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

Best Practices when developing a CRM System

TRAINING

  1. An absolute must! It is ridiculous to spend money on software and customization, and not spend money on the one item that will actually get people to use the system.
  2. Users who are not confident will not use the system.
  3. Always include hands-on practice.
  4. Divide training into functional segments, and have people only attend training that is relevant to their work.
  5. Ramp up training as skill sets improve.
  6. Provide advanced training for Power Users.
  7. Provide a contact who will quickly answer User questions, especially in the beginning.
  8. Provide specialized Administrator Training.

Helpful Training Videos 

PLANNING

  1. Getting User Buy-In
    1. Include User input when deciding options.
    2. Ask Users what measure they will use to decide whether or not the installation is a success, then include those items.
    3. Manage expectations by letting them know what is within scope and what is not.
    4. Map as many fields as possible to avoid duplicate data entry.
    5. Automatic formatting of standard fields (phone number, Zip code, Account Name).
    6. Training!!! This is the #1 way to attain User buy-in.
  1. Security Roles
    1. Who will be able to see what information?
    2. Who will have access to everything?
    3. Are there entities that need to be restricted to only certain job titles? (e.g: credit card info, social security numbers, etc.)
    4. Usually upside down from the organizational chart. People on the bottom do the most amount of work and often need the widest access.
  1. Reports, Views, Charts, Dashboards
    1. Start at the end and work backward.
    2. Decide what pieces of info you will want to see, and make sure fields are included to give you that info in a format that will show well in the desired format.
    3. If there is anything that you will want in the future, be sure fields are included from the beginning so Users are in the habit of completing them.
  1. Data Integration
    1. Decide which direction info will flow (A to B, B to A, or both ways).
    2. Include fields that will be used to integrate with other systems.
    3. Consider the format of the info that is needed when pushing to another system.
    4. Determine what info should be read-only, and what should be editable.
  1. Terminology
    1. Use terms that make sense to your staff.
    2. Change the display names of entities as appropriate (rename “Literature” to “Sales Tools”).
  1. Establish business rules that tell Users how to enter info in text boxes
    1. Common abbreviations (Co., Inc., Jr.).
    2. Use of other abbreviations (Hosp., Assoc., Int’l.).
    3. Whether or not to spell out numbers (First National Bank, Fifth/Third).
    4. The, A, An at the beginning.
    5. Establishing naming conventions – Example: Start all case names with product type.

SETUP

  1. Form Setup
    1. Only require essential fields so Users won’t see completing the form as a burden.
    2. Avoid text fields in favor of drop-downs or checkboxes.
    3. Add fields that are for Users, rather than reports (nickname, pronunciation, pets).
    4. Contact status is important (decision-maker, deceased, vendor contact).
    5. List all contact info, and include a way to indicate BEST contact method/time.
    6. Include extra fields for home phone, home email, etc.
    7. Preferences area, if relevant (day/time for contact, service provider, contact method).
    8. Be conscious of when to allow multiples (job roles) vs. just 1 selection (job title).
  1. Workflow Processes
    1. Start at the end and work backward.
    2. Decide what the process will accomplish, then figure out how to make that happen.
    3. Decide which steps can be automated (email notifications) and which steps will need User input (shipping date).
    4. Factor in quality checks (automatic escalation after a set number of days of inactivity).
    5. Get input from Users who will be required to use the process.
    6. Make sure all necessary fields are present to accomplish the process.
    7. Make sure you can duplicate the process manually before attempting to automate.
    8. Testing – Use a variety of login types (Admin, User) and security roles (Admin, Manager, Salesperson) when testing, to assure the process works in all relevant scenarios.
  1. New entity vs. adding to a form
    1. Decide when you will need a new entity, and when you can add fields to an existing form.
    2. Example: Yearly Cost Tracking Info
      1. If putting just a few months on the Opportunity form will work, great.
      2. If you need to keep more than a few months, you probably need a separate entity.

Top 10 Reasons to use IPM

IPM Project Management has a unique environment for managing the day to day operations of project staff. Presented through Outlook, but managed in a MS.SQL database, IPM is able to create, store and track all project communications, RFI’s, drawings and revisions, meeting minutes, change requests, subcontracts and purchase orders to provide a simple but sophisticated project management toolset.

Developed within current Microsoft technology, the IPM range provides users with a user interface that is familiar and easy to use. Operating from within Outlook© and with the ability to seamlessly integrate into Microsoft and other ERP applications, we believe that IPM provides a software solution that understands the needs and habits of today’s project management team.

Outlook Interface

  1. One of the most popular features of IPM Project Management is the interface within Microsoft Outlook®. The interface allows users to remain within a familiar and user-friendly environment that is both flexible and easy to access.
  2. Whenever you open Microsoft Outlook ® you gain quick and simple access to the IPM features that you need and use on a daily basis. This allows users are able to stay within a single program to manage their projects, emails, and calendar items.
  3. Access IPM from inside the program where project teams spend most of their time anyway!

