer’s address changed? The accounting team may have taken note of the new address, but marketing and sales are using the old address. Someone forgot to update the address change in the sales application. Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to repeat the same task in two applications?

Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Financials is directly integrated with Dynamics 365 for Sales (CRM). This means that if a customer’s address changes, you only need to make the change in one application and it is automatically reflected in the other. What a time saver! Now, the whole company is on the same solution – giving everyone the most up-to-date information possible. There are many more features of Dynamics 365 for Financials integration with Dynamics 365 for Sales!

Watch as a Dynamics 365 expert demonstrates the capabilities of CRM (Dynamics 365 for Sales) integration with Dynamics 365 for Financials!


Watch what is possible on Dynamics 365 for Financials!

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Making the Business Case for PSA in a Project-Centric Company

I’m often asked about PSA (Professional Services Automation) solutions by potential buyers. Is it critical to success?  Is it more of a luxury solution to make things easier?  Will it pay for itself in the long-run? Short-run?  What they’re really asking, in most cases, is: “How do I sell it to our executive team?”

For the longest time, I was confused by this.  In my experience, it is often the executive team that drives the pursuit of a PSA solution.  Their need for more accurate reporting, project profitability and overall visibility of operational effectiveness in a professional services firm leads right to PSA.  So why the sell? I’ve come to the conclusion that overselling features of other solutions by those in the software market are often the problem.  Overzealous sales and marketing people pitch every ERP, CRM, Office productivity and project management solution as the end-all, be-all answer for professional services.

While each of these application families can deliver tremendous value to a services company, it is often an over-reach.  However, a PSA solution not integrated with core ERP or CRM systems is never as effective as those which are.  That’s why we love working with Microsoft Dynamics, and especially the Dynamics 365 suite.  But…my appreciation for Microsoft Dynamics is not the focus of today’s post.  Rather, how to help you share the potential value of an enterprise PSA solution with your executive team.  Let’s get started.

dynamics-psa-dashboard

Understanding PSA (Professional Services Automation)

PSA solutions are designed to assist project-centric companies with project management and resource management for client projects. This is accomplished by developing metrics to quantify and qualify basic business processes that can then be used to streamline and improve those processes.  Typical PSA functions include project management and documentation, time recording, billing, reporting and labor utilization. These features are often integrated with accounting, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, and payroll systems in order to improve the efficiency of overall operations. In addition to better managing client projects, the right PSA can prevent lost revenue and lagging billing cycles thereby improving cash flow.

Ultimately PSA software suites allow users to integrate industry-appropriate metrics in order to better understand operations and, in turn, improve efficiency and profitability. As businesses grow, the size and complexity of their projects tend to increase and with it, their investment in PSA software.

microsoft-dynamics-365-psa

Making the Business Case

Generalizations about the value of leveraging software to improve project and services delivery are enough to get started, but here are some more specific points you can add to your pitch.

Improving Collaboration, Reporting, and Visibility into Project Profitability

While PSA is best known for improving resource and project management, the most significant impact is providing real-time visibility into all aspects of delivery. Delivery resources can simultaneously see the status of current and forecasted projects, historical or projected costs and revenue, the supply and demand for key resources, and issues that could impact a successful project outcome. With real-time visibility, executives can more efficiently and effectively run the business.  Organizations with high levels of real-time visibility grow more rapidly and face less employee attrition and fewer projects go south.

Clearing the Bench and Improving Human Capital Contribution

Every services organization struggles with the almighty utilization target.  Keep everyone working 100% of the time and you print cash.  Keep them sitting on the bench and the business fails.  Finding a balance of resources that works for your customers as well as your business is the key to success.  A well-implemented PSA solution helps you identify and work towards that optimal service model as the business fluctuates.  It can help you determine the best mix between full-time and contract employees, training requirements needed, etc.  Most importantly, your entire management team will have a better understanding of backlog and ability to meet demand at any given point during the year.

