Steve has a Chat with Mona Baset

Typically I am catching Microsoft leaders on my “Steve has a Chat” podcast, this time I thought I would try and pounce on an Enterprise Customer to get some candid feedback on PowerApps. Mona Baset, AVP of Information and Analytics Services for Atrium Health was game for a chat.

Atrium Health is comprised of 40 hospitals and 900 locations in the Carolinas and Georgia. Some of the things Mona and I discussed, included the place for PowerApps in a large organization that is committed to It was quite interesting to hear how PowerApps is viewed from the customer side of the table.

BTW, don’t forget to tune into #PowerUpLive every Wednesday at 11AM EST, where Mark Smith (@nz365guy) and I discuss the latest news around all of Microsoft  Business Applications, subscribe here:

Full transcript follows:

Steve Mordue: Welcome to the Steve Has A Chat podcast, where I call someone out of the blue with the record button on, and hope to have an unscripted conversation about Microsoft business applications. Let’s see how it goes. Enjoy.

Mona Bassett: Mona Bassett.

Steve Mordue: Hey Mona, Steve Mordue. How’s it going?

Mona Bassett: Hey, Steve, how are you?

Steve Mordue: Not too bad.

Mona Bassett: Happy Monday.

Steve Mordue: Same to you. Same to you. So I do these podcasts, I don’t know if you’ve heard any of these where I get some Microsoft folks on and just talk about the products and stuff like that, and I thought I might want to do one with a customer who’s using some of those products. You down for something like that?

Mona Bassett: Oh, yeah, sure. That’d be great. I’m going to do one.

Steve Mordue: I already hit the record button. Would you do one right now?

Mona Bassett: Wait, like right now?

Steve Mordue: Like right now.

Mona Bassett: Oh sure, Steve. It’s a good thing I like you. I’ll do one for you.

Steve Mordue: Cool. Cool. All right. Let’s talk about Atrium. You guys are a regional hospital organization. Tell me a little bit about the company you work with there.

Mona Bassett: Sure. So Atrium Health is a large healthcare system. We have about 40 hospitals, we have 900 locations, primarily in North and South Carolina and Georgia.

Steve Mordue: Cool. And what do you actually do for Atrium?

Mona Bassett: I sit here at Atrium Health in the information and analytics services organization, and I focus on consumer experience technologies, and really assessing some of those technologies for consumer engagement and really how we can make things easier for our patients and our consumers.

Mona Bassett: One of the areas that… Part of that is customer relationship management tools, so, CRM tools and technologies. We currently use a couple of different tools, including Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics, for year round.

Steve Mordue: All right. And so you’ve had Salesforce for some time and that’s actually your big deployment, right? That’s more of a core system?

Mona Bassett: Yes. So we have been using Salesforce for a couple of years now in a few different ways. Our most recent deployment really focuses on some marketing-specific use cases, marketing automation, as well as used to be our contact centers. So as they try to engage with patients, they are using some of those tools. And then we also have a use case for our physician liaisons. So as they connect with different providers and talk about some of the services that we offer.

Mona Bassett: So a few pretty complex use cases that we have in place today with Salesforce.

Steve Mordue: And you said you’ve got Dynamics, also. And what was the purpose of having another CRM if you already had Salesforce, what was the thinking there?

Mona Bassett: Yeah, so Dynamics is really part of our enterprise agreement with Microsoft. So we have many different capabilities and tools as part of that agreement. And we had been sort of fiddling with Dynamics for a few different internal use cases, where we thought it could really deliver on some things that we were pretty focused on tracking and managing contacts, primarily. So we fiddled around a little bit with that. It didn’t really go so far at the time.

Steve Mordue: Why did you not just do that with Salesforce? What was the thinking about having something else do something?

Mona Bassett: As we looked at both pieces, we found Salesforce to really be great for some of the more complex use cases. And with Salesforce, there’s definitely a pretty big implementation effort required for that. So we sort of reserved those resources, budget, to implement some of those complex things.

Mona Bassett: But as we looked at Dynamics we thought perhaps, and we actually, got some help from you, we thought perhaps that we’d be able to have these separate use cases that were a little less complicated and be able to deliver something really, really quickly.

Steve Mordue: So these would be like use cases that weren’t necessarily related to the big use cases, they were just kind of the random use cases that would occur that had a need?

Mona Bassett: Yes, absolutely. And we really thought about, how could we deliver certain capabilities quickly within a relatively small budget, without a lot of resources? So one of the most recent, if you want me to share one of the use cases, that might make a little more sense.

Steve Mordue: Sure.

Mona Bassett: One of my partners internally reached out to me, from one of our other departments, and they came to me with this challenge. So they really wanted a better way to manage this huge set of external stakeholders. So this was organizations, individuals, sometimes both. And they were using, as is commonly the case, spreed sheets to track and manage all of those contacts. They have hundreds of contacts, probably spread across, I don’t know, more than a dozen teammates.

Mona Bassett: And so it was really hard for them to share the information, keep it updated, track those activities. And they wanted to do report outs and things like that. So they tried sharing documents, using SharePoint and other capabilities, which worked okay when the list was relatively small and there weren’t that many teammates working on it. But once that sort of expanded, it just didn’t really meet their needs.

Steve Mordue: Didn’t scale well, huh?

Mona Bassett: It did not.

