There’s something different about the time between Christmas and the return to work in early January.

The office environment is a little quieter, the pace is slower and people are more communicative. Inboxes are dealt with, junk mail deleted, desks tidied, to-do lists revised, outstanding tasks achieved.

Organisation brings calm. Calm brings clarity. Clarity brings vision. Visions are for sharing. That sharing brings collaboration. Collaboration brings effectiveness. Effectiveness brings productivity. It’s a virtuous wheel that often gets punctured because we are being busy fools, working at a frenetic pace to just get things done as quickly as possible. We miss opportunities for smarter thinking.

In a bid to keep the spirit of ‘tween days, you need to address the basics.

Here are our simple, often forgotten, business leader productivity tips that will bring calm and effectiveness into your day and organisation.


  1. Control Your Email

Do you control your email or does it control you? Here’s something worth thinking about. Email represents us. People do judge us based on our email habits. You need to be organised and responsive.  However, the trick is doing that without letting it disrupt your day.

  • Decide when to tackle your emails – twice to three times a day should do it. Once a week, try to clear your inbox, filing what’s important, deleting what is not. It’ll stop the email becoming white noise.
  • Be succinct in your emails, keep to one main point and you’ll get a quicker answer.
  • Confirmation or conversation? If your email will most likely result in a ping pong of emails or if you don’t want something in writing, use the phone instead.
  • Remember that emails are easily misconstrued. Avoid group emails unless it’s simply to distribute information. A group of people will always have differing interpretations and you can quickly lose the point.


  1. Control Your Diary

If you’re anything like our MD, Billy Lyle, you’ll be in demand. Everyone wants a slice of your time but you still have your own tasks to complete and clients to look after.  There are so many tools and apps to help you manage your diary better but ultimately, it comes down to this:

  • You only need one calendar.
  • Use one digital task manager and get rid of all the post-its.
  • Theme your week if you can – client meetings, research, prep, people.


  1. Control Your Knowledge

What information do you need each week to manage the business? When was the last time you felt able to study your area? Just for fifteen minutes? How much time do you spend finding out answers when they’re suddenly urgent? How many times have you felt poorly informed in a client situation? By being on top of your knowledge sources, you’ll identify the ones worth having and the ones to lose.

  • Set proper time aside for your management reports.
  • Build a reading list and habit, whether it’s daily, weekly or fortnightly where you commit time to get on top.
  • Schedule thinking time and objectivity will become a habit making for better decision-making and productivity.


  1. Control Your Meetings

Meetings need to happen; information, status, brainstorm, one-to-one, strategy, board, committee. It’s the most productive way to discuss and collaborate, to make things happen but employees dread time away from their desks.  They often come to the meeting distracted and poorly prepared.  Here’s how to make it more productive for everyone:

  • Have a clear purpose
  • Have an agenda (circulate it in advance!)
  • Have an agreed end time
  • Have a good moderator
  • Have agreed actions

It’s remiss of us not to point out the huge benefits of Microsoft Dynamics 365 in addressing so many of these points (and hundreds more) to improve productivity and profit throughout all sizes of business. But we’ll get back onto that in January!

For now, the team here at Redspire would like to wish you all a productive and prosperous 2017.

Forget Secret Santa, your employees will be more appreciative of working in a business with forward thinking and logical processes that make their jobs easier and the company more profitable.

Your customers need better service, not another hamper. The time for inefficient systems, processes and decision making is gone. Companies cannot stay competitive beyond Brexit and the digital world by holding onto makeshift approaches.

So, should you jump now or wait it out? Here’s what we predict. The companies that are already using CRM or who are about to implement CRM will be the ones to watch. They are already preparing their organisation and their people for the next wave of innovation. As is always the case, what is a game changer now, will become the expected standard rapidly and if you are not on the train you could be left behind as industries across the world continue to transform in the next couple of years.

All CRM or ERP systems promise to improve your business prospects. And they do. However, there is always an adoption period as your staff becomes empowered by it. A business that acts now will be culturally ready to seize the transformative opportunities relevant to their sector of both the technology that is available today and whatever opportunities that it brings tomorrow.

On that note, we’ll wish you a Merry Christmas and look forward to answering more of your questions in the New Year.

Hope Santa is good to you all!

It’s the 23rd December.

So, just today then tomorrow and that’s the Dynamics 365 calendar at an end, which makes us sad because we could go on and on and…well, you get the message. There’s a lot still to say. Meantime, here are the highlights of what we’ve said so far.