Improving Billing Accuracy and Shortening Billing Cycles

Without a PSA solution in place, time and expense data is usually captured through standard payroll or financial systems.  This data is ultimately sent to the project team, but not in real time.  Sometimes, there is a considerable gap of days or weeks.  The extra processing time and the potential for mistakes can be a negative impact on the customer relationship and internal project management.

PSA systems allow time card information to be entered through apps or even calendar plugins to improve efficiency and cut down on errors.  Allocations, project success, cash-flow, and billing frequency are all positively impacted.

Compliance with ASC 606 and IFRS 2015 Guidelines

Ensuring that project doers and project planners stay aligned is extremely important.  How you bill, when you bill and how you recognize revenue are often tied to performance milestones, as outlined in ASC 606 and IFRS 2015 guidelines.

Many companies, even those with enterprise ERP and high-end forecasting tools, will need to build a plan to implement process updates and retool the development of complex contracts.  Firms relying entirely on Excel or outdated planning and project management solutions may find the need to purchase and implement new software even before other processes can be adapted.  It will take a comprehensive, collaborative effort to realign business planning and budgeting as your back office team adapts to these new accounting standards.

solution integration

Dynamics 365 Integration with Microsoft Office 365

SBS Group has deployed PSA solutions for hundreds of companies over the last 30 years.  Today, we focus on Microsoft solutions, including Dynamics 365.  Within the Dynamics Suite, there are different options available for companies of varying sizes and needs, but all benefit from the sweeping integration across the Microsoft stack.

Dynamics 365 unifies the best of Microsoft’s customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions into one fully integrated cloud service.  It offers deep integration with Office 365 and allows you to tailor your implementation with sophisticated productivity apps to support crucial business processes, including sales, customer service, finance, field service, operations, marketing and project service automation.  It utilizes one common set of data across CRM, ERP and Office 365, simplifying data management and allowing for seamless integration across apps and business processes.  Tools like PowerBI, Microsoft Flow, PowerApps and Cortana Business Intelligence work seamlessly with Dynamics 365 operations and PSA to create one of the most comprehensive solutions for professional services companies in the market today.

Sometimes Seeing is Believing

If they’re not connecting the value of the right PSA to business results, you may need to show them.  I know that most CFOs and CEOs either don’t have the time or interest in sitting through a software demonstration.  However, a focused discussion on business value can be much more impactful when the software solution is used as a backdrop to the conversation.  Discuss the benefits you’re expecting and follow with a 5-minute peek into how the system works.

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Also, remember that there is more than one way to deploy a PSA solution.  Obvious questions, like in the cloud or on-premises will always come up for discussion.  Be ready to discuss cost, risk and operational pros and cons of each.  Grounding your solution in the up-front bid process and WBS vs an ERP-based PSA solution to manage project accounting will factor heavily into product selection.  Many questions, but all should result in a solution that drives genuine bottom-line benefits to the company.

If you would like to explore this further, please feel free to reach out to me directly at rmorrison@sbsgroupusa.com.

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

Best Practices for Activity Management in Office 365 and Dynamics 365

Many of our clients ask us how best to handle the various activities available within the Dynamics 365 suite, especially with the crossover to Office 365. While there are no “set in stone” rules, we have put together some best practices suggestions, based on the functionality available within different programs.

So, the question is… What gets handled where?

EMAIL GETS HANDLED IN OUTLOOK

Outlook, as you can imagine, has far more email tools available than what you will find within Dynamics 365.  While the latest version of Dynamics 365 does include the ability to add Email Signatures to system emails, there is still no comparison to the many millions of tools Outlook offers.

If you set your options correctly in Outlook, you can still access all the special Dynamics 365 fields you need.

TASKS GET HANDLED IN OUTLOOK

Outlook has the best task management tools, such as the ability to set a reminder, ability to record time/mileage/billing info, and a task bar that shows right next to your email. And with the ability to use “Set Regarding” to attach a task to Dynamics 365, this is a win-win situation.

(Need to know more about “Set Regarding” feature? See this blog; Creating a New Record From Your Outlook Inbox.)

