3 min read

The Lowdown on Microsoft Dynamics 365 Licensing

Dynamics 365 licensing has been our hot topic this past month.

We had so many questions about it that we prepared a webinar and a guide that would help businesses get their heads around it.

The first impression was that it was going to be a real change for the businesses already using Dynamics CRM Online.  Increasing the scope of the platform and the way that access is granted was always going to be something for existing customers to get their heads around but it’s been quite straightforward.

So we said goodbye to basic and professional (except for customers who had to wait for their renewal dates) and we welcomed Team Member Licensing, Application based licensing and Plans.

The changes have essentially made enterprise grade technology available to SMBs who previously relied on off –the-shelf CRM or ERP systems. The joined up approach we are now seeing from Dynamics 365 is reducing the need for expensive customisations that only Enterprise firms could meet the costs of in the past.

Now that Dynamics 365 is within reach of every size of business, businesses that were previously getting by with CRM and accounting software can look at the tech the big boys are playing with.  The new features such as advanced analytics, the use of AI for customer insights and the integrations of the sales and financial components means that improvements are visible from day one.

It’s seriously tempting to rush out and get Dynamics 365 and get it going right away and no Microsoft Partner is going to turn you away. However, two notes of caution. Firstly, no platform in the world is going to give you what you need if you haven’t decided what those needs are in the first place. A good Microsoft Partner will work with you to establish corporate objectives, to understand your current processes and see how best to implement Dynamics 365 to meet those goals. It can be a detailed process but it doesn’t have to be long winded. Don’t let any previous experience of Off-the-Shelf be your guide. Trust your partner.

Secondly, remember your people.  End users need to adapt to new processes and standards. Dynamics 365 will undoubtedly make your business more efficient and productive but your employees are human so it’s essential that you consult with them.

 

Dynamics 365 Licensing Explained

 

A quick recap of the license types and prices as of Jan 2017:

  • Team Member – aka light users. These are for the employees that don’t need access beyond visibility and minor edits.
  • Apps – role based licenses. So, a sales employee may need the sales app, a customer service employee; the customer service app, a project manager; the project app. You get the drift. All of the apps have their own fixed price and that doesn’t change based on volume.

The big gain so far is that you’re only paying for the access and individual needs rather than access to the whole system when they will only interact with a few screens.

Simple so far.

Interestingly, when you get to one employee needing more than one app, it’s cheaper to move to a plan – a sign of Microsoft’s intention for volume.

So, e.g. a Client Services Director who needs access to the Customer Service App and the Field Service App should be on Plan 1.  He may still want to have visibility of the Sales app to see what is coming in but he could have team member licensing on that.

Plan 2 brings in what were the ERP features in the old Dynamics language so that would have been the AX for Operations and Financials.

 

SO, where does that leave you? We’re always happy to talk you through your options over the phone or email.  Just get in touch.

 

 

 

 

 

4 min read

Why Dynamics 365 Changes The CRM Conversation

When we started to introduce our existing customers to Dynamics 365, the big question was ‘what’s so new?’

And here’s what we outlined.

 

Firstly, let’s look at the market Dynamics 365 has launched into.

  1. 52% of organizations now have confidence that cloud apps are as secure as on premise-based apps.
  2. The decision making for technology budget allocation is shifting from IT to Line of Business.
  3. Productivity is universally recognized as the key business driver for scale and technology is universally seen as the way to achieve it.
  4. Business approaches are evolving for the technological age. In every department, businesses are looking for ways to improve productivity, to increase customer service, to evolve product, to understand action and result.

 

Now, let’s consider what CRM has been doing really well.

First, let’s start by clarifying that all CRM systems are not created equally and finding the right one for you takes research but in the main, businesses using a CRM system are already benefiting from the five most compelling benefits (if they have had it scoped and customized properly).

Improved Customer Experience is the main reason most businesses invest in CRM. Customers and prospects are more easily and accurately segmented, their needs identified, and because the status of a company’s relationship with them is accurately tracked, companies can interact with them meaningfully at the right times, leading to more sales, faster sales and higher customer retention and satisfaction.

