By Sandor Schellenberg, Owner and Founder, friendlyITsolutions

As an independent consultant, I work for different clients with very different approaches to finishing a Microsoft Dynamics CRM implementation successfully. The most common project management methodologies used in these projects include Sure Step, Prince II, Waterfall, DSDM, Agile, Scrum and sometimes a company's own creation.

The choice of a certain project management methodology seems easy enough, but especially for companies new to implementing Dynamics CRM or so called xRM solutions, it turns out often to be a struggle.

The struggle, in my opinion, is due to the fact that Dynamics CRM is not just standard software that can be implemented like Office. The implementation of Dynamics CRM requires consultants with expertise in different areas such as process analysis, software architecture, data modeling, programming and of course Dynamics CRM itself.

The challenge is to combine these different areas into one methodology, taking into consideration that your developer might be used to a more classic approach and your functional consultant might prefer more agile approach. For example, front-end changes can be applied within minutes, while programming additional code might take days or weeks.

This article outlines some of the approaches I have experienced and hopefully gives you some guidance in choosing your implementation partner in combination with the right methodology.

Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM)

The DSDM methodology can be used as the start of your implementation. It is especially interesting to start with DSDM if you would like to start your project with a prototype as a proof of concept. Keep in mind that DSDM has to be used as a framework and is often useful if your goal is to deliver a prototype.

The methodology is also very interesting if you are new to CRM and want to introduce it into your organization. A prototype makes it possible to involve the people who actually going to work with CRM. They can experience how it works and that direct involvement is often one of the key factors for successful implementation.

In case you are comparing different CRM solutions, this approach is helpful to understand how CRM can support your business process.

After the prototype is tested or used for a certain period you can extend the application with extra functionality or by enabling a whole new area in CRM.

The challenge in this approach is that you have to take it step by step and not implement every block of functionality at the same time, otherwise you might be overwhelmed by all the possibilities. The advantage is that you have your base CRM application up and running quickly, but extending it often requires an additional methodology.

Scrum

The Scrum methodology is an iterative an incremental agile development method. This methodology is very interesting because in time-boxed periods (sprints) you finish part of the overall project - in this case it could be an element of your Dynamics CRM solution like relationship management, sales, marketing etc.

Especially from a functional perspective, this is very interesting because changes can be quickly applied and the customer can see the application evolving.  

The challenge here is that you need to know in detail what to build from both a functional and technical perspective. In this method, the functional consultant makes wireframes that are divided into sprints at a later stage.  Developers are not really accustomed to partially building bits of code and stopping, only to enrich it in a later sprint. It is important to take this difference into consideration because you have to clearly know which of your business processes should be supported in your Dynamics CRM application.

An agile approach like scrum is interesting and could work if correctly applied. Nevertheless keep in mind the possible challenges you might be faced with when your implementation partner is using this approach.

Sure Step

The Microsoft Sure Step methodology is designed especially for products in the Dynamics stack. The methodology defines six phases e.g. diagnostics, analysis, design, development, deployment and operation. It also defines roles from both customer and consulting side and can be applied to several project types.

The approach is very interesting, because it is tailored made for Dynamics and comes with several document templates and it combines the customer and consulting/ implementation partner.

Nevertheless, it might be challenge to follow the methodology in smaller teams, where people are fulfilling more than one role and also the description of the roles might not fit with your consulting partner. For example, a functional consultant could be mainly focused on business analysis, but in other company also basic development can be expected from this role.

In my opinion, the challenge in this method is that you need to have a good understanding of Dynamics CRM and also about the method itself and how your team will be working.

Conclusion

Choosing the right methodology might seems easy, but as I have illustrated, you might struggle with the chosen methodology, or most likely the methodology you are confronted with through your consulting partner.

The key factor in choosing the right methodology and making a methodology work is the experience you have with CRM itself. In case you are new or just started with CRM, you might to tend toward Sure Step, because it is tailored made for Dynamics, gives you more guidance in your project, and takes the customer's role into account.

If you have more CRM experience and your consulting partner has a more agile approach, then the combination of DSDM and Scrum could work well, because it gives you more flexibility in defining and realizing your desired functionality. Of course both methodologies are agile methods.

My personal preference is something of a hybrid: I like the phases in Sure Step and I often combine it with a prototype while taking iterative steps toward the next stage.