APPOINTMENTS GET HANDLED IN OUTLOOK

Okay, I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record, and it’s still true that Outlook has the best tools for managing appointments. With advancements in the latest versions of Dynamics 365, even recurring appointments can be tracked in Dynamics 365 using the “Set Regarding” feature.

Working within Outlook, you still have access to all of your Dynamics 365 contacts, as well as special fields from those contact records. Because you’re in Outlook, you have access to your special plug-ins such as Skype for Business. You also have calendar access within your organization to help schedule those time-consuming meetings that everyone loves.

PHONE CALLS GET HANDLED IN DYNAMICS 365

Here’s where Dynamics 365 really starts to shine. Dynamics 365 gives you quick and easy access to a phone call record that has all the fields you need:

  • Is the call outgoing or incoming?
  • Did you leave a voicemail?
  • Is there a follow-up necessary?

If you have your Skype for Business connected to your Dynamics 365 implementation, then you can simply click someone’s phone number and these steps happen automatically:

  • A new phone call record is created, marked as outgoing, with the Contact’s name in the recipient box.
  • A new Skype for Business call is opened, with the Contact’s phone number ready to dial.

For people who love efficiency, Skype for Business is a must-have integration!

INFORMATION UPDATES GET HANDLED…….WELL…….

Information updates are all handled within Dynamics 365. The question is where to put the info so that it gets the most visibility.

Updates to an Account or Contact’s email/phone/address information, that will go in Dynamics 365 directly onto the Account/Contact form.

If it’s a Status update, and you want everyone who is interested in that Account/Contact to see the info, then use POSTS to save the info. Anyone who is “following” that Contact record will see the information. Also, shows on the Dashboard feed.

Temporary information that will only be relevant for a short period of time should be stored in NOTES. The more notes that are added, the further down you’ll have to scroll to find the info. Notes are not easily searchable, nor can they be reported on, and they don’t roll up to the parent record. This format is only good for temporary information, not for information that will need to be easily found at a later date.

If it’s info about action being taken, use TASKS. Task records can be searched, can be reported upon, and they do roll up to the parent record. This automatically gives them better visibility throughout the entire system. The more tasks you enter into Dynamics 365, the more ammunition you can take to your yearly review, to prove to your boss that you really are working hard!

What does it mean for a record to roll up to the parent record?

Let’s talk about the Bird and the Bees… Notice how when 2 of your friends get together and have children, you can see the attributes of the parents in the children? Same thing happens in Dynamics 365.

Account records are the top “parent” record. A contact is a “child” record of an Account record. Opportunities and Cases are “child” records of either an Account or a Contact (or both).

What this means in practical terms is that the “parent” record will show all the activities from the “child” records. This is the reason we suggest attaching emails to the lowest “child” record possible so that it’s visible on both the child record and the parent record.

EXAMPLE: Let’s say you have an email that is attached to Dynamics 365 (using Set Regarding) to an Opportunity record. You can open that Opportunity record and see that email. You can also open the Account associated with that Opportunity and see that email. The reason? Because the Opportunity is a “child” record of the Account’s “parent” record, and that email is rolling up to the “parent” record.

 

HOW/WHEN SHOULD I USE CERTAIN ACTIVITY FEATURES?

EMAIL

When you’re in Outlook and you want to track a message in Dynamics 365, use the “Set Regarding” feature instead of just clicking “Track.” When you use Track alone, you save the email with any contact record that Dynamics 365 can match to any email address in your outgoing email. However, using the Set Regarding does all that PLUS it gives you the ability to attach the email to a different type of record (such as an Opportunity, a Lead, a Case, or a custom entity).

Reminder: always attach the email to the “child” record, knowing that it will roll up to the “parent” record. (See the previous section for clarification.)

MARKETING

Campaigns allow you to manage multiple activities across a spectrum of time, as well as track any responses from the campaign (so you can gauge effectiveness). Want to advertise your monthly special by sending a postcard, followed by an email, followed by a phone call? One Dynamics 365 campaign can coordinate that entire effort, as well as tracking administrative activities and tracking costs.

