Young Love, Project ROI and Microsoft Dynamics 365

Do you remember when you first started dating? Young love, holding hands, all of that business. You wanted to make sure that whatever you put into relationships, you would be getting back out of it. Did they make you laugh? Did they have a positive outlook on the world? Where they into the same activities as you? Hey, I did say YOUNG love. Or maybe you have kids who are going through this right now. It’s an investment. The same is true for any investment in life, as well as business.

Businesses are in business to make money. But when it comes to projects, calculating the true value of any project with respect to its impact on margin has always been challenging, mainly due to the ambiguity of turning notions into dollar values.

For instance, training employees will improve expertise and productivity, but how does that translate to bottom-line savings or revenue growth? Spending thousands of dollars on automated systems and software is likely to improve work efficiency, but what’s the dollar-value improvement of that efficiency?

Return on investment (ROI) is a key calculation in answering these questions, as well as showing the project value and its impact on the margin.

In a previous post, we talked about how a project-based environment helps companies better project a return-on-investment (ROI). Why is this important? Your customers want to know what their ROI is going to be if they do business with you. And you want to improve project profitability, as well as determine what ROI you are receiving from your own internal projects (when you implement Microsoft Dynamics 365 for instance 😊).

Project ROI

So what is Project ROI? It’s an indicator used to measure the financial savings/gain (or loss) of a project in relation to its cost. Typically, it is used in determining whether a project will yield positive financial benefits, and in turn giving approval to proceed. In six sigma, the formula is:

Project ROI = ((project’s financial gain or loss – project’s cost) / project’s cost)) X 100.

SBS Group has two products for companies who need project management, both based on Microsoft Dynamics 365: AXIO for larger, enterprise companies, and Progressus for small and medium sized businesses. Both products help you predict, manage, and track ROI.

axio-for-professional-services

AXIO helps you run your business and projects more effectively with enhanced resource management, invoicing, accounting, revenue recognition, collections, contract management, project budgeting and beyond.

Progressus monitors ROI every step of the way from project setup, budgeting, resource management, cost tracking, and time and expenses.

Let us know how we can help you measure ROI, and 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 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

Microsoft Ignite Announces AI and Bots to Boot

This is our third post covering announcements from Microsoft Ignite in as many days, but there is a lot to talk about following this conference!

Building off much of what Microsoft unveiled at the Inspire conference in July, the company announced new products and innovations that span Azure, Bing, Office 365, Dynamics 365, Windows 10 S, Microsoft Teams, artificial intelligence (AI), security and threat protection, plus a host of developer announcements around SQL Sever 2017 and beyond.

Yes, we said AI. And bots to boot. This isn’t a science fiction movie plot – it’s a reality for businesses, made possible by Microsoft.

New Dynamics 365 AI solutions, such as chatbots and virtual agents, are designed to augment existing customer support and sales processes with intelligent assistant technology and natural language processing (NLP). These agents are already in production within Microsoft Support operations and in pilot with customers – HP and Macy’s are already using the new chatbot to help handle customer queries so that people can get their responses faster. The virtual agents can also integrate with third-party chat apps through the Microsoft Bot Framework, letting them live in apps such as Facebook Messenger, Kik, Microsoft Teams, Skype, and Slack.

Microsoft also announced a preview of updates to Azure Machine Learning: Azure CosmosDB and Azure Functions. These offer developers and data scientists a new set of AI model management tools leveraging open-source frameworks. The Azure CosmosDB database service and server-less Azure Functions offering lets developers write a few lines of code that can tie ML into Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, database changes, and more.

Use AI to solve business problems

Vision
Image-processing algorithms to smartly identify, caption and moderate your pictures.

Speech
Convert spoken audio into text, use voice for verification, or add speaker recognition to your app.

Knowledge
Map complex information and data in order to solve tasks such as intelligent recommendations and semantic search.

Search
Add Bing Search APIs to your apps and harness the ability to comb billions of webpages, images, videos, and news with a single API call.

Language
Allow your apps to process natural language with pre-built scripts, evaluate sentiment and learn how to recognize what users want.

What does all of this mean for Dynamics 365 users? Better customer service for one. Imagine having AI and chatbots continually trolling the Internet for you to determine if, and how, your customers or prospects are talking about you. You would have the ability to proactively solve customer service problems before they become a PR nightmare.

