“How can I be sure that Microsoft Dynamics CRM Live will work where other CRM projects have failed?”

“How can I be sure that Microsoft Dynamics CRM Live will work where other CRM projects have failed?”

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By: Bill Patterson

I was recently talking to a new customer of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Live – our next-generation, online service currently available to early access customers, and the above question was posed to me by their Regional Vice President of Sales. In our conversation I learned quite a bit of their lengthy history regarding their previous CRM adventures –first with a large-scale, enterprise wide initiative led by their CIO (now no longer with their company) and most recently with an online Software-as-a-Service provider (led by a sales manager now working for that same online vendor). In both cases, CRM just failed to lift off – never fulfilling the promises made by both vendors’ sales pitches or the visions set on down from their companies board of directors. Having long been in the CRM space, and a survivor of several successful deployments of CRM projects, I was intrigued to learn more about their dreams of realizing the benefits of CRM, why they continued to retry new CRM offerings when others had failed, and what is different in this project (minus certain individuals) that is leading to their early success with Microsoft Dynamics CRM Live.

In the scenarios recanted to me, I learned two important lessons about why the previous CRM investments failed to click, and an important “lesson” on why Microsoft Dynamics CRM Live is paying early dividends for this tried-and-true, sometimes black-and-blue, CRM veteran. This posting attempts to recap our conversation:

It was long determined that in order for the CRM project to be successful, that their solution needed to deliver three specific capabilities:

  1. Allow a sales person to view only customer information located within their sales territory.
  2. Give a sales person the ability to produce Customer Quotes and enter new Sales Orders.
  3. Work remotely when sales people were travelling away from the office.

First, the Integration horror story: an Enterprise-wide deployment of, and I quote, an “expensive, sluggish, and designed-for-people-who-have-not-sold-a-product-for-one-hour-of-one-day solution”. Back in 1999, when first-generation, “one-size-fits-all” CRM was dominating the cover of every CIO’s favorite trade magazine, their organization’s IT department bought into the promise of a centralized customer system, with tight control originating from their large IT staff. Having just successfully navigated the pre-Y2K obstacle course that was their ERP upgrade, this group was riding high on their delivery confidence. As my new colleague recalls: “The thinking was that ERP was light-years more complicated than a simple Sales Automation project, so this was project supposed to be a breeze. Then we got our first bill for scoping integration from our new ERP system to our CRM system, and wow – we knew we were in for some trouble.”

In product demonstrations and on the vendor’s website, each of these scenarios was specifically mentioned as benefits of using their leading enterprise CRM project. However, when it came down to actual implementation, Requirement #2 single-handedly derailed a multi-million dollar project:

“When it came down to Quote and Sales Order integration- that is where we saw our problems with our first CRM project. Our CRM vendor claimed that this should be solved by the ERP system, while the ERP vendor claimed this should be a function of CRM. We tried to build it ourselves using their professional services groups, but we quickly realized the cost of that system almost equaled our projected sales for the quarter. It just wasn’t going to happen. Without the ability to enter sales orders, our sales team just rejected the application. That marked the end of that project. Funny thing is – both solutions are now owned by the same organization.”

Attempt #2: Close, but still not quite right: In their second attempt of deploying a CRM solution, many of the sales personnel – feeling like their IT organization just couldn’t ever get a solution right for them, acted out on their own and purchased an online alternative to their Enterprise CRM solution. Billed as an “Instant-on” and “No-IT” alternative, the solution proved to initially be easier and more flexible than their previous approach, but their sales personnel still struggled with working away from the office – or Requirement #3 listed above.
While this online vendor claimed to have Offline Synchronization functionality, sales personnel could not create Customer Quotes or Sales Orders when working without an internet connection – something frequently experienced by their national sales team during intercontinental flights on the way to or back from a customer visit. In addition, sales personnel complained that they were unable to manage a single Contact list or Appointment book between their online CRM system and Microsoft Office Outlook – which led to inconsistent data capture in CRM and missed appointments assigned by team members through the CRM web interface.

“I didn’t think we were asking for the moon when we said that we needed one-way for managing our sales Appointment book. The fact that we had some sales people using our online CRM and others using Outlook really presented some challenges towards keeping team members on the same page. We had a few cases where team members assigned follow-up meetings to sales representative using the online application, but the sales representatives never got the appointment because they were using Microsoft Outlook. With two copies of information – none of which seemed to get to the right individual, this led to a few missed meetings and some unhappy customers. We needed to simplify – and fast.”

Third time’s a charm: Last fall, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Live was unveiled through an early access program to organizations looking to combine the rapid benefits delivered through an online solution with the richness of client software like Microsoft Office Outlook. Leveraging new innovations provided by Microsoft Dynamics are finally delivering a solution that is addressing the pains of this long-disappointed sales organization.

“A breath of fresh air – it just worked for us. We’ve been to the dance before, and for us to finally have a solution that works within the applications we know and use on a daily basis, for it to work offline and synchronize orders entered by sales personnel when working remotely or on a flight across country, and for us to have the ability to integrate to our back-office systems – we’re, forgive me, amazed that it’s taken us this long to finalize realize that CRM can work for us.”

Lessons Learned: When I asked my new colleague what lessons were learned during this process, as many organizations find themselves in a similar situation than his organization was in just 6 months ago, he responded with the following insight:

“First, build your ‘Top 3’ list. Throughout our journey, we knew that we needed to deliver on just three things in order to gain adoption. While we were surprised that it took us so long to find a solution to address those ‘Top 3’, it [the list] remained our compass for measuring a successful CRM deployment. Second, don’t assume that the easiest answer is not the answer for your business. Our sales people use Outlook to manage their contacts and their appointments. Microsoft Dynamics CRM Live works within Outlook. Why would we want our sales people to learn something entirely new when they can use an application that they already are using? It just made sense and that’s why we love it.”

Back to the question titling this post: “How can I be sure that Microsoft Dynamics CRM Live will work where other CRM projects have failed?”

Don’t change a thing. Add CRM capabilities into the applications you know and use today using Microsoft Dynamics CRM Live – your sales people, and more importantly your customers, will thank you.

Bill Patterson
Director, Product Management
Microsoft Dynamics CRM Live

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Live is currently available in an early access release to organizations located in the United States and Canada. For more information on how to become an early access Customer or Partner, please visit http://crm.dynamics.com/ for additional program information.

About the Author
Bill Patterson is the Director of Product Management for Microsoft Dynamics CRM Live at Microsoft Corporation and runs worldwide Product Management and Product Marketing teams for this new online service. Bill has been working in the CRM market for the last nine years and has led successful implementations of CRM projects and initiatives for organizations in Professional Sports, Financial Services, Manufacturing, Homebuilding, and High Tech industries. He has been with Microsoft Corporation since 2003 – and led several projects for Microsoft Business Solutions – including launching Microsoft Business Solutions CRM 1.2, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0, and now Microsoft Dynamics CRM Live.

A former developer, technical evangelist, and system architect, Bill’s passion remains in building CRM solutions to address unique customer needs and helping businesses reach their full potential when implementing CRM applications and strategies within their organization. Originally from Boston, MA and a graduate of Miami University in Oxford, OH, Bill is a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan and will always find the time to mix-it-up on the ice with a little ice hockey.
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