When customer relationships are being more carefully managed with the right tools to support staff, accountability is clearer. Employees across each department understand their responsibilities to customers throughout the customer lifecycle and when those responsibilities aren’t met, it’s easy to identify what went wrong, where, who fell short and how to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

A good CRM system, implemented and adopted well by employees naturally raises the value of data. By housing the data in one central system, data analysis and insight inform decisions about process, product and strategic planning. It’s also possible with marketing automation tools and third party apps to run email campaigns and other customer communications directly from the system. Of course, the only reason that can happen is because the data is current and correct, containing the most up to date information about a person’s interaction with your business. That can only happen because it allows your employees to work more efficiently with less duplication and miscommunication.

 

And not so well..

It all sounds somewhat adequate doesn’t it? Well, it once was. But let’s be honest. The benefits are mainly restricted to the customer service, sales and marketing functions. Sitting away from that, most businesses have a whole raft of other functions, producing products, designing services and ensuring customer deadlines are met. They’re using ERP systems to handle it all and once again, their systems are working for, well, those departments.

So, you have two sides to the business working as hard as they can to produce the best service based on the insight they have but what they don’t have, is a 360 degree view of any one customer. So, a customer service gap remains and their insight is lacking. Productivity is not what it could be and employees are not empowered.

 

Dynamics 365 Changes the Conversation

 With this platform, Microsoft has shown us what the developments in Cloud and Technology have been driving towards. The strategy behind their acquisitions of recent years is clear and they are now in the process of delivering a platform that can do what what CRM has promised since the 80s.

 Let’s be clear. This is no ordinary CRM upgrade. It’s not just a new name.  In fact, the letters CRM have been dropped. Rightly so, because the term Customer Relationship Management doesn’t cover half of what Dynamics 365 will be able to do. It’s a system that glues together the final silos of data and processes of ERP and CRM bringing customer service, sales, marketing, field service, finance and operations together.

Ultimately, it creates one big feedback loop for businesses of every size, starting with what they need and entirely scalable. So business processes essentially start to become insight advantages.

 

The Challenge

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.

So, if you’re not in the conversation yet, now’s the time. If you don’t know where to start, you can download our Step-by-Step Guide to Getting CRM Right or give us a call and we’ll get you started.

2 min read

Can Manufacturing Lead An Industrial Revolution (again)?

The UK manufacturing sector is waiting with bated breath for Brexit terms to be confirmed.

In the meantime, manufacturing firms are buckled in for exchange rate swings and rising costs.

It’s too easy to overlook manufacturing in the UK as we stand here in 2017. The world has seen a real shift towards technology and for years now, we have looked at it to provide the growth our country, and countries all around the world, have looked for. Growth has been in decline for years. The technological era hasn’t really delivered. And when you look back, it’s clear that growth around the world has always come from manufacturing, and always due to a drive for productivity.

So, let’s look to manufacturing again.  We’ve seen attempts to revitalize the sector in recent years with relocation to cheaper markets, single product production on a large scale. It did mean cost efficiencies for a while but there is too much rigidity in the supply chain and as we can see with Brexit and environmental concern, those transit miles make less sense now. Add to that the fact that cheaper markets such as China or Brazil are becoming richer and will not be so cheap to deal with in the future.

There is an opportunity right now for UK manufacturing to lead the way with the next industrial revolution. To make manufacturing great again. How? By bringing together the technological innovation of recent years with the next big manufacturing reinvention.

The time is good. We have 3D printing, which has already dramatically improved the plastics sector and is working through the metal sector now and giving scale customisation at the same cost as mass production. We have advanced manufacturing robots that are already in play in small ways but can so easily be developed to up the game. We have CRM and ERP systems that can provide the automation and insight to take manufacturing firms to the next level of productivity and collaboration.

With what we now have in Microsoft Dynamics 365, it’s clear as day to us that large technological innovation is reentering the manufacturing space. It could boost industrial productivity in untold ways.

Maybe now is the time to relook at our factory locations, our models, and our innovation. Maybe consumer proximity will become the new norm. Factories can be smarter, leaner, more agile and more local.

Is it time for manufacturing to push forward the next wave of productivity and growth and get back into the limelight?

Needless to say, it won’t happen automatically and we will need to stop telling our children that the robots are taking over.