PERSONAL OPTIONS (FROM WITHIN OUTLOOK)

  

REPORTING ON ACTIVITIES

Reports that come “out of the box” with Dynamics 365 give you loads of info.

  • Filter by activity type
  • Filter by MINE or ALL or TEAM
  • Filter by Status (Open or Closed)
  • Example View: All of MY TEAM’S Closed Activities in this fiscal period

You can also use Views and Charts together to create some really brilliant dashboards or track specific events.

CONCLUSION

There are multiple ways of handling all of these activities. Your best practice is to determine which program has the built-in functionality to give you the most tools possible, then use the integration links Dynamics 365 provides to make it all work together.


Watch Dynamics 365 in action! See how Dynamics 365 can help your business operate more efficiently and effectively.

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

SBS Group is well known for expertise in helping project-oriented companies to leverage Microsoft and other technologies to operate more efficiently and profitably.  Solutions like AXIO Professional Services enhance Dynamics 365 for Operations and Progressus for Professional Services provide PSA and ERP for Dynamics NAV.

Another solution, Dynamics 365 Project Service Automation (PSA), is available to project-oriented companies who wish to dive into the Dynamics 365 platform.  Instead of an ERP-based project management solution, Dynamics 365 PSA offers a more client centric based solution.

Each of these solutions provide customers with comprehensive feature sets nested in a full Microsoft customer experience.  The trick is understanding the short-term and long-term benefits of each solution to understand which best fits a specific customer environment.  In this post, we will explore Dynamics 365 for Project Service Automation (PSA) to better understand what types of companies it would serve the best.

Dynamics 365 for Project Service Automation

Key Features of Dynamics 365 Professional Services Automation (PSA)

Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Project Service Automation Enables project-based organizations to deliver every customer engagement on-time and within-budget through an end-to-end solution for sales, planning, resourcing, delivery, and billing.

OPPORTUNITY MANAGEMENT

Provide integrated sales dashboard with project-based opportunities to help forecast profitability and feasibility. Streamline sales manager experience to quickly create project contracts, track labor rates and generate SOWs. Collaborate real-time with customers on the quotes, project scope and resource requirements through customer portals.

PROJECT PLANNING

Make it easy for sales manager to visualize cost, effort, and sales value with project managers to estimate and define the work using standard project templates. Use robust project scheduling and management capabilities of Microsoft Project to complement the collaborative sales planning process.

RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Optimize resource assignment through a consolidated scheduling engine across all modes of service to ensure right people on the right projects. Simplify engagement across project managers, resource managers and sub-contractors to forecast demand, talent management and resource allocation. Empower consultants to apply directly for relevant project roles, and update skills through mobile devices.

TEAM COLLABORATION

Provide powerful, easy-to-use, mobile-ready O365 productivity tools for project teams, customers, and partners to communicate and collaborate on project deliverables and tasks. Empower project managers by providing real-time status and performance indicators to mitigate project risks.

TIME AND EXPENSE MANAGEMENT

Simplify management, tracking and submission of estimated and billed project time by integrating the tasks and deliverables within calendars. Track all project and non-project schedules on their device or app of choice through integration between exchange and project calendars.

CUSTOMER BILLING

Provide project managers and customers a one-stop-shop dashboard to review, override, track overruns and approve all costs and time impacting their projects. Automate generation, approval, and distribution of accurate invoices in email and on the web. Enable integration with best-in-class back-office applications for financial accounting.

SERVICE ANALYTICS

Anticipate business opportunities, optimize solution offerings, and improve business performance through robust analytics, interactive dashboards, role-base templates, and data visualization for 360 visibility to project and portfolio metrics like resource utilization and practice profitability.

Features included with Dynamcs 365 for Project Service Automation

For additional insight into the features and capabilities of Dynamics 365 Project Service Automation, you might want to read this post written by Sandeep Chaudhury on the Dynamic Community blog.