Jobs are easy to setup and manage.

  1. The IPM Jobs setup screen allows the creation of the parameters for the project. From the basic address and contact information to details about insurances and bank guarantees, it can all be maintained in this area. The original budget for the Job is recorded here either manually or imported from an Excel spreadsheet.
  2. The approach of importing from an Excel spreadsheet uses a unique process that allows IPM to upload easily from most estimating applications.
  3. Job Contacts, Change Order Mark-ups and the evaluation criteria for RFQs are all accessed from the Job Setup screen.
  4. Contracts or Price Schedules are also maintained in this area and like the original budget, these can be imported from excel spreadsheets.
  5. Access your original budget and price schedules all from the one screen.

Document Control

  1. IPM ensures that every document sent and every response received is accountable and accessible from within that record. IPM automatically tracks incomplete documents through a user-definable status system.
  2. Once a document has been recorded, it can be viewed and retrieved instantly, along with the associated email communications. Search functions can also be used to search for all related communications. Both individual and system-wide workflows can be created by authorized users to facilitate follow-up processes.
  3. Utilize IPM’s database and Microsoft Outlook integration to create, attach, email and track documents all from the one screen.
  4. A small sample of the document types available in IPM:

Contract Control

  1. IPM makes Contract Management easy with better access to project data, quick links to contract information and a streamlined process that optimizes the approval of a contract. By utilizing the Outlook® integration, project managers can create, send and receive Change Requests, Change Orders and Subcontract Change Orders all from the one location. Risk can also be significantly reduced with built in workflow rules preventing common administrative errors associated with contract management.
  2. Record detailed information about each Change Request in the one form, from estimates and mark-ups to Subcontract Change Order Price Requests.
  3. …then use workflows to create Change Orders and Subcontract Change Orders from Change Requests.

Planning and Forecasting

  1. The Job Tasks Progress view is a powerful scheduling tool that creates a dynamic visual representation of every job within a project. Using an interactive Gantt chart, the Job Tasks Progress displays scheduling data, budget and costs information and detailed forecasts. With the IPM Job Tasks Progress view, all of the project information that you need to see is right in front of you.
  2. When you’re working with complex projects or have multiple projects on the go, the Job Tasks Progress view gives you a comprehensive picture of everything you are working on. In a single screen. you can view and edit the start and finish dates of tasks and jobs, view budget allocation details, view cash flow reports – all in real time.
  3. With IPM’s Job Tasks Progress view you will never lose track of your projects.

Resource Management

  1. Depending on the type of projects being managed in IPM, there may be a need to record resource usage. Resources can be people classified as employees, materials or equipment, and IPM Timesheet functionality facilitates the recording of resource hours by resource and day of the week. Timesheets can be sorted by either resource or job and can be copied from week to week. Users can also complete their own individual Timesheets in the My Timesheets section, which can then be grouped together with other Timesheet entries to create Timesheet batches for the job.
  2. Create a Timesheet batch for multiple employees and approve them using a two-step approval process for added security

IPM Mobility

  1. IPM Mobility takes IPM Project Management software to field personnel by allowing IPM to be run on the most popular mobile devices on the market today – iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry and Windows.
  2. IPM Mobility is a cloud-based solution that gives you the option to mobilize any IPM function and customize screens to be designed around a user’s profile. For the greatest flexibility, create multiple user profiles and can give certain team members access to specific IPM functions depending on their work requirements. Access to IPM Mobility is also easily customizable so you can give more or less access to team members later on if their jobs or requirements change.
  3. Mobilize site diaries and daily reports so employees on-site can update site information, delivery details, job progress, change requests and orders, incidents and weather all from their iPad, iPhone, Android or Blackberry. You can also give site personnel access to RFIs, risks, issues and any other function IPM offers. The information entered into the app is integrated with the main IPM database, so everyone on the team is working from the same page.

Progress Billing

  1. Due to the complexity of Progress Billing, most companies have in the past used spreadsheets to manage this process. IPM changes this by making the progress billing process simple time efficient and accurate and allows you to link any expenses, purchases and payments to the quote.
  2. With IPM, there is no need to worry if you have properly calculated the right invoice amount because it is automatically generated based on the completion percentage that has been entered. Submitting progress billing using IPM takes the stress out of managing your projects and ensures that you get paid the right amount and on time.

Developed for Project Managers

  1. Operates how you already think.
  2. All documents, drawings, questions, activities and emails are attached to the Job.
  3. Folder-level tracking in Outlook interface means all emails related to the Job are in one place and are being tracked as soon as they are sent or received. No more full inboxes!!
  4. Visual tools give “at-a-glance” functionality and speed.