Instead, we need to tell them that technology and manufacturing can take the UK forward with confidence.

Is your business going in the right direction?

 

 

3 min read

What B2B Insurance Brokers need to know about their customers in 2017

2016 was a transformative year for technology in the insurance sector and in 2017, the trends will build pace and move to the next operational level of activity and impact. It needs to so that venture capital and partnership interest doesn’t wane.

The Insurtech boom comes at a time when customers are demanding deeper insight, better service and cheaper costs. When technology can come in and disrupt the traditional insurance business model, business and industry experts are advising that incumbent brokers need to look at what is behind it, and how to meet the challenge head on.

Unsurprisingly, it comes down to technology. New types of products, new segments, new types of providers, new business models, new distribution methods and growing use of emerging tech are all made possible because of it.

So, how does a B2B broker with SME clients continue to defend territory and prevent being cut out of transactions in a disrupted sector?

The principals haven’t changed. The importance of customer centricity is at the heart of everything the sector is seeing. Unless you’re providing the customer with an experience they can’t get anywhere else, why would they engage? It’s the same for us. There are many Microsoft Dynamics partners out there, so we must ensure that the service we provide adds and enhances the product at every step.

Have you prioritised digital transformation?

It’s not enough to have an externally digital face. Is your business set up with digital capability at the centre? The systems you have in place to support your employees and to manage processes could propel or push back your customer centric plans for growth.  There is little point having good lead generation rates from your offline and online marketing presence if you then struggle to meet expectations for response, service and product customisation. A good CRM system will not only manage those leads and conversions, it will vastly improve collaboration, productivity and insight, as well as customer engagement and retention.

What are you doing with your data?

Data use has stepped up a gear. It’s not just about organisation of it anymore, it’s about using that data to drive strategic decisions and embedding real time analytics for maximum insight. CRM systems are moving on at pace to meet the need. Businesses that were operating in silos are increasingly moving to more scalable and integrated solutions that surfaces meaningful data from internal and external transactions.  It’s this insight that allows you to find the point of difference for each of your customers.

What added value are you bringing to customers?

Customer centricity isn’t just about the end product. It’s about the full experience. Why would an SME want to deal with you over another broker? Brokers were traditionally valued for the associated reduction of participation costs but that is one of the areas massively under threat right now.

Risk management expertise still counts. How will you engage your customers more deeply so that they continue to see and benefit from the consultation that you provide? Making sure that every employee who needs to, knows each customer by their sector and areas of interest will enable them to go the extra mile in supportive behaviour, cross sell and meaningful interaction. Your customers should feel ‘known’ and that they can access what they need from you easily and through any channel.

What tools are you using?

 If your business hasn’t yet considered CRM, or if it’s not doing the job for you, now is the time. The technology has changed massively and the current Microsoft Dynamics 365 has changed the game offering increased scalability, modularity and role-based licensing and applications.   In a few years, all businesses will be working this way and now is the time to get on board so that you are running with it when the competition peaks.

6 min read

What Does Digital Transformation Mean Now Anyway?

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Digital transformation.  It’s a catch all term for how digital technologies are changing the lives we lead, and the businesses we operate today.  To be honest, it’s overused. You’ll see it in nearly every article you now read. What’s the problem with that? As a term becomes more and more used, it fails to stop people in their tracks. It fails to engage in meaningful thought. And when the term digital transformation becomes like wallpaper, it does the technologies it seeks to promote a disservice.

So, let’s just stop a minute. Let’s unpack the term digital transformation and let’s find meaning in it again so that you can understand where it will truly help your business to progress.

Most businesses understand the term digital now. Even Cloud is a widely understood term and organisations are embracing the systems and processes that sit on them to facilitate productivity, efficiency, collaboration and relationship building.  For most organisations, it’s an acceptance that their customers also expect digital progression and the improved service levels that come with them. So for most, it’s about starting there. Then there’s the visionary stuff that is fast becoming the mainstream.