Let us know if we can answer any questions about these or other announcements from Inspire.

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

 

Heads Up Salespeople! Microsoft Takes LinkedIn Integration to the Next Level

As usual, there were a lot of announcements at Microsoft’s Ignite customer conference this week. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s keynote exemplified the broad swath of innovation Microsoft is targeting, touching on how everything from AI and mixed reality to quantum computing and data-ready cloud infrastructure are changing the way we do business.

Microsoft had several announcements around its LinkedIn integration, which is great news for salespeople. You may recall, Microsoft announced its LinkedIn Acquisition last June. Many of us wondered how this would play out in the Microsoft Dynamics 365 space.

Microsoft is updating the Dynamics 365 user experience (UX) from a standard LinkedIn widget to a fully configurable integration. LinkedIn InMails and messages will be able to be sent directly from within Dynamics 365 for Sales, and added directly to Relationship Insights as with any other sales interaction. As a result, Dynamics 365 relationship analytics will be expanded to include InMail and PointDrive interactions.

There will also be Relationship Assistant cards triggered with LinkedIn data, so salespeople will be able to natively render profile photos from contact records in LinkedIn. You will also be able to search across Office 365, SharePoint at Microsoft, and OneDrive at Microsoft for LinkedIn and Microsoft Dynamics 365 sales profile cards if all of the services are connected and integrated. What a timesaver this will be! And salespeople can now visit a prospect knowing all of the LinkedIn connections they have in common, all integrated on their mobile device with Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Sales (CRM).

linkedin-dynamics-crm

The goal at Microsoft is to help salespeople create warm leads and relationship sales. With over 500 million members, LinkedIn is a gold mine of information.

You can identify the best way to reach and connect with prospects, including introductions from colleagues that they know and trust and:

  • Focus on the right people with predictive lead scoring
  • Find every member of the buying committee
  • Discover the best path to reach each buyer for a stronger response

Let us know if we can answer any questions about the integration, or Microsoft Dynamics 365 Relationship Sales.

Sincerely,

Joe Gulino
Director, Enterprise Sales, SBS Group

About Joe
Joe Gulino has spent 30 years growing and running mid-sized ERP and CRM consulting organizations. Recently, he has focused his career on helping large and mid-sized services companies select, procure and implement ERP and CRM solutions. He has experience in several industries including manufacturing, distribution and professional services.
joegulino
Today, Joe serves SBS Group customers in his role as Director of Corporate Account Sales where he helps customers solve business problems using Microsoft Dynamics 365 technology. Joe holds a B.A. in Business Administration and Computer Science from Rosary College, and is based in Naperville, Illinois.
https://www.linkedin.com/in/joe-gulino-0a0ba72/

The Common Data Service(CDS) and Prospect to Cash integration between Dynamics 365 For Sales and Dynamics 365 For Finance & Operations

Dynamics 365 as a platform has so much to offer for your organization. Be it, best in class Talent management, Sales & Marketing, Customer Service management, Field Service, Project Service automation(PSA), Retail, Finance & Operations management, Microsoft Dynamics 365 offers purpose built apps for each of these areas for organizations of any size, ranging from 5 – 10 employees to large enterprise organizations with 10,000 + users.

All D365 Apps

Any Tier 1 cloud ERP in the market today will probably provide you pretty much the major functionalities, that you would expect for your organization. However, what sets Microsoft Dynamics 365 apart from the crowd, is the platform itself. Along with purpose built, best-of-breed apps and functionality for all areas of your businesses, you also get the tools, services, technology and the best of Microsoft cloud. A few to name are,

  • Common data Services for integrating business apps seamlessly.
  • Microsoft PowerApps to build mobile apps and extend business processes easily with minimal or no coding needed .
  • Microsoft Flow to automate routing, approvals, event based actions and notifications etc.
  • Power BI for incredibly stunning data visualizations and data intelligence.
  • Microsoft Azure technology stack, such as Azure functions, Artificial intelligence, Machine learning and much more.

Probably, no other business application platform provides this breadth of technology and functionality that Microsoft Dynamics 365 provides today.