Integration

  1. Fully integrated into Microsoft Office Outlook.
  2. Works with many of the most popular accounting programs
    1. Dynamics (NAV, GP)
    2. Sage 300
    3. Spectrum
    4. SAP B1
    5. Primavera
    6. Quickbooks
  3. Integrated scheduling with Microsoft Project.
  4. Collaboration Access Point (CAP) gives your vendors a place to log in and download drawings, enter pricing information, get Job updates.

Microsoft Shuffles Dynamics Events – Where Should Dynamics Users Go?

Almost every month now, it seems like Microsoft has another major announcement or change for their business solution customers. The latest announcement has to do with Microsoft’s calendar of events like Convergence, Envision and Ignite. In a blog post written by Chris Capossela, EVP & CMO of Microsoft, on December 7th, Microsoft announced that there will be three significant changes:

  • First, we are bringing our annual Microsoft Build conference to Seattle — the “cloud city” — from May 10-12, 2017. Once again, developers can hear from Microsoft engineering leaders and learn about the latest tools and technologies to boost creativity and productivity. Look for information about Microsoft Build 2017 at http://build.microsoft.com.
  • Next, we are renaming the Worldwide Partner Conference to Microsoft Inspire, which will be held July 9-13 in Washington, D.C. This new name reflects how Microsoft and our partner community inspire each other to innovate and deliver powerful new solutions to customers. Registration for Microsoft Inspire is now open — learn more at https://inspire.microsoft.com/.
  • And finally, we are shifting Microsoft Envision, our event for business leaders previously planned for February, to become part of Microsoft Ignite Sept. 25-29. The partnership between business and IT leaders has never been more important, so Microsoft Ignite will now cater to both audiences and help foster collaboration between the two. We’ll have more details to share in the coming months.Read more at http://blogs.microsoft.com/blog/2016/12/07/microsoft-2017-event-line/#lYcTbjPrSGRBeSg9.99

These changes are quite significant when you factor in that Envision was brand new and was held for the first time in April 2016. Additionally, Envision replaced a beloved event, Convergence, which Dynamics Partners and users are still upset about losing.

microsoft dynamics events

(Photo: LinkedIn)

The Evolution of Attending Dynamics Events

When these events started, especially events tailored towards users and Dynamics partners, the goal was to “do business”. This was before the times of online marketing, so these events were a major part of each stakeholder’s schedule. It was an opportunity for users to learn about new technologies all in one central location – and purchase whatever solutions they decided to implement.

As time wore on, online marketing, websites and social media decreased the mileage between new technology solutions and users’ fingertips. Users no longer needed to attend an event to learn about a new solution. As such, these Dynamics events became more like networking opportunities where users could meet with their Dynamics partner and Microsoft technology leaders to discuss processes and trends. Partners adjusted by attending these events mostly for brand recognition and validation as well as getting in front of their customers and potential prospects.

Now, these events seem like they change almost every year as Microsoft tries to find the right balance and mix of events which target all their stakeholders. This leaves users and partners searching for answers on where to turn to for technology insight and Dynamics developments.

microsoft dynamics events

Where Do These Changes Leave Dynamics Users?

It has been a wild ride for Microsoft Dynamics users this year. First, there was the announcement of Envision replacing Convergence. Then there was the announcement of Project Madeira which then became Microsoft Dynamics 365. Finally, there was the wait to find out exactly what Dynamics 365 was going to be.

With all these changes, Microsoft must have seen this as an opportunity to tinker with and formalize their event schedule for 2017. However, where does this leave users? Where can they turn to learn more about the latest Dynamics happenings and trainings?

Well, there are a few places for them to go.

SBS Group Blog

Users can follow the SBS Group Blog – The Blog Spot (shameless plug…) for the latest Dynamics news. Our array of bloggers cover everything from Dynamics 365 to Dynamics CRM, GP, SL and NAV as well as other Microsoft happenings.

Microsoft Ignite

It sounds like Microsoft Ignite will become the place for businesses to get their Dynamics news and training. This is a conference that is held in September and used to be primarily for IT professionals. By combining Envision (for businesses/users) and Ignite, Microsoft signals that there is an ever-closing gap between the two and that in this new age technology world coordination between the two is vital.

Dynamics User Group Summit

My sneaky suspicion is that the Dynamics Communities User Group Summit will become the go-to event for Microsoft Dynamics users and business leaders. This year Microsoft had a major presence at the normally “independent” event by unveiling Microsoft Dynamics 365 in incredible fashion. My thought is that Microsoft will have a major thumbprint on these events in the future. The User Group Summit allows Microsoft to release information and maintain contact with users without having to put on the event themselves. This set up allocates less of their resources and frees them up to focus on their larger events for business leaders and IT developers – which in turn creates better products and services for their users!

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