4 min read

April Release Notes

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As we edge closer to the beginning of the new financial year, it signals the latest bi-annual update from Microsoft on the April 2019 release features for Dynamics 365 and Power Platform.

The 396-page document details new and improved features across Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, Portal, Field Service, Project Service Automation, Finance and Operations, Microsoft’s continual investment in developing the AI capabilities within the platform and perfecting the user experience that it ultimately delivers.

The first thing to note is the introduction of the new Dynamics 365 AI for Customer Service platform. The new release joins an already established suite of artificial intelligence applications designed to streamline process efficiency and provide a solid foundation to build the perfect experience strategy. Additionally, AI for Sales is being expanded to feature new predictive forecasting and a wider variety of call intelligence capabilities.

AI for Market Insights updates and correlates search data with analytics and data mined from social media integration. The new AI for Customer Insights key offering provides a very on-brand “single-view” dashboard for statistical data and shared analytics across both human and virtual interaction agents.

The technical advancements being introduced to further enhance the powerhouse that is the Dynamics 365 for Sales module comes with a real focus on collaboration, particularly in integrating with the Microsoft Teams platform. An enhanced focus on integrating LinkedIn data and technology, allows sales reps or relationship managers to view profile information with no additional configuration and subscription required. One of the most important features being a new alert/update functionality which will allow sales and relationship managers to keep up to date on any role/company change to their key contacts within the opportunities section.

New live chat and SMS options will be available as additional support channels for direct engagement and management throughout each stage of the customer journey on Dynamics 365. This is further bolstered by a crisp new Unified Interface, that allows multi session capabilities and slick switching between sessions, screen notifications, knowledge articles, preconfigured quick replies and transfer conversation that improve the flow of the experience on the customers end.

Microsoft have continued their development of the Dynamics 365 for Marketing platform with a host of further enhancements to better combine the tools available with the power of Microsoft technology. One of the key investments from the April release is the development of actionable intelligence which allows for better delivery, building of optimised target segments and supports the effective communication strategy. The solution will continue to be integrated and extended to deliver projects more efficiently and support vertical scenarios. New APIs will better enable journeys to be linked with internal business processes and create target segments programmatically. The configurable Relationship Assistant will be a huge boost to both sales and marketing functions in determining and evaluating how best to progress with a communication strategy.

With the update comes new Power Platform capabilities which combine Microsoft Flow, Power BI and Common Data Service for apps into a true world-leading suite of tools which allow an easy and powerful collaborative integration into Dynamics 365 and Office 365. There is also a huge emphasis on improvements to the usability for data and business analysts, empowering them to build higher-quality reports, apps and workflows more easily whilst still supporting the advanced demands of enterprise and administrator requirements.

Choosing the right Dynamics Partner

Choosing the right Microsoft Dynamics partner for your customer experience project is an essential part of success. It’s vital that you select a partner experienced within your sector, who understand the nuances and challenges of your business and who has references and success models within your industry. From pre-sales scoping and needs analysis to, project and process mapping and build… all the way through to implementation and beyond, a strong partner is the primary key to success.

Redspire have particularly strong capabilities in Financial Services, FMCG, Government and Third Sector and have worked on the biggest operational challenges facing these industries today. From Small Business Banking improvements at CYBG, client and stakeholder engagement at Money Advice Service and operations and field service at Golden Charter, our expertise in Dynamics 365 and the wider Microsoft ecosystem help our clients achieve operational excellence and project delivery that improves bottom lines.

Read more about Microsoft Dynamics 365 now, or watch our ‘Why Dynamics 365’ webinar to find out more.

3 min read

Switch on Dynamics 365 V10 in 7 easy steps!

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For Microsoft Dynamics Partners and clients who are keen to access the newest Dynamics V10 upgrade features but are unable to find out how to “switch it on,” help is at hand with our 7-step guide.

Below, Redspire’s Technical Director Rick Lyle will demonstrate how to find the switch and apply it to one of your sandboxes. Always test out your upgrades in a sandbox and not your production instance!

Step 1

First of all, go to the new Power Platform Admin Centre. This area is still in preview but that’s where the switch is.

