imageA couple of days ago, at a Sure Step 2010 training at Sundsgården, Helsingborg, Sweden, while students were preparing to take the exam, one of the students asks me where she can download Sure Step 2010. I give her the link, but she tells me: “No, that’s Sure Step 2012, I’d like to download 2010”.

That came as a surprise. “No way” – I say – “It hasn’t yet been released.”

Or has it?

And then I check, and almost can’t believe it – it’s really there. I completely missed the tweets, the Facebook announcement, the LinkedIn discussions. It seems that I’m not particularly social nowadays. A quick check of Twitter shows me that there wasn’t too much buzz around it, and most of the blogosphere simply redelivers the same content, which either comes from the official announcement (which I also missed Smile) or from whoever blogged first.

Instead of giving a simple “excited” redelivery of the announcement, here’s my take on Sure Step 2012, what’s new, what’s not new (both sadly and thankfully).

What’s New in 2012

A lot. And I am not at all sure if that’s good or bad. I’ll come to that.

Among a lot of updated guidance content, documents and templates, what somehow slips under the radar of most of announcements I’ve read over the couple past two days is the fact that Sure Step 2012 is now available completely online. If you ask me, that’s quite a news, since now it’s not necessary to install a bulky application on your machine. Unfortunately, you need Silverlight to run it, but even that manages not to diminish the importance of this update. It’s moving to the cloud and it kind of proves a point.

Another important news is that Sure Step 2012 comes right away in ten languages, including English, Chinese, Danish, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Turkish. I haven’t installed and checked each of them, and it wouldn’t make much difference for me even if I did, but it’s fantastic that those folks don’t need to spend time translating it themselves. My language, Croatian, is not supported, but judging from the number of Turkish soap operas running on Croatian TV channels, I deem it not a problem at all.

And now, before I go on with what’s new, I make a short break and ask myself a question – is a methodology something I want to see heavily updated – and the answer is blurry. Were they, and all of us, all that wrong in how we did it so far? I’m not a traditionalist, or a conservative, but it’s about methodology. Do we need a methodology updated every so often? Is there that much to add, or is it about reinventing the wheel?

So, I’ll give my view of what’s new, and what’s not, both from fortunately and unfortunately perspectives.

What’s Fortunately New

I’ll start with the Project Management Library. The alignment with PMBOK is fantastic and if you have experience with it (if you are serious about project management business chances are that you do) Sure Step methods will be so much easier to grasp. There are three major changes in this:

  • Integration Management became the official part of Project Management Discipline, and it makes so much sense that it did. For those unfamiliar with PMBOK, it’s project integration management and has nothing to do with integrating NAV or AX to SAP or something.
  • Sales Management is gone, and it has found it’s logical place under Integration Management. Previously, it was an artificial addendum, which did have some logic behind it, but made it all confusing about which discipline is actually about handling changes. Now it’s clear.
  • Issue Management is gone, too, and it took me a wild guess, which proved right, that I’d find it right under Communication Management, where it naturally belongs.

As a PMP, I am excited about the above, but Microsoft folks, if they are reading this, must be scratching their head at this point, because of all things, I start with project management library. Let’s me be fair, and give a list of couple of news:

  • Solution Optimization has been revamped, and it is more aligned to products, than to phases. This is both good, and bad (I’ll come to that, too). It’s great that it’s more specific than it was earlier, and if you are in AX or CRM, you’ll love the new stuff. Being a NAV guy, I am drooling at the menu of AX optimization offerings, and the first thing I know I’ll be doing is reading through all of them to see what and how I can put it to use in NAV world.
  • Solution Envisioning has been beefed up, and the alignment to MSSP is even stronger than it was. Diagnostic is now not only about Decision Accelerators, and with addition of Solution Overview it gets a logical formal start. Also, there is an all-new Accelerated Proof of Concept with CRM Online, a new Decision Accelerator for, well, CRM Online, which must work well, but I am in no position to judge this.
  • A lot of new content for AX 2012, and again, I can’t help much so I simply list what I’ve read about it: updated Decision Accelerator guidance and documents, implementation templates and artifacts, upgrade templates and more.

