Are the tools you currently use to manage your business letting you down

The saw is not the problem……


This includes organisations – of all sizes – that have implemented Dynamics 365 CE. The reasons for this come down to human errors – errors in the implementation project – not issues with the technology itself – including:
• Scoping
• Data Migration
• Training
Scoping

Scoping in many projects is either inadequate or completely absent. Scoping is not just a quick conversation with a few users to ask them what they want. Thorough scoping should be a workshop where multiple key people come together and establish what is needed moving forward. Scoping needs to include a future look at how processes and reporting can be improved from the current situation taking advantage of the functionality of the selected new technology.

When you scope your project – be it CRM, ERP or any other line of business project, it is essential that the scope considers both data entry and reporting requirements. I see too many D365 projects where the scoping was a reimplementation of current processes – errors inconveniences and all. A successful scoping should use the current processes, and ensure that all data required to serve a customer and for reporting is collected, and nothing else. Additionally each data element should be collected once and entered once. Once entered, the system should make it available where necessary.

Steven Covey famously said “begin with the end in mind”. When applied to a software implementation, this means thinking about how to serve your customers well and your reporting needs at the beginning of the project – as a key part of the scoping. However, we should not divorce the reporting needs from the data entry – both should be considered in tandem.

One mistake that I see frequently is a solution that I call a ‘valley solution’. A valley solution is a solution where Dynamics is used to collect some initial customer data, then Excel or Word or another system is used to create a quote or an order and finally the data is returned to Dynamics for invoicing. In even a simple sale, this entails triple entry of the client details and double entry of the products sold. Commonly, a valley solution also makes reporting difficult, since the linking of the invoices, which represent revenue, to the initial marketing or early stage activity is difficult.

If your solution is to reduce not create those inefficient processes that cause 20+% revenue loss, it is essential to get your scoping correct.

Data Migration

Another common cause of current (or new) tools failing to meet business needs, is because data that has been collected into legacy systems, including spreadsheets, over a (long) period of time, is not migrated into the new solution. This means that users will continue to use their existing systems, as these already hold the data that they trust. This also leads to inaccurate or untrustworthy reports and these reports also make users sceptical of the tools – even if the tools are not to blame.

I am aware of several projects where key decision makers decided that data in existing systems, systems used and trusted by the users, was so error ridden or incomplete that it was not worth migrating into the new system. While the comments about the data being error ridden and incomplete may have been true, it is fair to say that it was more complete than an empty system. In other projects, I have seen data imported lock, stock and barrel into the new system, errors, omissions and all. When this happens the people responsible usually expect that users will sort the data out over time. What actually happens is that users – who are under pressure to do their job, using the data, not to fix it up, especially when they believe, righty or wrongly, that the errors are someone else’s fault, revert to their existing systems.

Rather than just omitting this part of the project, surely a better solution would be to ensure that the users responsible for the data understand its purpose – at a detail level as well as an overall level – and then invest some time in sorting it out. This sorting out may be manual, or may use an agency which is able to compare and enrich your data using their existing data.

We can illustrate this with another story from Steven Covey – Sharpen your saw.
A woodcutter strained to saw down a tree. A young man who was watching asked “What are you doing?”

“Are you blind?” the woodcutter replied. “I’m cutting down this tree.”

The young man was unabashed. “You look exhausted! Take a break. Sharpen your saw.”

The woodcutter explained to the young man that he had been sawing for hours and did not have time to take a break.

The young man pushed back… “If you sharpen the saw, you would cut down the tree much faster.”

The woodcutter said “I don’t have time to sharpen the saw. Don’t you see I’m too busy?”

Certainly, getting the right data into your new solution, in as complete and error free (as possible) way is one factor to reduce the inefficient processes that contribute to the 20+% revenue loss.

Training

Implementing a new line of business solution will only save the 20+% of revenue that it potentially can save if the users are confident to use it and to use it fully. Without close collaboration, users are unlikely to adopt a new system.

Not all training for IT implementation and use is created equal. Training is essential if the necessary change management is to be successful. And, this training should take many forms. In a typical projects, I would advise the following different training:

• Business user training
• Technical Training
• Tester training
• End user training
• Train the Trainer training

Business user training

Business user training is training in the standard functionality, prior to any configuration or customisation so key decision makers and your technical team understand the technology without changes. This understanding means that your scoping is more effective, and your technical team are less likely to go on ‘flights of fancy’ developing functionality that is already available.

