Dynamics 365 – SMB Success with Business Solutions

Dynamics 365 has launched. Whatever we may have been thinking about what it might be, is revealed. So we go back to work. Our work is helping Small and Midsized Businesses (SMB) succeed with Dynamics 365. Between Salesforce.com previously, and Microsoft Dynamics currently, we have deployed CRM (now called either Business Applications or Business Solutions depending on who you ask), for over 300 SMB Customers and we have learned a few things along the way that I thought I would share.

There is no Easy Button

Wouldn’t it be great if you could press a button and a Business Application, like Dynamics 365 Sales, would be automatically configured and launched to suit your exact particular business needs? Yes, that would, and believe me, if it were possible, we would have built it, and I would have retired already. But, your business is like a fingerprint, similar, but different from every other business, probably more so than you even realize. Even your most similar direct competitor, is different, like Walmart and Target are different. Run by different people who prioritize and execute things differently than you. This is how direct competitors differentiate themselves in the market, and hope to create a competitive advantage.

For example, our “focus” is on Business Solutions for SMB, but that is not our “competitive advantage”. Certainly there are other partners who are also focused on this customer, but we will each approach that customer differently, offering different services, a different plan and a different relationship. Depending on the particular customer, our approach, services, plan and relationship is potentially our competitive advantage… or not. SMB is a large market and we may not be the best fit for a particular customer, where another partner may well be a better fit.

So configuration is unavoidable, and it’s just the first of many steps that will be required of you, in order for you to succeed with Dynamics 365, Salesforce.com, or any other Business Application, because out-of-the-box… none of them will fit. Don’t get me wrong, none of these are delivered as simply a kit-of-parts. Dynamics 365 Sales App for example, is a fully functional Sales application. But its functionality was designed by Microsoft to be the same for everyone; the broadest swath of business types, at the most generic level. It would take about five minutes of use, for you to realize that you don’t want to conform your business to a default generic sales model. If you proceed anyway, you will not realize the value from the application that you could have, and these are not cheap solutions like email.

The SMB Path to Business Solutions

So we are in agreement that configuration will be necessary for you to get any true value from a business solution? Right? That is just the first step of your journey. However, without that first step, the remaining steps are far more precarious. Here is a cheat list of the overall process: buy -> configure -> deploy -> train -> adopt -> reconfigure -> connect -> extend. I will cover a few of these at a high level, but I really want to focus more on what effort is going to be required of you to succeed.

As I ponder what I am going to write next, and knowing that it could run some of you off before you reach the end of this post, I wanted to put the punch line ahead of it. Why go through any of this? Business Solutions have the capacity to transform your business, to make you more effective, profitable, scalable, etc, or they can be the biggest waste of time and money that you have encountered in your entire career. Whether it is the former or the latter, is entirely up to you. Sure partner competency plays a role, but by and large, success or failure rests on your shoulders.

What SMB does not have enough of

Commitment, Time, Money, Resources and Patience. These are the variables that I see SMB struggle with the most, not just in a Business Application deployment, but in general. Each of these will be in short supply from the git-go. The future “potential” benefits of a Business Solution will be in an ongoing tug-of-war with these variables throughout the deployment, and beyond, so we might as well discuss them:

  • Commitment. It’s not hard to get excited about the possible “transformation” that a Business Solution could bring to your organization. It also does not require a lot of effort to sit in on a demo. Nor does it require a lot of effort to actually pull the trigger and start down the path. But, maintaining that effort, on through to the actual realization of the hoped for  transformation, requires a level of commitment that often SMB fails to bring to the table. If a Business Solution just feels like a cool thing to have, you won’t make it. If your current processes are still “good enough” in the back of your mind, you won’t make it. If you are not inspired enough yourself, you will not be able to inspire your team who ultimately will use the application, so you won’t make it. If you are to succeed, you need to see in your mind how this will actually play out to help your business, and not just assume, expect or hope it will. This is not a phone app that you try on a whim.
  • Time. This is going to take longer than you think, and longer than your partner thinks. Not to get a Business Solution configured, deployed and in your hands, that can happen relatively quickly… and that…means nothing. For a Business Solution to become part of the fabric of your organization, to become the hub that it could be, connecting all of the spokes of your organization into one smooth turning, money making wheel… ya, that’s gonna take a while.
  • Money. This is going to cost more than you think, and more than your partner thinks. Like Time, you can get a up-and-running relatively inexpensively (we built Wizards for that), but again than means nothing. Costs will come from many places including the service subscription (which will ultimately prove to be the smallest cost), configuration assistance, productivity lost during adoption, hiring an admin (if you don’t want to rely on a partner), paying a partner to fix all of the things your admin screws up, extending the Business Solution to connect to the other spokes of your business, etc.
  • Resources. Who is gonna be your quarterback for this effort? In SMB we seldom find that someone has been dedicated 100% to the success of Business Solution implementation, adoption and administration with 100% of their time. Almost always, it will be a person who already has a full-time job doing something else. They will have to steal time to get this done. or steal time from this effort to get their other job done. They will cause delays, make a ton of mistakes, and struggle to get internal input or feedback from those who ultimately will be the most impacted.
  • Patience. Between the strong possibility that your commitment level is not really high enough for an endeavor that will take longer than you hoped, cost more than you thought, and is being spearheaded by potentially the wrong, overworked person in your organization… you might find your patience wearing thin. And that would be assuming that you have a high threshold, which many leaders of SMB do not. Even if you are 110% committed, okay with the time, okay with the money and have a true crackerjack in charge, you will still get impatient. Business Solutions never generate “instant ROI”, you will need to be prepared to play a longer game, in order to win.

OMG, is there any good news here? Well, I did give you a “spoiler” before I went down this path, but I have another reward for you to ponder. Everything I laid out above, that you would need to prepare for and do, is the same for your competitor, who is also looking at Business Solutions as you read this. Business Solutions are on every SMB’s radar today. They might even be reading this right now, at the same time you are… wow, that would be freaky.  They are exploring for the same reason you are, you both know this is the next frontier of creating a competitive advantage. Who will run this gauntlet to get it? You… them… or some new competitor that came out of nowhere? From the minute you decide to move forward, you should assume they are breathing down your back to get there first… because they probably are.

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