To get there you can either:

  • Navigate to the Dynamics 365 Admin Centre (https://port.crm11.dynamics.com/G/Instances/InstancePicker.aspx, the “11” part is our instances in the UK, if your instance isn’t housed in the UK substitute, using your corresponding country code) and from there click on the banner that says: “There’s a better way to manage your instances. Try the new Admin center” and it’ll take you to the new centre

OR

Either way will take you to the interface below:

Step 2

Once you’ve navigated your way to the Power Platform Admin Centre, click on Environments (this is the new label for what we in the Dynamics world usually call Instances however this doesn’t become clear until you get to the relevant screen. Once you do that you’ll see the list of your Dynamics Instances as below:

Step 3

It’s easy to get a little bit lost at this stage, as it’s not the most intuitive journey.

DO NOT go to…>settings! IF you do, you’ll find lots of options that feel like they could be the right thing but end up taking you down the wrong route. Instead, click on the name of the instance that you want to upgrade to V10. It’ll take you to the screen below:

Step 4

In the Updates section, click on Manage and you’ll get the screen below:

Step 5

Make REALLY, REALLY sure you’ve selected the right instances. Be especially sure that it’s definitely not your production instance because as the warning states, this is a one-way process. Then hold your breath and click Activate Now.

Step 6

If you accidentally selected your production instance, because you didn’t heed my warning above or Microsoft’s warning next to the activate button, then there’s one last chance to save yourself!

When trying to upgrade a production instance to V10, you’ll get the popup below where you have to type in the instance name to switch. Hats off to Microsoft, they are going above and beyond to make sure no one does this accidentally and causes themselves issues.

Step 7

Still holding your breath? Don’t worry, this only takes a few seconds. As we’re now in the land of continual deployment for Dynamics, this isn’t so much an install process as a switch on process. Microsoft have already installed more or less everything in the background.

After a few seconds that’s you switched on and ready for all the great Dynamics 365 V10 goodies!

As you might have guessed, I’ve been going through this process in a trial as I’ve been documenting it. My next steps are to start exploring the new features on V10 and reporting back to you all. I’ll keep you updated with my favourite features and any issues to watch out for over the next few weeks. If you’d like them straight to your inbox, sign up for email updates from myself and the team, or follow me on LinkedIn.

Cheers,

Rick Lyle

Redspire Technical Director

5 min read

Heal your business pain with Dynamics QuickStart CRM

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When it comes to business pain, at Redspire we’ve seen it all. And help our clients UK-wide solve theirs, via our Dynamics QuickStart CRM package or phased CRM implementation.

As one of the UK’s leading CRM consultancies, we are experts in resolving the digital and data pain points that all businesses face.

Our client base share similar internal challenges, but we understand that the internal approach to resolving them may vary from business to business. Time constraints, changeable budgets and operational capacity all impact the ability to undertake a CRM implementation project, even when it’s badly needed.

That doesn’t change the fact that we are living through the 4th Industrial Revolution. Consumer expectations are at their highest, radically transforming the way businesses interact when they sell, promote and provide service. In this digital age, personalisation and customer connectivity are a fundamental business priority. And the only way to achieve them is with a fit for purpose CRM system that will unify data, streamline processes and improve productivity.

Introducing Dynamics QuickStart CRM…

Dynamics QuickStart CRM is a fixed scope, fast implementation of Microsoft Dynamics 365, built to fit your business need, type and budget. Implement a new CRM, upgrade a current CRM or entirely replace your existing system fast, for maximum impact and little business disruption.

Perfect for busy businesses who want quick improvements and results, and suitable for all organisations of all shapes and sizes – from Banking and Financial Services to Manufacturing, Government and the Public Sector – QuickStart CRM from Redspire is a quick and simple CRM solution that delivers immediate results.

If you’ve heard your c-suite leaders and department heads make any of the following statements, your business will benefit from Dynamics QuickStart CRM…

PAIN POINT 1: “There’s no single version of the truth!”

Also known as the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.

It’s surprising just how many large multi-national businesses are operating with outdated data silos and no single view of their customer across various departments. Which begs the question, how can you understand your customer, predict sales propensity and provide great service, if you can’t view their interactions with your business holistically?

