When I first joined our services team about 7 years ago we were keeping track of our customers in one master spreadsheet and virtually everyone on the team had their own spreadsheet where they kept track of their customer issues and time.  Having just spent 4 years working with IT and being a dabbler in ASP and SQL, I thought this was a good opportunity to build a little system to consolidate this information into one database and some web pages.  This took some time to development, but it was a fun little project and was working pretty well for the team. 

As Dynamics CRM started to grow in popularity with our customers, I volunteered to get up to speed on it and to start managing CRM customer needs.  As I learned more and more about it, I realized my little ASP site was cute, but CRM was definitely the way to go for tracking our business going forward.  I wouldn't have to worry about building grids or programming every little thing we did.  CRM offered the capability to run this whole sit without having to code everything (which was good because I'm not really a programmer - I just knew enough ASP to get by). 

So in January 2007, we launched our CRM 3.0 site to our team of about 40 people with basic Account, Lead, Opportunity and Contract capabilities.  We also used the Outlook client for tracking activities - emails, calendar appointments, etc.  If you've ever rolled out a CRM system before, you probably understand the challenges in adoption with any new system - some guys used it much more extensively than others, but it was a good opportunity to dogfood our own application while keeping track of key customer interactions.

We went live on a pre-RTM build of CRM 2011 back in early January and we've been running well ever since.  With our evolved system, we are able to track all service deliveries we've done for customers (even those we proposed but didn't end up doing), all Dedicated Support Engineer contracts (along with the use of workflow to manage our pipeline), all interactions we have with customers and their contacts, our labor as well as our team's revenue.  We have even started to track our team member's yearly commitments as well as any positive feedback they've received from customers, partners or internal team members.  We have built reports with SQL Reporting Services to track these integrated business functions so we can look quickly (with dashboards and charts) at our team's pipeline and we can show engineers how they are doing against their commitments for the year with the full picture in one place. 

Also, as a team who supports Dynamics CRM, we have the opportunity to test out every update rollup before our customers do so we can give real-world feedback to them as they apply these in their test and production environments.  We even built a "GAL Sync Tool" which we use to automatically add users to our CRM system based on the team member hierarchy (eg. If they report to someone who rolls up to the leader of the Premier Field Engineering organization, they automatically get added to CRM).  We've shown this to customers who need this kind of tool for their business as well.

The ability to know our customers and team members has been a strategic differentiator for us - we have been able to grow our business and know everything about how it's happened.

Eric Newell