In my last post, I explained the Common Data Service and the capabilities, what is coming etc. In this post today, I will share some of my findings of testing of Prospect to Cash integration scenarios between D365 Sales and D365 Finance & Operations.

One of the most common requirements of every ERP implementation is the integration of the Sales and marketing application with the Finance and operations application, to exchange business data such as Customer accounts, contacts, quotations, sales orders, products, invoices and more, so that the respective team members from different teams can get a 360 degree view of the customer’s data. The Microsoft Common data service aims to make it possible to integrate Dynamics 365 For Sales and Dynamics 365 For Finance and Operations out of the box, with various data project templates readily available for use.

Why Common Data Service?

You may argue why use Common Data Service to build integration between the apps/services  Vs. just leveraging OData Service or even Customer services (REST/JSON). Sure, you can always leverage either OData Service or the Custom Services to build your integrations between Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations with other Dynamics 365 or other 3rd party services if you feel more comfortable with that approach. However, leveraging the CDS will give you advantages such as, voiding significant investments in writing custom integration that you need to maintain at a cost. Additionally surfacing business data from multiple business applications of your organization into CDS provides you the capability to create mission critical business intelligence using Power BI or even build custom apps with ease leveraging PowerApps.

Connection Sets in CDS:

Connection Sets defines what apps/services/systems you are going to connect for data exchange.

In PowerApps Admin center, I have already created my Connection Set, that establishes connection between my D365 For Sales and D365 For Finance and Operations apps. I also have done the Organization(s) mapping between these two apps, so that my data will surface in the required entities/organizations. Screenshot below shows the Connection set I have established. This is the first thing you need to setup, before you actually setup the data integration projects.

Connection Set

Data Integration projects in CDS: 

The Data integration projects defines what entities are being integrated/synced between the two apps defined in the Connection set. It contains the following information.

  • A template of the project (Predefined list of Data integration projects provided by Microsoft). Note: Currently, when you create a new data integration project, you are required to select a predefined template. This might change in future, where you can create your own mapping.

DataIntegrationProjects

  • Connection Set: Select the connection set you want to use within the data integrator project.

ConnectionSetInDataIntegrator

  • Organization Mapping: Since you could define more than one organization mapping within one connection set, you will can select a organization mapping that is applicable for the data integrator project.

DataIntegratorOrgMapping

  • Tasks: The data from the source app (D365 For Sales ) flows through the Common Data Service(CDS) to the Destination app(D365 For Operations). The tasks under the project contains the individual data field mapping between the entities in source app, CDS and destination app. It also contains the information such as how frequently the project should run (Manually Vs in Batch).

TaskDataMapping

DataIntegrationProjectRunSchedule

DataMapping

A default task comes automatically when you use a template to create a data integrator project, however, you can add your own tasks to the project, where you can map additional entities.

NewTaskUnderProjectCDS

 

Now that the Data Integrator Project and the Connection sets are configured, let us see how the Customer account data automatically flows from D365 Sales to CDS and then from CDS to D365 For Operations. In this case, I will just run the project manually ( I could set it to run automatically also)

Below screenshot shows the new customer I have setup in D365 For Sales.

NewCustomerInD365FroSales

I ran the data integrator project now manually in CDS admin center. In an ideal scenario, you would set it up to run automatically.

RunDataProject

When the project run successfully , you can see the detailed execution history which will tell that the data got successfully transmitted from source to destination (D365 Sales to D365 For Operations in this case). See screenshots below. This execution log helps you identify issues with data sync if any and take necessary actions.

Execution History1

Execution History2

Now that the execution happened successfully, let us go verify if the Customer account got successfully created in D365 For Operations.

D365CustomerAccount1

D365CustomerAccount2

This was my testing just for one scenario of passing Customer account data from D365 from Sales to Operations for this blog post. There are other templates that addresses the full picture of Prospect to cash scenario(See screenshot below) such as syncing,

  • Contacts from Sales to Operations
  • Products Operations to Sales”,
  • Quotes from Sales to Operations
  • Sales orders from Sales to Operations
  • Sales Invoice details from Operations to Sales.

