Client information value – Address management in Dynamics CRM

February 28, 2014

For a CRM system to be successful it needs to contain accurate information, be easy and intuitive to use and add value to every user that is expected to use it. For the most part Dynamics CRM is able to fulfil these requirements.

However one question I often get asked is “Can contacts that work at the same office share the same address, so that if office address changes I only need to update it in one place?”

Unfortunately the answer for out-of-the-box Dynamics CRM is “No”. From a business point of view this is surprising for many of our clients as it makes the process of managing a customer moving office inflexible and cumbersome, meaning that it may not get done properly, if at all. At best there is a chance of someone going to the wrong office and missing a meeting, at worst it could be a compliance issue.

The core business requirement here is to provide a method of linking records together where address information needs to be the same and automatically keeping them synchronised.

As we came across this with our client projects so often, we built a solution that can be applied and easily configured to the individual business scenario. This enables an admin user to define, for example, that a Contact should always have the same address as their parent company record when its address type is flagged as ‘Company Office’.

In summary, the solution will automatically change related contact addresses when the Company address is updated. Also new contact records, and existing ones that have their Address Type switched to ‘Company Office’ (as in our example) will automatically pick up the Company address. It’s a small but significant enhancement that really has delivered additional value to our clients.

Author: Steve Adam, Lead CRM Consultant.


3 steps to tackling a troubled project

November 20, 2013

When you’re trying to deliver software it can feel like the harder you attempt to lock things down, the more issues come to the surface – the further the go-live date drifts. Pressure from the business starts to accumulate along with mild feelings of panic. If your current project is experiencing issues the chances are you’ll recognise one of the following:

1. The runaway project. Like a runaway train this project has no end in sight and just too many requirements. It’s running out of control and yet the pressure to deliver it successfully is increasing daily.

2. The unstable project. This project seems ready to complete and you’re trying to get it live. Trouble is, there are more and more bugs emerging and the whole thing keeps breaking. Instability issues start gnawing away at your confidence of ever delivering…

3. The project with performance issues. SQL Server database issues may be causing deadlocks or scalability problems – or your .NET application has performance issues that are preventing you going live.

4. The project with quality issues. It may be little more than a hunch you have that things are not what they should be and the thought of switching to live is starting to cause you sleepless nights.

If you find yourself with any of these problems then here are 3 steps to tackle your issues:

1. Don’t pour more resources into a runaway project to get yourself out of trouble.
As has been proven many times over, most famously in “The Mythical Man Month” by Fred Brooks, adding more resources to a runaway project will only cause the project to take longer.

2. Don’t continue on blindly hoping that it will all sort itself out in the end.
If you’ve got serious problems then doing nothing is not an option. As bad as it is to add more resources it is equally disastrous to let things continue without some form of intervention. Never forget the impact on morale as a project continues on its slow march to death.

3. Do seek professional help.
Sometimes the best thing that you can do is bring in expertise from outside the organisation. These experts can come in with a fresh set of eyes and unburdened by the politics of the project. Anybody with a long history of software projects will have seen these types of issues before and will almost certainly be able to bring clarity to the problems and to recommend a set of remedial actions.


Do you Social?

November 12, 2013

Yes, you read that correctly. And no, it’s not a typo. You see, I’m getting all active (rather than passive) with my use of verbs which is just what the future leaders within the financial services market space are also doing in respect to their understanding and use of social media in their business operations.

Yeah yeah.” I can almost hear you muttering cynically. “Social Media is something the trendsetters of Silicon Roundabout do. It doesn’t really have a place in the ‘serious’ world of finance, does it!?”

The answer is “Yes!” and more than you know…

Let’s look at it another way. Your impression of Social Media may well be based on your knowledge of Facebook and its compatriots and no serious company in their right mind would run the risk of potentially ‘cheapening’ their status by appearing in those circles!? In some ways there may be some weight in that, however, what do these channels ultimately have in common? I’ll tell you…they get people talking!
They facilitate communication. It doesn’t matter whether you are learning that your neighbour has a new puppy or that they like chocolate ice-cream; you are still LEARNING ABOUT THEM and I don’t think anyone can argue against the notion that knowing your client better is always going to help you do business with them.

I’m going to use an analogy that is well-known within the consultancy world – If you were a doctor, you wouldn’t prescribe medicine for a patient until you knew what was wrong with them, would you? But once you know what they need, you can then offer an appropriate solution.
Well, finding out what they need, want, whatever is the first-step (do you see where I’m going, with this?). If, you had a mechanism to learn about your prospective customer, you would want to make use of it, wouldn’t you? Well, that mechanism (amongst others) is Social Media.

Okay, taking this a step further – what do you do once you have all that valuable intelligence? The smart thing to do would be to record it somewhere that facilitated putting it to best use…hmm, a CRM solution perhaps?

I recently attended a seminar hosted by a world renowned sales and technology speaker, Frank Furness (www.frankfurness.com) and what made it such a breath of fresh air was that he was able to communicate how he (wearing multiple hats as an independent financial advisor, technology specialist, amongst others) has been able to harness the power of social media and use it to forge high-level business relationships that have proved rewarding both strategically and financially.

Granted, not everyone is going to become a social media guru but if you take one thing away from this piece, I hope it’s the acknowledgement that there should be a place for social media in your business strategy and that there are tools such as CRM that will help you move it from a ‘nice to have’ to an ‘absolute necessity’.


Why You Need A Two-Speed Approach To I.T. Projects

October 29, 2013

Some years ago I asked the CEO at one of our largest clients why they had chosen to work with us and he replied that it was all about speed and agility.