 

The Internet of Things (aka IoT) is about Cloud-based machine-to-machine communication made possible by networks of data gathering sensors. It generates data that instigates an action designed to improve efficiency. It works best when there is infrastructure in place to analyse it all.  It’s pretty limitless and is growing into new areas every day. At a domestic and immediately understood level, it could be your smart energy meter that allows you to control your energy use remotely or an alarm clock that tells your coffee machine to get going with that first cup of the day. At a city level, it could be smart roads and amenities. At a business level, it’s about the same drive for efficiency, productivity and turnover.

 

In manufacturing, new equipment tends to come with IoT sensors pre installed but the industry is also adept at retro fitting to existing equipment. BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, expects the installed base of manufacturing IoT devices to grow from 237 million in 2015 to 923 million in 2020. By then, manufacturers will spend approximately $267 billion on the IoT. Manufacturers are currently using IoT solutions to track assets in their factories, consolidate their control rooms, and increase their analytics functionality through predictive maintenance. Many IoT solutions are still basic, but we expect manufacturers to eventually implement more complex technologies, such as autonomous robots and augmented reality (AR) tools. Indeed, it’s innovations like this that usual cause growth for a country’s economy as it takes us into a new industrial age.

Insurers using IoT technologies will be able to cut costs, improve business practices and better assess clients’ risk levels. Usage based insurance (UBI) is already in play with IoT devices that track customer activity and offer discounts or rewards for desired behavior.

 

Artificial intelligence has just enjoyed its 60th birthday and it shows no signs of letting up. Digital Visionary, Kevin Kelly (you can find him on TED Talks) puts it like this. We already have AI. It’s everywhere. It’s used to fly planes, to make recommendations on Netflix or Amazon, to diagnose x rays, to go through legal evidence and even to serve you search results.  With the Industrial Revolution, we got artificial power. With AI, we are plugging in smartness and giving that power cognition. As humans, our intelligence is too dynamic. We have a symphony of over 100 different types of intelligence in our brain that forms different orchestras on a minute-by-minute basis. Sometimes, one player in that orchestra gets too noisy for the situation. With AI, you can have just the intelligence you need. So, your machinery, your programmes, your smart car can get on with the job without any distraction.  Here’s an interesting though of his. It’s not about the AI taking over. AI and human intelligence have to work together. It’s not about AI taking over. It can’t. Its profundity is found in its single mindedness. We need to continue to deliver the lateral thinking.  So, yes manufacturing may be reticent to let AI in, but the manufacturers that will excel are those that make it work FOR them, not instead of them.

 

Businesses are generating a huge amount of Big Data on a day-to-day basis. Big data is when you have enough of it that you can analyse it for insights leading to better decision-making and strategic changes. Most businesses have the data yet many don’t have the means to analyse it. Retailers who are confidently using CRM to generate vouchers and communication based on a customer’s buying habits are ahead of the game. The insurance sector is catching up fast with the ability to recalculate entire risk portfolios in minutes and detecting fraudulent behavior before it hits.  Manufacturing can identify root causes of issues and defects in near real time limiting damage.

 

Imagine a business call where you can call up remote members of the team or your clients, and engage with them in augmented reality. Unbelievably more natural, definitely more collaborative and surely something we will all want to be doing in the future. The same 3d experience that brings proper collaboration to businesses raises the game for training, for repair instructions, for showcasing products, for tourism, for interior design, for office environments. It really is limitless and whilst the glasses are currently clumpy and conspicuous, just give it time. The dominant form of this hasn’t emerged yet and whilst I find it very exciting, I suspect the mainstream won’t be ready for this for quite some time.

 

Drones remain a thing and you’ll probably have seen Amazon’s efforts to implement them.  I suspect the US will lead the way given the passing of FAA rules that make it easier for commercial interests to take to the skies.  I think there’s huge potential for manufacturing firms and the insurance sector to use drones although in completely different ways. Watch this space!

 

What will your business’ digital transformation look like in 2017?

Here’s what I suggest.

  1. Start with your strategy. Always. Never jump to technology because it excites you. Know that it meets a corporate objective first.
  2. Get an outside view of your systems, processes and corporate objectives. Chances are that you will be starting with the basics by making sure your CRM is doing what it needs to do, that your processes are intelligent and that your data is being put to good use.
  3. If you are looking at new systems, look at the bigger picture of integration of where you are now and where you plan to go. Scalability is crucial.