If your customer, sales and service data sit on multiple databases and spreadsheets, you’re undoubtedly only skimming the surface of your sales capabilities. Whilst delivering poor service to your client base. Yet you can optimise operations fast with Dynamics QuickStart CRM. Your teams and your bottom line will benefit from a single customer view that accelerates sales, personalises service and increases customer engagement.

PAIN POINT 2: “What are the salespeople doing?!”

Also known as the boss is getting twitchy because there’s no visibility of what the moneymakers are up to.

Digitally optimised workplaces and effective data and pipeline management have been proven to make teams much more productive. Yet workforces often resist the serious benefits of a transparent CRM system for fear of big brother watching, measuring their performance and finding it lacking.

With a collaborative, visible pipeline, the improvements to the workforce, customer and management are immeasurable. Put your hands on real time reports with ease, review an up-to-the-minute pipeline status and automate business reports at the click of a button with Dynamics QuickStart CRM

PAIN POINT 3 : “Excellent – sales are up…but where are they coming from?”

Also know as winging the sales process rather than using an evidence-based approach

If you aren’t tracking customer buying patterns, sourcing lead traffic and attributing your sales to marketing touchpoints, how can you understand your sweet spot? If you don’t track the customer journey and how you win or lose, you’re undoubtedly leaving money on the table. Which makes your salespeople’s lives harder and returns poor ROI from your marketing spend. Integrate Dynamics QuickStart CRM with your existing systems to see the bigger picture and find your strengths and weaknesses. And then watch your sales grow.

PAIN POINT 4: “I’m sick of the ‘them and us’ – they’re supposed to be part of the same team!”

Also known as sales and marketing blaming each instead of working towards shared goals

Despite being part of the same organisational family, with shared business goals, Sales and Marketing teams are notorious for being the warring siblings of the business world. How often are you hearing ‘what are marketing doing, there’s no leads coming through, and when they are, they’re awful!’ Or marketing complaining about lack of sourcing and poor conversions from the sales teams?

The issue is typically lack of visibility, reporting and communication. A CRM that works for all departments, tracking campaigns, leads and opportunities will encourage a positive workforce, working together with shared vision, and MI that fosters a collaborative, data-driven approach

PAIN POINT 5: “Where’s the paper trail for this complaint?!”

Also known as lack of customer information management

We’ve all endured the customer frustration of a poorly handled complaint. It’s often just as challenging for agents trying to manage customer services issues if their organisation isn’t managing data properly. Customers need to repeat themselves each time they call or email, and your employee is on the back foot from the outset, not knowing what decisions have been made previously. With QuickStart you can automate and aggregate customer service information, so that your people always have what they need to hand, when they need it.

PAIN POINT 6: “Reporting shouldn’t be this hard. Can’t we automate it?”

The simple answer is yes. And you should be! Free up your key people’s time from hand preparing reports and get them back to their day job. With QuickStart, you’ll access management information, sales, marketing and customer satisfaction reports as and when you need them, even when you’re on the go.

Ready to find out more about QuickStart CRM?

At Redspire, we specialise exclusively in Dynamics 365, helping clients across different industries – from Government to Financial Services – transform digitally. Working with world-class tools from the Microsoft universe, Dynamics integrates seamlessly with existing operations to unify whole businesses into a single, intelligent system. Get quick installation, rapid delivery and faster return on investment with Microsoft Dynamics QuickStart CRM. Read more today or get in touch for a no-obligation chat with our consultants now.

3 min read

Microsoft Inspire Keynote 2018: Emerging themes from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s speech

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In his keynote speech at the global Microsoft Inspire conference in Las Vegas, CEO Satya Nadella talked about how technology and connectivity continue to improve human relationships, whilst reinforcing that ethics and user privacy continue to be the most important consideration, as we accelerate though the 4th industrial revolution.

This year’s Microsoft Inspire has been one of the most exciting and rousing yet, with a focus on increased innovation, growth and differentiation. If last year’s key takeaway was Microsoft’s commitment to transforming their partner relationships, this year is about accelerating partner support for the greater collective good. Microsoft’s overarching business vision of “empowering every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more” will ultimately be driven by the Microsoft Partner eco-system.