IntegrationTemplates

I am continuing my testing of all these other entities to see how the overall data flow looks between Sales and Operations. I will share results and findings later 🙂

A few important Notes (Just my thoughts) about these out of the box integrations in D365  using Common Data Services:

  1. The Common Data Service platform seems to be very promising and is absolutely the right step in the right direction for enabling integrations and extension scenarios for Dynamics 365.
  2. With all honesty, CDS platform and functionality is fairly new and we are seeing new capabilities being added frequently. At this point, I have some important questions such as the below, for which I have still trying to get answers . I certainly need to learn more.
    • How does data updates/modifications/deletions sync.
    • Why do I need to select a template always to create a new data project.
    • What about notifications on execution history/results.
    • What happens to Bi-directional data update for an entity.
    • what is the data size/volume limitations for the Data integrator.
  3. I am also not very clear on the data security management of CDS . It looks like there are security roles and permissions that Microsoft provides in CDS, but looks like this needs to mature more.
  4. Right now, it seems like you can connect only Azure based services/apps. I don’t know how this will work with non-azure/external apps/services. At least, I have not tried yet.
  5. In my view, it does not look like the out of the box integration is ready for prime time, that customers can simply deploy and get going smoothly without issues. This will change significantly for sure in the months to come, when more features are released and bug fixes are out. I would imagine by the Fall of 2017, we should see a much robust out of the box integration using the CDS.
  6. Customers who are flexible to adopt the platform with a long term vision for success, can adopt the CDS integrations right away and go through the process of learning and will certainly get return on the investments in long term.

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.

 

SBS Group Presented with 2017 BI360 Platinum Partner of the Year Award

Leading Business Intelligence Software Firm Recognizes SBS Group for Excellence in Delivering Solutions

Solver, Inc. named SBS Group as the 2017 BI360 Platinum Partner of the Year Award winner. Solver honored their top partners for demonstrating significant customer impact by delivering the BI360 Suite to help customers optimize their corporate performance management processes.

Solver honored 8 companies for their achievements in 2017, across various partner categories both globally and regionally. Of the more than 300 partners worldwide, these partners were nominated and selected for their excellence in customer service and innovation.

“We are especially excited to announce and recognize our top-achieving partners both in the U.S. and abroad, as last year was deemed our Year of the Partner and we are now starting to see the results,” said Nils Rasmussen, Solver CEO. “Our strong partner channel is the main reason we are expanding domestically and internationally, faster than ever. BI360’s success has everything to do with the partner relationships we have built along with committed, hard-working product experts. On behalf of Solver’s global family, I would like to congratulate and thank our award winners for their achievements in the past 12 months and for their continued dedication and support of Solver and the BI360 product suite.”

“BI360 has been a tremendous solution that cuts across all types of financial and operational reporting, budgeting, and analytics with capability to scale from our smallest to our enterprise level clients”, noted Eric Forgo, SBS Director of BI and CRM. “Because of the integration to each of the four Microsoft Dynamics ERP platforms, the ease of deployment is high and has yielded a very satisfied group of customers. We look forward to growing with Solver to serve our customers and deploy best of breed cloud-based solutions.”

About SBS Group
SBS Group is a Microsoft Master VAR and Indirect Cloud Solutions Provider (CSP) specializing in Microsoft Dynamics solutions and services for companies of all sizes. With more than 3,000 active customers served by over 300 employees across 40 locations in North America, SBS Group is a recognized leader in cloud ERP, CRM, productivity and business intelligence solutions. We simplify the cloud experience and help our customers realize business value faster with SBS Group AXIO solutions for Dynamics 365 and our streamlined RightPath approach. SBS Group is headquartered in Edison, NJ and has been a recognized leader in Microsoft business solutions for over 30 years. http://www.sbsgroupusa.com

About Solver
Solver provides BI360, the leading cloud and on premise Corporate Performance Management and Business Intelligence suite for Microsoft Dynamics, Sage, SAP, Intacct, Acumatica, NetSuite and other ERP systems. Solver is a Microsoft Gold ISV Partner and the winner of the Microsoft BI Partner of Year Award and has a presence on the Gartner Group CPM Magic Quadrant. BI360 is sold through a worldwide network of partners and is ideal for companies looking to find a user-friendly, yet highly functional Strategy, Forecasting, Budgeting, Reporting, Dashboard, and Data Warehouse solution to give them deep insight and actionable information across all facets of their organization. For any questions, visit Solver’s website or contact Solver at info@solverglobal.com.

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