The New Beginning – Need for Dynamics 365 CRM Implementation
At the beginning of 2020, Covid-19 had given many of us the challenge to survive with the new normal. Many had to run the business and office remotely as the only option. This surely gave an ultimate boost to many IT projects which were previously either crawling or never born. INSYNC was no exception to this.
As you know, every standard organization has the need of computerization for making their business process efficient and sustainable in this information age. In INSYNC also, to run the business, we used a couple of software solutions for ticket management, customer relationship management, project management, chatting, voice & video conferencing, invoicing, accounting, product & service management, reporting, and what not! At the same time, there were challenges and pains around these solutions too. First of all, these solutions were mostly disconnected, and overall, this was not a cost-effective approach too.
Being a partner of Microsoft, we always had an option to switch to a better and integrated business solution platform from them. A long time ago, we had some experience with Microsoft Dynamics CRM which was not so great at that time, and that is why maybe we were not aggressive enough to implement it. We started talking about Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM (D365) implementation in December 2017 for our internal purposes. But as usual, the need was not as strong as after the lockdown declaration in India, where being connected with the business remotely became the top-most priority. However, a pure cloud and centralized solution for an organization like INSYNC was mandatory. So, after hanging around more than 2 years, Covid-19 created a do-or-die situation for our internal Dynamics 365 implementation. Becoming more agile and responsive in this situation was one of our key requirements which we had to fulfill with this implementation too.
I, Narottam Das, with almost two decades in IT with line-of-business (LOB) applications, seemed to be the perfect fit to take this challenge in the eyes of INSYNC management. Mr. Atul Gupta, CEO – INSYNC, had a clear and firm vision for this implementation and confidence in my work. Dynamics 365 implementation was new to me, and I had to do such an implementation after a long gap in hands-on implementation in my career. So, initially, it was a bit worrisome for me. I was in a dilemma of how to cope-up with this enterprise-level solution to implement from home in the lockdown! Frankly speaking, my job appeared to be at stake! Nevertheless, there were no other options other than facing it boldly.
If you want to implement Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM into your business, please feel free to connect to us. Also, if you have multiple systems running in your business, connect all of them under one single platform to automate the process!
Facing the Challenge
Initially, we made the plans and deadlines of various migrations from the existing discrete systems to the one central system – D365. I worked hard day and night, extended hours even on weekends and holidays. Finally, I drove this implementation to a success story, and how I did it is going to be an interesting read next.
Firstly, I am grateful to everyone who helped me make our CRM implementation a success. I should mention the immense help of Google-like search engines and the LOB tech forums over the internet to become successful in this endeavor. Our IT department, especially Milan Dan, was a great help too in managing the cloud part (Microsoft Azure) of this solution. However, without sincere users any LOB app implementation is meaningless and a sure-shot failure. So, the final credit of this success goes to the users and our entire team of the D365 CRM+ Solution.
The Exciting Part
The most interesting part of this story lies in how we achieved it in a very short period of 6 months. Most of the major migrations from our existing discrete applications were achieved in the first 6 months itself. Also, the major features for sales and support critical functions, for instance, were up and running on D365 by then. Implementing the major parts of an enterprise solution in that short period seems very rare. It would not be possible without having the kind of focus we had in the lock-down period.
At the same time, we also moved to the Microsoft Teams platform which made our life easy for remote work. With this, it was even much easier to meet someone over Teams than in the office physically. Ready-made integration between Teams and D365 was an additional advantage. We realized that the new D365 platform is now far more superior and capable than it was a decade ago.
One of the major works in this implementation was data migration. As already said that we had planned the major migrations initially, the data volume was huge and had accumulated for more than 10 years. To manage this huge data migration better, we had divided the dataset into various segments as per their techno-functional needs and availability. We had taken the partner data to migrate first, followed by the customer master data as per our needs. Most of the sales process and data were on Zoho CRM, so we started migrating the master data from Zoho CRM to D365 first.
Our initial attraction with D365 was – we could access and work through our CRM from anywhere on the web, outlook, and mobile seamlessly. With this, the mission to nurture, pamper, support, and groom our prospects, customers, and partners could be more collaborative and efficient.
Eventually, we started with the Sales-Module, which seems obvious for any CRM system. We completed the major data migration for the entire sales module from Zoho CRM to D365 within the first month of our implementation by June 2020. Then we started focusing on implementing our partner portal using Microsoft PowerApps Portal in parallel with D365. One of our implementation team members, Soumitra Chakraborty, did a great job by leading the portal configuration, development, and implementation. Gradually we started automating things around D365 using Microsoft Power Automate. For instance, very quickly we implemented lead record creation automation where the leads started to come to the CRM directly from our various forms and web presence.
The New Mission
Our mission got more focused on the collaboration on a single platform to manage the partners and customers better.
Besides, we rapidly started working on other areas as follows in parallel –
- Zoho Invoice Data Migration To Dynamics 365.
- Support Ticketing System Migration From Freshdesk To Case Management In Dynamics 365.
- Project Management Migration From Zoho Projects To Dynamics 365.
- Product & Service Documentation Sync From Github To KB Management Of Dynamics 365.
- Form, Document, Report Customization On Dynamics 365 As Per Our Business Needs.
- Customer Portal On Dynamics 365.
- Marketing Automation On Dynamics 365.
Taste of Success
Things were going so fast and successful that we started sharing our data migration success story with the world through webinars and blogs. Not only were we quite excited about this, but also, we started getting inquiries for some services around it as well. As a result, we have developed a data migration calculator as well. This calculator can help anyone planning data migration from any system to D365 quickly.