He told me that he had an I.T. department of over 400 people in London but that they were fully occupied on a major transformation of their trading platform and running their business as usual activities. He said that he needed to ensure that his organisation remained responsive to changes in the market and that they needed a “speedboat” partner who could help them execute on their fast-moving initiatives and other projects demanded by the business.

Fast forward a few years to Oct 2013 and I’m sitting in a session at the Gartner Symposium in Orlando and they are recommending that every company now needs a two-speed I.T. organisation. One speed for the ongoing business as usual activities and broader initiatives and another speed to enable innovation to happen.

However, that’s easier said than done according to Gartner VP Dave Aron who says that only 19 percent of larger enterprises have the right staff on hand to start producing fast-track, agile projects.

What Gartner recommends is that organisations should partner with smaller, more agile suppliers who can help them innovate quickly and fast-track their initiatives. In particular, in the mobile arena the speed of change is dramatic and most organisations are failing to keep up with the demands of the business. This is a key area for companies to address.

Just one final thought before employing a two-speed approach to I.T. projects. You will also need to have lighter weight governance, metrics and leadership on agile projects. As Aron says “Use agile, fast, just safe-enough techniques to explore, adopt and adapt to new opportunities and embrace the ones that stick.”


Do less with your CRM

October 16, 2013

The success of CRM is typically measured on its ability to make processes and people more efficient and deliver a planned return on investment in the short and longer terms. For this to happen CRM needs to be adopted across the organisation on a grand scale and for there to be a company-wide commitment to becoming truly client-centric.

Sounds simple – but if you look at published statistics you may be forgiven for thinking that the odds are stacked against you when implementing CRM. Historically CRM project failure rates have been most famously quoted by industry analysts, Gartner as being on a par with some of the largest ERP implementations.

Why is this?

Well we think it has a lot to do with the level of complexity involved in a project. Trying to do everything in one ‘big bang’ approach can cause ‘change shock’ which will alienate users and cause the project timescales to extend so far into the future that maintaining a sense of momentum is, in itself, a challenge.

In our experience we have found that a better outcome can be achieved by following these simple guidelines:

  • Identify and prioritise core processes
  • Work in an iterative and agile fashion
  • Prioritise the user experience over everything else – they are the key to successful CRM
  • Simplify the user experience by reducing screen clutter and providing only what is needed

By gaining small wins and moving on it’s possible to achieve your original objective, avoid chaos and keep the users on side. In this way user adoption will be maximised and project outcomes will be stacked in your favour.


Post–trade malaise in managing exceptions

October 11, 2013

Even after all these years many organisations have not yet managed to get their back-office processes as slick as the front office, especially when it comes to managing exceptions in post-trade processing of derivatives.

With regulatory bodies around the globe placing ever increasing emphasis on operational risk for derivatives (both ETD and OTC), it seems that many enterprises in this market place have still to get to the optimum position

Why is this?

A recent conversation with a senior manager at a global Tier 1 investment bank revealed that dealing with exceptions is still a challenge, partly because there’s often something more high profile in which to invest and partly because any problems are solved with either more human resource or by relying on email and spreadsheets.

Whilst this approach appears to provide a short term fix, operations and client services teams quickly become swamped with emails, client service levels can drop off and operational risk increases.

Sometimes there are other, more obscure reasons why this area is not addressed. Initiatives to improve reconciliations and exception management for derivatives, such as futures and options, may be widened into strategic initiatives involving all asset classes or into more general business process workflow requirements. This often leads to much larger budgets, more interested parties (with different views of what’s required) and long implementation projects.

Agile exception management is perfectly possible with enterprise class solutions, applied judiciously and fast to problematic areas. By adopting an agile, one-bite-at-a-time approach brokers can start to realise the benefits such as:

  • Having all exceptions quickly identified and controlled in a single place
  • Knowing instantly the status of any trade break
  • Providing a professional, client facing view of their exceptions and status
  • Underpinning multi-office processes with a single, uniformly enforced business process workflow, with audit trails, security and escalation
  • Meeting client service level expectations or obligations
  • Decreasing operational risk

To quote the fabled Chinese proverb, “The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step”


The Mobile Wave – A Review

September 19, 2013

I recently read a fascinating book called “The Mobile Wave” written by Michael Saylor of MicroStrategy. If you are even remotely interested in mobile technology then you should read this to get a glimpse into the future. And what an amazing future it promises to be.

In the book Saylor convincingly argues that the growth of mobile technology marks the tipping point in the information revolution.

Every business will be affected by this wave and will see dramatic changes. Many jobs will be lost but also many jobs that we don’t even know about today will be created. According to Saylor “to create, you must first destroy”. Scary stuff if your job is one of those that’s going to be destroyed.

He talks about how various sectors will be dramatically affected by mobile technology – healthcare, and education being two that will see dramatic changes. For example, he believes that mobile technology will burst the bubble of overpriced higher education by making outstanding education available to everyone, everywhere.

Healthcare will see dramatic changes in how we both look after and monitor our own health and how the medical profession interacts with people. With the advent of tiny sensors, telemedicine (i.e. remote diagnosis capabilities) will become available to people anywhere in the world.

In summary, this is a valuable and thought-provoking read for anyone trying to get a handle on the enormous changes coming our way. Saylor paints an intriguing picture of how our lives will look in the not too distant future. However, like all predictors of the future, he will undoubtedly be wrong in some of these predictions.

The short history of computing has shown us that many predictions fail to materialise within the timeframe predicted. It wasn’t that the prediction was incorrect but that the timescale in which it happened took longer.

Despite this I can see many of Saylor’s ideas coming to pass over the next few years. The speed of change brought about by mobile technology is increasing at such a rapid rate that already some of the innovations he talks about are starting to happen.


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