Our Senior team attended the conference, and have summarised their top takeaways:

The Microsoft partner eco-system is bigger and more impactful than ever before…

…and jam-packed with opportunity. Over 17 million people are employed in the Microsoft and Microsoft partner ecosystem with total business projected at a phenomenal $4.5 trillion. Together we are in a unique position to unleash the power of real partnership for digital and technological success. Not just for business, but for customers, innovators and end users too.

Ethics and personal privacy is a fundamental human right.

Advances in technology and integrated Artificial intelligence (AI) are creating some of the most exciting changes in the world today, but Nadella has warned that they must not come at the expense of personal privacy and human relationships.

He said: “We have to have a set of principles that guide the development of AI and always do our very best work when it comes to privacy. As technology becomes pervasive in our lives, we must approach everything with the fundamental assumption that privacy is a human right.”

The importance of adding value not just creating brand values

Nadella’s message to students looking for a career at Microsoft?

“If you want to be cool, go somewhere else. At Microsoft, our job is making other people look cool.”

Sharing incredible stories of business transformation via the partner eco-system, the message and focus for the future is on driving positive, global impact through cutting edge technology and industry-specific solutions like Microsoft Dynamics 365.

People and connectivity is being re-imagined, now.

The future of digital is people and human centric, made possible with by ever-increasing advances in Microsoft’s Azure Sphere secure technology. Internet connectivity is becoming a two-way street, creating a holistic user experience that decouples us from the chains of the tech, whilst improving seamless machine integration in our day to day lives.

Nadella said: “We are going to infuse everything with AI. It’s going to have perception capability, language capability and autonomy that’s going to be built into the applications going forward.”

Over the next few years, more and more consumer gadgets and appliances will connect to the Internet and each other, with the capabilities to talk to us, listen, predict behaviour and act on our behalf. The tech we use will become seamless, multi-device and multi-sensory.

As organisations globally hurtle through accelerated digital transformation, driven by cloud and artificial intelligence, mixed reality and the Internet of Things, these tools and technologies are re-imagining consumerism, business and society for the greater good.

And yet consciously, we may never even be aware that we’ve interacted with a computer…

Ready to find out more about how Microsoft’s up-to-the-minute technology can improve your business operations, sales and service? Contact us today for an informal chat…

1 min read

Accelerating Digital Event: An Interactive Forum for Public Sector Leaders

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The need for public sector organisations to transform digitally is now widely accepted. Senior Executives seeing the value and embracing change and digital innovation that will positively shape their future of the organisations they lead.

With the focus shifting from the WHY to the HOW of transformation, Redspire and our partners invite you to the Accelerating Digital Interactive Forum for Public Sector Leaders, which will present scenarios covering the public sector workplace of the future.

Microsoft Gold Partners Redspire, Bridgeall, and Exactive, invite public sector leaders to share how the Microsoft toolset – including 365 – has helped them drive change in their organisations.

Using live interactive audience polling and open group discussion, forum participants will be able to:

  • Share their hopes, aspirations for and experiences of driving digital change.
  • Evaluate the digital transformations progress currently being made, benchmarked against accepted best practice.
  • Assess the main drivers, barriers and obstacles to change.
  • Review how these can be overcome, providing highly practical advice to achieve success.

The forum findings will be developed into a short White Paper: “The State of Public Sector Transformation, 2018” and made available to all participants after the event.

Please join us in this interactive and highly valuable event and add your voice and experiences to the debate on accelerating digital in the public and third sectors.

You can find more information about the event and register to attend, free of charge, here.

The Redspire team, and our valued partners look forward to seeing you there.

 

 

3 min read

Customer Experience: May the battle commence

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How would your customers rate the customer experience you give them? Would they call you customer-centric?

The various departments of your organisation may all be delivering exceptional customer service but if it doesn’t all hang together into a solid journey from start to finish, then you are probably losing opportunities and loyalty.