With the success and excitement around D365, there were a few hidden challenges too. One of them was some worry that gradually crept up in my mind around user authorization control on Dynamics 365, i.e. setting up the proper user security roles in D365. There was no one or nothing (including Microsoft Support) around me which could help with this initially. And another worry was the customer and partner portal implementation with PowerApps Portal which seemed time-consuming and highly web-development-oriented work. Somehow, we had managed to handle the first one, i.e. user security role, at a very later stage of our implementation. How? That all together can be a separate story itself. I’ll try to write that story too for you. For now, just for an idea, I can say that we solved that using XrmToolBox. However, on the other hand, we are still struggling with the second challenge i.e. Portal implementation. It still seems very time-consuming and resource-intensive work to us.
The most positive side of the implementation was that half of INSYNC had joined hands to collaborate in the process and most of the users welcomed the change. Without this ingredient in our culture, I think the implementation would not be so successful. And this has been the ultimate motivation for me to be active all the time for our D365 users to support and guide them from the very beginning.
Before we go further in the story, one thing I must mention about the obvious part of any ERP, CRM, or any LOB application implementation is the document formats like Quotation, Proposal, Proforma-invoice, Invoice, etc. which need to be customized for every business in any way. In this implementation, our veteran team player in this field, Mr. Surajit Kundu, did it aptly using the XML-based Word templating feature in D365. I had to explain only a few things to him initially, the rest was in his hands – developing our every document format flawlessly.
Utilizing the Machines More
Then gradually along with the completion of the above said parallel works we started introducing more and more automation like SLA automation, smart-alerts, task-assignments, price-list automation, notes-automation, improved data flow across documents, automatic data rectification and completion, junk data cleanup, and many more. Some of these automations take user approval as well before taking the desired action. Not only that, some of them are very smart as well, they know when to wait for the user’s approval and when not. One interesting part among these developments is that though Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement (CE) plan had no direct feature available to handle the financial part much, we have developed the required customization easily. It was possible due to the flexibility in the system and our long experience in this field.
In the automation part, I must mention we have developed more than 200 Power Automate Flows to date and we are still adding more. Microsoft recently migrated their traditional or the classic workflow to Power Automate Flows for their ARC (Automatic Record Creation) engine. But that introduced some bugs initially in that engine, and we were stuck with that as soon as we migrated from Freshdesk to D365. We were in huge trouble in getting the support tickets from our partners and customers in CRM and serving them in time. We required some fixing overnight, unfortunately, the Microsoft team too could not help us much. So, to overcome that situation and to create the cases (i.e. the support tickets) automatically in CRM, I had to rebuild the entire ARC engine using multiple and interconnected Power Automate Flows. And that has been working almost flawlessly for many months now. I appreciate our customer success team for bearing the pain in this trouble with me and giving me the time for the workaround in this crisis.
Like ARC, junk and temporary log data removal had also become crucial in our implementation once. By then our CRM usage was at its peak, most of the departments started working on it full-fledged. One day we observed that our D365 database size was increasing by leaps and bounds, and there was no clue how to reduce the size. Here I thank Microsoft Support Team for giving us all the ideas to clean up the junk and temporary log data from our database along with the required automation so that the database is cleaned automatically at certain intervals.
We have also used automation to avoid too many system migrations at a time. For a temporary basis, we have set up the sync of D365 with some of our legacy systems so that we can keep them as it is for now and migrate them later. With this, the users can get the required data from CRM in their legacy system to continue their day-to-day work until we migrate them fully to our CRM system. One such system is our payment tracking Excel program where the account data or the customer and partner data is being populated and validated against the users’ input in the Excel automatically.
We also required a chatbot as well to make customer and partner support services better on CRM. So, we explored and tried to build a chatting solution around D365 for that too. Our development team has worked hard on this, and we are still in the search of better chatbot automation and omnichannel experience.
The Final Words
Implementation of any line-of-business application ideally ends up with reports and data analytics requirements to fulfill for the target business or organization. And this implementation is also no exception. So, I already started working on data visualization as much as possible in parallel with other ongoing works. Despite users’ continuous demand for advanced reporting tools like Power BI, I find the inbuilt charts and dashboard in D365 are good to start with. It can fulfill many of the data analytics needs of the business without investing much development effort. Hence, now I am in the process of convincing and training the users for the efficient use of the charts and dashboards of D365.
Implementation projects may end as per the initial scope we define and the contracts we sign. However, the process of adding new features and improving the implemented feature along with user support is a never-ending process. The same for this implementation too. Now we are trying to complete the recurring invoice and subscription features. We are trying to leverage the entitlement feature of D365 with some customizations and Power Automate Flows to accomplish it. Frankly speaking, this could not be that much challenging if we would have a smaller set of invoice data. But the huge amount of invoice data that we have migrated from Zoho Invoice is a real challenge to handle. No doubt this data migration was done successfully by one of our expert team members, Koushik Dey, however, the structure of the legacy data in the Zoho Invoice was a bit different than we need in the current system for the recurring invoice and subscription automation. Anyways, we are in the process of handling it and gradually automating things part by part for this function. We are confident that we will be successful in this along with any other future requirements like deeper integration with LinkedIn, BuiltWith, etc. as well.
That is why when I have solutions like Dynamics 365 CRM, I say – “You give me the time, I’ll give you the feature.”
If you want to implement Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM into your business, please feel free to connect with us. Also, if you have multiple systems running in your business, connect all of them under one single platform to automate the process!
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