  1. The Common Data Model is the hero. Lying at the heart of Dynamics 365, it’s the central database for storing and managing business entities. In the past, CRM and ERP have operated separately. This brings them together and it’s this unification that takes the insight, reporting and productivity to levels that will be hard for your competitors to match.
  1. The Dynamics 365 Business Edition isn’t released yet but we believe financials will sit at the heart of it and it will probably be online only. It’s likely to have a pared back Dynamics CRM and we hear on the grapevine, marketing which will possibly provide something akin to click dimensions. It will likely be cheaper than Salesforce thanks to Microsoft’s size and commitment to make Dynamics 365 available to businesses with less than 250 employees too.
  1. The Dynamics 365 Enterprise Edition has ERP at its heart. It’s better for companies of 250+ employees and is available online and on-premise. It beats Salesforce on cost and capabilities despite being a step up in cost from the previous iterations of Dynamics CRM, Dynamics NAV or Dynamics AX. You access the Project Service, Customer Service, Field Service, Sales and Operations apps on this edition.
  1. Once you decide on the Business or the Enterprise edition, you license based on individual user requirements. You build the licensing picture with a combination of plans and apps. The 5 apps mentioned above will likely be joined by the addition of Marketing in Summer 2017. The plans are how you decide the type of access a user needs based on light or full access.
  1. Team Member Licensing is the means to give light access to users who need to have visibility but not write/edit access. It’s a cost effective way of maintaining appropriate transparency and collaboration in the organization.
  1. Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Sales has the same core functionality as Dynamics CRM Online has had but with you can also see what is going on elsewhere in the business. As with all the apps, it includes Non-Production License, Social Engagement, Mobile Offline, PowerApps for Sales, Knowledge Management, Voice of the Customer and Team Member capabilities.
  1. Dynamics 365 for Customer Service brings greater collaboration to a customer’s interactions with the whole organization so that staff can better serve them. Service is undoubtedly improved and opportunities become more obvious.
  1. Dynamics 365 for Project Service Automation is all about project management and its integration with the rest of the business so that resources can be more easily managed and projects are run more effectively.
  1. Dynamics 365 for Field Service is the tool for engineers, contractors, installers, surveyors et al who are all out on appointments and jobs. New jobs are raised, appointed, resourced and implemented much more efficiently and the single customer view on the database remains entirely up to date throughout.
  1. Dynamics 365 for Marketing. Ah, this is still a little under wraps. We’re excited that Microsoft mentioned it would have Adobe integration at its core. That’s a lot of power. It will drive all your initial awareness work as well as nurturing, conversion, customer relationships and retention.
  1. The Cloud v On-premise debate is slowly moving in favour of cloud. This applies to the functionality of parts of Dynamics 365, as well as the opportunity to benefit from tiered pricing.
  1. The Non-Production License comes with every full user license and lets you test without potentially disrupting your live system.
  1. Microsoft Social Engagement takes the admin out of social channel monitoring. It monitors, alerts, surfaces insight and is searchable too.
  1. The Integrated Self-Service Web Portal ensures your customers can find out what they want to know, when they need to know it. It’s included with every subscription so you can be there for your customers 24/7 without having to staff up.
  1. Voice of the Customer Surveys is your tool for making sure your customers are entirely happy, for showing that it’s important to you that they are, and for better opportunity identification and surfacing.
  1. PowerApps is a useful shortcut to build an app. You’ll still need someone for design and Excel formulas but the tool is strong and helps those people complete their task more quickly.
  1. Microsoft AppSource is a bit like iTunes for Dynamics365, bringing recently built apps, services or modules from other Partners to Dynamics365 users. Sharing knowledge and work already done helps businesses to further develop their Dynamics365 platform cost effectively.
  1. Microsoft Flow (Business Process Flow) links business applications together to make day to day tasks much easier for users. Users can continue to use the tools that they like but still use the Dynamics365 platform and act from within it. It extends out to 72 applications including competitor platforms allowing businesses using other platforms to benefit from the functionality.
  1. Mobile Offline comes with all the apps and does what it says on the tin. If you think of flight mode on a plane, it’s not dissimilar except that the sync between offline and online when connectivity resumes is automatic. You might not even notice it.
  1. PowerBI can read data to root out challenges and opportunities at a very granular level showing, for example, the impact of one decision across a business,
  1. Migration to Dynamics365 has been made as straightforwd and appealing as possible with the product offering, transitional pricing and ensuring Microsoft Partners (like us) are kept informed so that we can apply our skills to the new offerings immediately on release. Thanks to Microsoft’s size, there are discounts and promotions available now that make the migration a no brainer for most
  1. We discussed the importance of mapping out the functionality you need by user. Whether you are an existing CRM user, are just contemplating. Whether you use Dynamics or one of Microsoft’s competitors, now is the time to review so that you don’t get left behind

So, where is this all going to lead in the world of business productivity, CRM and technology? We’ll give you our opinion tomorrow.

Christmas makes you want to be good to yourself but don’t mistake Dynamics 365 as an indulgence.

Microsoft are making it as accessible as possible with transitional license pricing for existing Dynamics CRM customers. To make the most of the discounts and promotions, you need to be talking to your Partner well in advance of your next renewal date to make sure you get the right licenses at the correct pricing.

Microsoft also have a promotion offering a 20% discount on Plans 1 and 2 (up until 30th June 2017) for businesses currently using a more traditional CRM platform such as Salesforce, SAP or Oracle.

Remember that the difference in cost between Dynamics CRM and Dynamics 365 isn’t comparable. Dynamics 365 meets the needs of the changing business world. It’s not just about the execution of CRM anymore, but the need to use every day-to-day task to hone productivity and keep the customer service advantage. Dynamics 365 remains seriously competitive compared to Salesforce, despite it having the functionality and scope to command a higher price, largely because it can leverage other parts of the Microsoft business to deliver.