Customer experience is a big topic.  Where customer service is about a one-time interaction, customer experience is about the coming together of all touchpoints with consistency across channels. The aim is that each customer feels like you know and understand them and that you know what you are doing, that all the moving parts of your business work together effortlessly to produce the products and services that you are guaranteeing. One weak link such as incorrect records, repeated conversations, chasing for information or poor delivery standards after a promising start casts doubt over the whole operation.

It’s predicted that 2020 will see customer experience overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. That’s a good thing for businesses striving to provide the best quality of product and service in their category but without the operational set up to make the customer journey work, it could be the end for many.

 

What does a good experience look like?

The goal is that intangible factor- likeability. If you imagine you were looking at two identical proposals from two different companies whom you believe to offer very similar products and who want your business. Which one do you give the business to? Yep, the one you just feel more drawn to, who seems more able, who is ‘on it’, who you don’t have to teach to suck eggs, who you feel can relate and understand you and your needs.

 

Here are just a few of the most important factors.

Consistent Customer Insight – With insight from across the business, you can personalise experiences, tailor communications, cross-sell, up-sell then use all that knowledge of what works to create other opportunities. Single Customer View and Voice of the Customer are just two of the tools that let you collate and access this level of knowledge in Microsoft Dynamics 365.

Omnichannel Engagement – It seems obvious but a customer should be able to interact with you over a multitude of channels and still get a consistent experience. So, if a customer has engaged with you on one channel, they then expect you to know that when they then contact you through another channel. Likewise, they expect you to know the detail of that interaction and to be able to pick up where they left off with no repetition. 52% of consumers say that they are less likely to engage with a company if the mobile experience is a let-down.

Responsive customer experience – Every interaction should help to inform the next and not only that, it should help to improve the customer journey for every customer that comes after.

 

So, what now?

Businesses are investing.  According to a Gartner survey, more than 50% will redirect investment into customer experience technologies next year with the first focus on the ways that they collect and analyse customer feedback.

Do you know how your organisation will respond to the new customer experience battlefield?  In our next blog, we’ll give you the lowdown on how Microsoft Dynamics 365 is making it easier for you to bring your organisation into alignment with your customer experience goals.

And if you’re currently looking at CRM, you might find our webinar ‘What CRM solutions are available?’ helpful where we’ll explore the many options open to you!

4 min read

Dynamics 365 for Talent…We’re Impressed

Have you discovered Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 for Talent app yet?

We’ve been having a look around it, ready to discuss with a keen client and we’re already quite impressed by its first release. It has more features than we expected at this stage with more being released weekly. It was immediately clear how different job roles could use the app to improve so many processes, recruitment and HR processes to everyone’s benefit. The digital transformation benefits are instant.

The big themes are talent recruitment, onboarding and development.

 

Talent Recruitment

  • Integrates with LinkedIn to find and source top candidates
  • See who has already interacted with you on LinkedIn
  • Automatic interview scheduling (coordinate calendars, automate scheduling process, communicate to candidates on expectations)
  • Allow interviewers to easily provide feedback from mobile or desktop
  • Keeping hiring managers in the loop at every stage

As it currently stands, lots of us (businesses and recruitment agencies alike) are using LinkedIn to find candidates and to encourage them to apply for a position. It takes a lot of to and fro and if you are a business using a recruitment consultant, it’s easy to fall out the loop of what stage things are at.

Add to that the other sources of applicants and the ongoing admin that comes with selection, interviewing, feedback and offers; it can all get very confusing.

 

Interview Scheduling

With Dynamics 365 for Talent, everything happens in the app where you can directly find out about applicants, click into their LinkedIn profile to see more about them, find out more about their application, look at their cv, their connections and identify the strongest candidates. From there, you can invite for interview. On invitation, the candidate can log into Dynamics 365 and select the best date. The interview team can then be invited and because of the integration with Office 365, you can check the team’s availability really easily without switching between lots of screens. Once you find a suitable date for everyone you go ahead and push the invitation in the same way and receive responses back into Dynamics. Then you can provide the candidate with more information about the interview.