Technical Training

Technical training is the material that your technical team should understand so they make use of the technology that you have invested in. In my two decades of helping people with various CRM solutions, I have seen a plethora of poor implementations. These usually come about because a technical person has inadequate knowledge of the solution and so they implement a requirement in an ineffective way. The most foolproof way to avoid this is to ensure that within your technical team there is a solution architect who both understands the selected technology in detail and that the technical implementers have received and understood technical training.

Where an organisation has engaged an implementing partner it is fair to assume that the people on their team have received this training. However, assumptions are dangerous, and as a minimum, I would check that people working on your project really do have the knowledge – this is more than have the certifications. While this is challenging, it is essential if your project is to be a success. A good internal Solution Architect will be able to help with this. Unfortunately, in our industry, corners are cut, and the problem will be left with the implementing organisation.

Tester training

Had I written this article a year or so ago, this training would probably not have been included. However, if your users are to be able to test the solution effectively, they need to know both what was scoped and the basics of how the solution should work. This will be covered in tester training. User acceptance testing should be completed by your users – not external people. It is your users who know how the solution will fit into your business. Tester training needs to be completed before end user training as the end user training cannot be done until the testing is fully signed off.

End user training

End user training is the training that shows end users who use the solution how to do their job better than with the previous systems. As such, end user training cannot be purchased as an off the shelf product – it must be based on your processes and use your data. It also should be tailored to each role within your organisation, and should be timed so that each user has enough time to get their questions answered.

End user training is usually included in any initial project plan, but often gets removed because the project does, or threatens to, go over budget. This is a shame, because of all the training that your successful project requires to save the 20+% of revenue, the end user training is probably the most significant.

End user training should be planned almost as a sub-project within the implementation project. It should be conducted so all users can see the solution that they will be using – which means after the solution is complete and in a way that all users have visibility of the screen used by the presenter.

Recently I was engaged by an organisation who wanted end user training, and at the last minute decided that they were going to use the same session for users in US and users in Sydney. They then allowed anyone who wished to join by phone so they could not see the slides or the demonstrations. To finally kill the usefulness of this training, they then cancelled the time allocated and agreed for questions.

Train the Trainer training

Train the Trainer training is training that shows your power users how to train other users. It is especially effective in organisations with a large user base, or high staff turnover, either of which means that you have new users fairly frequently.

Train the Trainer training is not about your project. It shows the selected people how to train and how to develop training materials.

A mistake that I see too often is that new users are ‘trained’ by an existing user – sitting with Nellie. This is great when the existing user knows the solution well, has good quality training materials, uses communications skills to impart the knowledge and asks questions to ensure that the new user does understand the material. However, this combination is very rare. If you want to ensure that your power users really impart knowledge to your news users, invest in some Train the Trainer training for selected power users.

A conversation between Steven Covey and one of his protegees, also serves to highlight the importance of training for all users. “In an early conversation, when Greg was 21 years old and hungry to write his first book, Steven Covey said “Oh Greg, you are so naïve, you have no idea about life. You don’t even know what you don’t know!” Greg wondered whether this was really the principle-centred leader he had heard so much about! But then Covey continued, “But so were many of the thinkers and leaders before you. They had a mission. So do you. That is enough.”

Conclusion

Scoping, Data Migration, and Training are three key parts of any project and yet they are frequently omitted, sometimes on the advice of an ‘expert’. Unfortunately, our industry has too many experts who are more interested in selling billable hours or licences than in customer success. These experts usually have technical skills in the solution but lack the big picture visualisation skills essential to deliver your – customer – success. Using this sort of person without the backup of the other skills is equivalent to bringing in a builder when you decide that your house is a little too small.

Imagine what you could do with 20% more revenue, with no increase in costs. This is available to you if your CRM solution is well tuned and your users are using it to its full potential.

If we want to improve the reliability of the tools used in our business, we need to look at our people more than the tools themselves.

If you would like a conversation with me to ensure that your scoping, data migration and training, or other aspects of your project are working for you, I would be happy to help. If you have already deployed Microsoft Dynamics 365 CE, and feel that it is letting you down, we have a health check which will give you a scope to move forward with. If you want to start your Microsoft Dynamics 365 CE project with good quality scoping, which details the data migration and training required to deliver success I would be happy to help.


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