What Companies are the Best Fit for Dynamics 365 Project Service Automation (PSA)?

This solution helps companies manage the entire project sales and delivery cycle, but shines more in earlier, front office, stages of the client engagement like sales and quoting.

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.

For instance, the solution provides a very user-friendly scheduling function with Outlook calendar integrations that makes managing resources against a project work quite well.  But, for larger companies with hundreds or thousands of delivery resources, the solution is lacking the strong skills based scheduling that is available in AXIO for Professional Services.

When the team size is small and scheduling resources are familiar with individual skill-sets, this is less of a problem.  When teams get larger and projects become more complex, or when the scheduler is assigning resources across the globe having never meet or assessed the resources being scheduled, this can be a show-stopper.

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.

Here are some example questions you might ask yourself when selecting a CRM-based vs ERP-based Dynamics 365 solution for a project-oriented firm:

  1. Do we manage inventory? 
  2. Do we require advanced revenue recognition processing?
  3. Are our projects complex or simple?  In other words, do you have multiple clauses? Do you bill based on Performance Milestones (ASC 606 and IFRS 2015)
  4. Do we need project accounting to be auditable?
  5. Do we require union payroll?
  6. Do we require T&E reporting audits for DCAA compliance?
  7. Do we need to staff/manage projects across multiple entities?
  8. Do we manage subscription revenue along with or post project completion?

In each of these cases, an ERP-Based PSA solution is likely the better option.  Some of these  issues can be dealt with in Dynamics CRM PSA, but it is unlikely that the amount of development or process configuration required to do so would be worth the effort when systems already exist that meet these challenges.

You only need to ask.

If you are researching your next solution, please feel free to reach out and we’ll help you dig into the details.  After all, selection of this nature can be one of the most important decisions your company will make.

Thanks,

Best regards,

Robbie Morrison
VP Enterprise Solutions and Services, 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 helps SBS Group customers maximize benefits from the ERP investments.  Robbie

Today, Robbie serves SBS Group customers in his role as Vice President, Enterprise Group where he provides thought leadership and manages the enterprise delivery team.  Robbie received his MBA from the University of Georgia, Terry College of Business.
https://www.linkedin.com/in/robbiemorrison

What versions of Dynamics CRM are compatible with other Microsoft software as of today?

If you were to setup these versions of Microsoft Dynamics CRM today, these are the other pieces of software that you would need to use with it in order to be supported by Microsoft.

As with all compatibilities, these are valid for the day of publishing but could change at any point after.

Office Version CRM 2016 CRM 2015 CRM 2013 CRM 2011
O365 Compatible Compatible Not Compatible Not Compatible
2016 Compatible Compatible Compatible Compatible
2013 Compatible Compatible Compatible Compatible
2010 Compatible Compatible Compatible Compatible
2007
SP2 or 3
Not Compatible Not Compatible Compatible Compatible
2007 Not Compatible Not Compatible Compatible Not Compatible

 

CRM Outlook Client CRM 2016 CRM 2015 CRM 2013 CRM 2011
2016 Compatible Not Compatible Not Compatible Not Compatible
2015 Compatible Compatible Not Compatible Not Compatible
2013 Not Compatible Compatible Compatible Not Compatible
2011 Not Compatible Not Compatible Compatible Compatible

 

Browser CRM 2016 CRM 2015 CRM 2013 CRM 2011
Edge 8
(Win 10)
Compatible Compatible Compatible Not Compatible
Edge 7 Not Compatible Compatible Compatible Not Compatible
Edge 6 Not Compatible Not Compatible Compatible Not Compatible
IE 12 Compatible Compatible Compatible Not Compatible
IE 11 (UR 17) Compatible Compatible Compatible Not Compatible
IE 11 Compatible Compatible Compatible Compatible

Note: Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10 are the currently supported versions of Windows for CRM compatibility.

For additional compatibility information, please go to these Microsoft support pages.

CRM 2016

CRM 2015

CRM 2013

CRM 2011

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