Whether you are transitioning to Dynamics 365 from Dynamics CRM, or starting afresh, you need to map out the functionality you need by user. That also needs to be informed by your corporate objectives and any other systems you have in place. It’s always worth engaging with a Microsoft Dynamics Partner to help with this stage so that you can find the smartest way to introduce the platform to your organisation.

Have you kept up so far? Tomorrow is a round up blog so don’t worry if the Christmas haze has left you a bit blurry.

Power BI (Business Intelligence) doesn’t necessarily come with all the apps that Dynamics 365 offers but we’re excited about it and it would be remiss not to cover it.

So, this is all about a Cloud based business analytics service that takes your data and turns it into rich visuals. For example, a chart that shows your projected sales of individual products over 3 months. You may know that you have an inventory issue with one of those products that then impacts on the sale of others in your line-up. By altering the prediction on one area of the chart, you’ll immediately see the impact across the other product projections. The Dynamics 365 dashboards are very good and may be enough for some but PowerBI can root out challenges and opportunities at a more granular level for scenario planning. The price tag is fairly low so it’s worth taking.

Each of the following options work across your business processes and apps.

  • Microsoft Power BI Desktop – Uses a free form drag and drop canvas
  • Microsoft Power BI Mobile – Live interactive mobile access to key info from anywhere
  • Microsoft Power BI Gateway – Connects to on-premises data sources meeting individual and organisational needs.

Are you feeling daunted about making what feels like an essential move to Dynamics 365? Tomorrow we’ll talk about migration. If you can’t wait till then, contact us and we’ll have a chat.

Mobile Offline comes with all the apps and does what it says on the tin.

If you think of flight mode on a plane, it’s not dissimilar except that the sync between offline and online when connectivity resumes is automatic. You might not even notice it. You can create, edit and delete records offline and the only limitation is that things may look a little different due to image restrictions in offline mode. If your business has a field service team of any type, mobile offline is a good user experience that improves productivity and customer service.

Next up is Power BI. See you tomorrow.

Business Process Flow links business applications together to make day to day tasks much easier for users.

Users can continue to use the tools that they like but still use the Dynamics365 platform and act from within it. It extends out to 72 applications including competitor platforms allowing businesses using other platforms to benefit from the functionality e.g. Asana, Salesforce, Basecamp, Facebook, Google Drive, Instagram, MailChimp, Trello, Twitter, WordPress to name just a small number. Just like PowerApps, there are hundreds of templates to create connections that might include notifications, data organisation, automated approvals, new save paths, calendar sharing, file copying, translations, tweet content emails et al.

Talking of ease of use, tomorrow we’ll talk to you about Dynamics 365 Outlook.

AppSource is a bit like iTunes for Dynamics365, bringing recently built apps, services or modules from other Partners to Dynamics365 users.

Sharing knowledge and work already done helps businesses to further develop their Dynamics365 platform cost effectively. These are apps that will have been built to solve common problems or to tailor Dynamics365 to a specific sector/vertical. It includes Cloud apps built on Dynamics 365, Office, Cortana Intelligence, PowerBI and the Azure platform plus add-ons, extension and content packages for existing apps. It’s a fantastic way of sharing development experience. You can scan apps by category or industry.

With that insight into what is happening on Dynamics 365 in one easy place, it’s tempting to have your pick but we’d always advise you to ask your Microsoft partner to evaluate the opportunities based on the objectives.

Looking for shortcuts between apps or tools? Learn about Microsoft Flow tomorrow.

PowerApps gives technical users, or partners, a great shortcut to build an app for your business.

It’s pitched at everyone but we think you’d need to be comfortable with how to design an application and be extremely confident with Excel formulas to use it. It’s newly launches so we can expect some refinement but we’re looking forward to using it for a few discreet cases shortly.

Connection to the Common Data Model (or existing systems and data sources) allows you to build apps, forms and workflows without writing code then publish them instantly for web and mobile. It uses visual drag and drop tools enabling users to quickly create new web and mobile connected apps that pull data from multiple sources to extend the capabilities of Dynamics 365 apps and other business applications.

So, where can you find lots of industry relevant apps to extend your Dynamics 365? Learn about AppSource tomorrow.

Customer Surveys are part of every Dynamics 365 license making it easier than ever to keep a track of what your customers think about you.

Because of the integration, customers can automatically be sent a survey at the end of a project, a transaction or for product development research.  The surveys can be customized to your business including design, imagery and translations. They are integrated within the platform giving you the ability to trigger immediate follow up actions. For example, if a customer indicates an interest in one of your products, the system can generate a quote request and assign it to a salesperson. If a customer replies with a complaint, the system can create new service case and route it to the best queue for prompt handling. Results can be surfaced in the analytics so that you can identify patterns, gaps in service and sales opportunities.

The inclusion of surveys in the platform makes it a lot easier to implement processes like Net Promoter Score and negates any requirement for external options such as Survey Monkey.

Tomorrow, we’ll be talking PowerApps.