 

Assessing Candidates

It’s tricky getting everyone into a room to discuss a candidate’s suitability following an interview. If you don’t gather there and then, it can be difficult to remember the specifics of the interview and insight can be lost between decision makers with disparate emails, texts and phone calls. So Dynamics 365 allows your interviewers to add their thoughts into the same location on the app, making for a fuller discussion with context for quick reference. Once you know you have the right candidate, you can offer them the job from the app allowing you to keep track of what stage the offer is at. And if this candidate isn’t the right one? Keep them on file. There may be another role for them and you’ll already have intelligence without that awkward ‘do you remember that person we saw back in March last year?’

 

Onboarding

Once your candidate has accepted the position, you can help them become a happy and effective member of the team quickly with colleague introductions and personalised pre-boarding/on-boarding plans that allow you to share critical resources and information with task lists. Not only does it save the to and fro of email between individuals, it’s a fantastic way to monitor the success of onboarding and to link the new individual into other members of the team. You can stage the onboarding with what can be accessed pre-contract v contract sign off.

 

Staff and Team Development

One of the biggest benefits at an individual level is the employee self service for professional development. Rather than waiting for those one-to-one’s or annual appraisals, employees can have a daily conversation with HR or their line managers over the areas that they would like further training or support on. With every employee on Dynamics 365 for Talent, they can see a personalised career trajectory (improving employee engagement and satisfaction) and you can see where you are building competencies to meet future demand. It’s also a great spot to allocate talent to suitable projects.

At a day-to-day operational level, this app makes managing leave, absence, health and safety, staff benefits, compensation and employee analytics really straightforward.

This is about individual profiles built from Dynamics 365, LinkedIn and Office 365 that helps you find, retain, manage and develop talent from the beginning. It’s easily understandable and by bringing so many HR functions into one simple solution, businesses can actually spend more time making decisions and less time chasing the admin.

So far it’s a thumbs up.

Would you like to know more about how Redspire deliver Dynamics 365?

Find out more about us and our services here.

2 min read

One (Yes One) Top Tip for Marketing High Value Products

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Once upon a time, in a land pre-digital, B2B data was a longed for resource.

Fast-forward to 2017 – data and technologies to handle it abound. So, why are senior marketing leaders still dissatisfied?

 

Problem No.1

A new study commissioned by the Martech Industry Council has highlighted that 25% of businesses are using over 20 tools to handle, process and use the data available to them.  No wonder they’re frustrated! That alone is a huge waste of precious time and the silos enormously restrict the ROI.

Problem No.2

How many marketers want to spend hours of their working week managing databases? According to the research, only 11%. So, at best, you could find your business data relegated to the ‘chores’ list.

Problem No.3

60% of marketing leaders are asking for a more accurate understanding of the buyer persona and person most likely to buy. It’s worrying that 60% don’t feel they have that currently. But it’s not surprising.  Data sitting in separate systems doesn’t tell you enough. It’s only once data is brought together into an integrated platform that it can tell you a full story about your buyers.

Problem No.4

75% of those surveyed said they’d like more time to develop and launch new campaigns. Tying in with problem no. 3 above, this suggests that marketers have to make assumptions about their buyer personas in order to get campaigns out within a time-frame. And as we all know, assumptions can be costly.

 

Here’s the solution:

In one word, integration. To be able to get truly actionable insights from data, it needs to be part of an ongoing loop that does the work for you.  For high-value products, the sale is dependent on a good journey from lead to conversion and then retention. Actionable insight from data helps marketers to identify what works at what stage but it only becomes actionable when it takes customer behaviour from other departments into account.

High-value product or service marketers know that good quality leads are their primary goal. To get those leads, you need to know what leads have previously converted and what the characteristics are of the ones that went on to become the most profitable for your business.

Since it launched in late 2016, Dynamics 365 has been described as a game changer for operational efficiency and customer experience. For the first time, the full workflow is on one system so that every interaction is informed, and every sale is creating data and insight to fuel the next wave of marketing.

Find out more information by watching on our High Value Marketing Webinar .

1 min read

The Microsoft Tools for Digitally Optimised Customer Service

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Please click on the image below or click HERE to view a high-res PDF version.

The Microsoft Tools for Digitally Optimised Customer Service