Redspire partner with Microsoft MVP Neil Parkhurst to boost digital skills talent in Scotland

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Redspire are excited to announce a year long partnership with Microsoft MVP and award-winning Dynamics 365 consultant Neil Parkhurst. Our Gold Partner agency will collaborate with the D365UG Global All-Star on an internal best practice programme that provides bespoke training and development for new recruits, front line project delivery and an open market events and webinar series designed to upskill developers, analysts and architects across the sector.

With over thirty years plus experience in IT, Parkhurst is a highly regarded leader in Dynamics, Unified Service Desk, Field Service and Project Service Automation. Boasting an extensive client roster, a popular YouTube channel and a series of sector awards, his contribution to the Dynamics space extends globally. NeilParkhurst.com – a free resource dedicated to supporting and upskilling students and professionals working towards Dynamics accreditation – has accrued over 1.7 million hits since launch in 2016, achieving double digit growth year on year, and gaining notoriety within the IT sector as one of the most valued digital resources available.

The collaboration will also extend the reach of Redspire’s on-going commitment to The Microsoft Pledge, which they signed in August 2019, a promise to help create a strong digital talent pool entering the sector and prevent skills shortages.

Second phase plans intend to take the Redspire and Parkhurst partnership from the workplace to the classroom, in a bid to help Scotland’s students and businesses prepare for the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and reduce skills gaps in IT graduates entering the workplace.

Redspire’s Services Director Steven Brown says: “Like Neil, Redspire is driven by delivering organisational business change to our clients, alongside building the best IT talent in the sector. Collaborating with Neil in the coming twelve months support our key business goals for the year ahead and will allow us to achieve ambitious growth plans in terms of talent acquisition and project delivery.”

Parkhurst says: “There’s real synergy between Redspire’s commercial goals and mine and I’m pleased to be partnering with them in this year ahead.”

Redspire is a CRM Consultancy, specialising exclusively in Dynamics 365. As a Microsoft Gold Partner, we help UK businesses solve organisational challenges and help our clients achieve long term strategic goals, via bespoke CRM solutions that revolutionise how they do business.

As part of the Microsoft account managed teams, Redspire work collaboratively to drive digital transformation, improve processes and help businesses understand and engage with teams, customers, clients, citizens and members like never before. With particularly strong capabilities in Financial Services, Government and the Media, our client base includes the Money Advice Service (now trading as the Money and Pensions Service), Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banking Group (CYBG), Golden Charter, Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and GroupM.

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.

Social Selling at the Institute of Sales Management, Scotland.

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We recently attended the first ever Edinburgh-based event hosted by the Institute of Sales Management

The inaugural Scotland Event showcased the dramatic change in the sales environment, as businesses spanning all industries accelerate digital transformation through cloud technologies.

Businesses today are meeting the challenge of servicing a new breed of B2C customers and B2B clients who have ever-increasing expectations and demands on sellers. This is the age of the professional consumer.

Throughout the evening, one main question was raised…

Is cold calling dying out as an introductory technique for selling?

Selling and outreach are constantly shape-shifting. With the rise in intelligent, data-driven technology and machine learning, social media platforms are intuitively becoming the go-to place for content placement and customer contact. Cold calling has become a much less popular and effective method of interaction.

In its place, social selling has become a key part of an organisation’s customer engagement strategy. Why cold call when you can outreach to a warmed prospect, and make use of insights that make the nurture and sales process easier for salespeople, marketers and business owners?

What is social selling? And do traditional salespeople need to adapt?

Short answer, yes.

Social selling is a modern approach to identifying and engaging with a custom-built audience based on your business’s target market and a great way to establish rapport, connect and verify the legitimacy of the relationship between seller and prospect. Post-purchase by Microsoft, LinkedIn is proving itself one of the most valuable sales and marketing tools for social selling, with 96% of B2B buyers seeking to read content and engage with industry leaders (Demand Gen report, 2017). Other channels also have validity, and it’s worth pointing out that the fundamentals of social selling translate well to offline relationship building.

So is cold calling dead?

Technology is driving behavioural change in buyers and sellers and it’s essential that sellers keep pace in terms of expertise and personal learning, to avoid becoming redundant. That doesn’t mean there isn’t still a place for a cold call, however where engaged, meaningful contact can be achieved easily, why reduce your chances with your prospects?

Not only does social selling give you a 360-degree view of prospects, it allows you to tailor your approach to current customers and meet their needs at the right time. The social selling model supports account-based selling and allows you to deliver hyper-relevant messaging and content that speaks their language.

Social selling for operational efficiencies

According to a recent survey by CSO Insights and Seismic, one in three B2B sales professionals said that not only was social selling increasing the number of leads they had to work with, but also the depth of the relationships they had with existing and prospective clients. Building relationships rather than leading with the hard sell allows salespeople to maximise their own efficiency by reducing the prospect research time, having a positive impact on the sales cycle.

Transactional vs Strategic Sales

Cold calling is usually a game of chance with decision makers within a company out of reach for the average cold sales call. Social selling converts the sales process from transactional and functional, to a strategic plan that provides hard ROI, produces serious wins and enhances customer experience and satisfaction.

Companies are being left behind because they’re yet to acknowledge that the buying process has changed. It’s no longer a one-way system made up of cold calls, qualifying leads and sales demos. 84% of vice president and C-level executives use online and digital media channels to influence their purchasing decisions.

Microsoft Inspire 2018: the emerging themes from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s keynote 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…