What’s Unfortunately New

Now we come to a slippery terrain, but I’ll voice my opinion loud, nonetheless. So, here’s the list:

  • Solution Optimization: it has good aspects and bad aspects to it, and now we are about bad ones. The alignment with product has raised a lot of questions. Taking a look at the Solution Optimization diagram, I have a distinct feeling I could blog about that one for a month, but let me try keeping it simple:
  1. Illogical product alignment: it seems that NAV doesn’t need Design Review, or Performance Review, or Upgrade Review or even Project Governance & Delivery Review. And something similar could be said about all of product lines.
  2. Not all needs to be colorful and geometric: otherwise people could think, by both colors and positioning, that AX is about Analysis, CRM about Design, GP about Development, NAV about Deployment and SL about Operations.
  • Renaming of concepts should be avoided, and it wasn’t. Diagnostic phase seems to be under a renaming process into Solution Envisioning, which might not be too bad in itself, but at very least it’s inconsistent. Either it should have been renamed (and again, why?), or it should have been left, but if you are navigating the guidance, you’ll notice that there is not a single mention of Diagnostic phase in the navigation pane. Strange. Also, Optimization Offerings have been translated into Solution Optimization.

What’s Fortunately Not New

Thankfully, folks over in Redmond didn’t touch the project types and phases, and largely they remain exactly where they were. That makes sense, and increases my confidence in soundness of this release, as methodology should primarily come from experience and what’s proven to work, and not from perceived view of what should be changed.

Decision accelerators were a great thing, and they are all still there. I was slightly afraid they may get a major revamp, because they were a new addition in last release, but all seven are still there, and I’m glad to see them around.

What’s Unfortunately not New in 2012

There are certain aspects of Sure Step which were bad, and should have been updated, but haven’t. And here, I believe it is primarily, if not exclusively about the Alignment with MSF. In my opinion, it’s more of a liability than of an asset.

It looks all nice and geometrical that we have three groups of cross-phase processes, three processes each, but it’s artificial. There are two specific aspects here:

    1. Program Management: Now that we have Integration Management discipline, I don’t think we need to have Program Management cross-phase process. It’s about the same thing, and having both is royally confusing now that both are there. Previously it was difficult to explain the term Program Management to whoever wasn’t familiar with MSF, but now the confusion is even higher. Another issue here is that there is no Program Manager role in Sure Step Roles, however, Program Management cross-phase process still talks about it, mentioning both Program and Project managers. Oh my.
    2. Statement of Work: I am not 100% sure it is as much of MSF term as it is generally a Microsoft term, but having both SoW and Project Charter as parts of Sure Step is redundant. The content is the same, the purpose is almost the same, and it may be only me missing the point, but explaining the difference to anybody is difficult. I’d like to see one of these two go, and they both seem to be here to stay for at least one more release.

To be slightly more positive about what’s unfortunately not new, I’d say that it’s lacking much hoped for improvements of the Agile project type. I believe that there is so much more to be said and done around Agile, especially around making it truly iterative in all phases, not just Analysis, Design and Development, but I believe I’ll have to wait a future version.

And to be a bit snarky here, what’s unfortunately not new is that the application, after it installs, can be found in Start Menu still under it’s old name: Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step 2010 Smile

Conclusion

All in all, this is a great release of Sure Step, and it’s obvious that the team had done a tremendous job. I’m glad that the focus is on products, verticalization and templates, which is precisely where it should be as long as methodology is most important here. There are things to be improved and changed, but having followed Sure Step closely since the first day, I believe Sure Step is really navigating into success Smile

I am particularly excited about the better alignment with PMBOK, as it reassures me that Sure Step team doesn’t spend too much time inventing wheels, but looking how to use those already proven and available.

I am still slightly sad to see that NAV, a powerhorse and biggest driver of Dynamics ERP, is underrepresented in Sure Step. It generates more business, sells better and easier, but is still behind AX in importance in Sure Step, and I hope future versions of Sure Step will do more justice to it.


Read this post at its original location at http://navigateintosuccess.com/blog/microsoft-releases-sure-step-2012, or visit the original blog at http://NavigateIntoSuccess.com. )