Steve Mordue: We’re definitely finding that with a lot of spreadsheet…. I’ll tell you, Excel is an awesome tool for what it was designed, but it does seem like lots of folks tried to turn it into something it wasn’t intended to do, mainly because they’re comfortable with it and familiar with that technology. But it does seem like it starts to break down the minute you share it with the first person. And does it get any better after that?

Mona Bassett: I would agree. And when you have so many different people touching that document and Excel there are certainly some ways to control what type of information gets in there, but it becomes this free-for-all, where every cell, you get to put whatever you want in there. So it’s really hard to store, filter, track, report. It just becomes a very, very difficult document to manage. That wasn’t quite working for them. So they needed something a little bit more than that.

Steve Mordue: And right about that time was when your Microsoft rep happened to be calling to pester you about doing something with Dynamics.

Mona Bassett: It was great timing.

Steve Mordue: Good timing.

Mona Bassett: Yes. Great timing. So we talked about what the need was, and they obviously connected us with you and Forceworks. I think what was most appealing to that was that we had kind of a smallish budget. We wanted to do something quickly. The teams really, really needed something up and running. And again, it was a very focused use case.

Mona Bassett: And I think the other thing was that we just didn’t have the expertise in-house to build out what was needed. So Dynamics is, you don’t just a pull it up and it’s all ready to go. There are certainly things that have to be configured and we just didn’t have the resources or expertise to do that at this time.

Mona Bassett: So with Forceworks, we really liked the idea of your PowerApps, I think they’re called. Basically, it accelerates-

Steve Mordue: RapidStart?

Mona Bassett: RapidStart. Exactly. Basically, an accelerator that would help us get something up and running for the team, within honestly, just a couple of weeks and at a low cost. So they really went from spreadsheets to a true business application, in just a couple of weeks. It was pretty amazing.

Steve Mordue: They seemed to be pretty happy with that transition from spreadsheets? Nobody’s regretting losing the spreadsheets, huh?

Mona Bassett: No one is calling me and saying, where are my spreadsheets? I will tell you that. No, they’re really liking it. And I think, certainly, as we went through the process to get something up and running and have them kind of go in and test it and start really inputting their use cases and their contacts, we definitely found some areas to improve along the way. And every time we sort of collect those improvements, we send them on over and they’re updated super quickly, just because of the way this is set up.

Mona Bassett: I think the other thing that was really great was that there wasn’t a lot of training that had to be done. It was very intuitive. So even kind of the first core group that started, that was involved with the development and the requirements and really started testing it, I don’t think we ever trained them. I think they just figured it out, which is great. So it was very intuitive and as we added more users from that group, we really just gave them kind of a quick run through, and they’ve all been using it now.

Steve Mordue: Yeah, I think some of that is, just so the audience is aware, you have Dynamics 365 licenses, but you’re not actually using the first party applications. You’re using a power app that was built instead under that license. So as a power app, you started with RapidStart, but then we kind of tweaked that to meet your needs.

Steve Mordue: But one of the reasons I think it was probably quick for them to learn and easy to learn, is it didn’t include anything you didn’t need. It was built very specific, purpose built just for that department, without any extraneous components that aren’t part of that department’s needs. So I think that’s one of the nice things.

Steve Mordue: So one of the things I like about PowerApps is being able to just make an application for that group, that is exactly what it is that they’re looking for, no more, no less, and then it makes it very easy for them to get up to speed quickly.

Mona Bassett: Yeah.

Steve Mordue: Dropping them into the enterprise sales app, for example, they would have all just been lost.

Mona Bassett: Yes. I completely agree with you, and I do recall one of our first sessions that we had, you really just brought us through the standard demo and we were able to see what those standard fields were, for example, and kind of design on the fly. So for example, I think yours standard field was companies, for example. And this team is more used to seeing things or thinking about things as an organization. It’s a small change, but it really made a difference for them, and it matched the way they were already doing business and really how they were doing their work in the first place.

Steve Mordue: I think the way we approached this was, let’s take what they’re doing today on spreadsheets and let’s not try and reinvent that whole wheel. Let’s just lift that up from a spreadsheet onto a business application with as close a terminology, labels, fields, attributes as they’re currently using, to make that transition as easy as possible. And then circle back afterward.

Steve Mordue: Because part of the goal is, we don’t want to scare them all away. We want to be more productive, get them off of spreadsheets and get them onto something. But we don’t want that to be this big huge, oh my God, lift. And I think by trying to almost mirror what they were doing in spreadsheets as closely as we could, it kind of makes that transition a little quicker and easier.

Steve Mordue: And you can always then circle back and add, once they’re comfortable and using that, you can circle back and add more things to it.

Mona Bassett: Yeah, absolutely. I think that approach has worked really well for them. And I think as I look back at the process, it was very easy. I think the hardest thing was really something on our end that we had to do. And that was making sure that the team had all those spreadsheets kind of consistent.

Mona Bassett: So they have these 12 different spreadsheets, for example, if each of them has a different set of columns and fields and information, it just becomes a little bit harder on your end to match everything back. So I think that spending a little more time on determining what those consistent fields would be, and how the spreadsheet mapped to them, that was work well spent, and enabled all that information to get into Dynamics in the way that they were used to seeing it.

Steve Mordue: And now that it is a business application, we won’t have that head in all different directions in the future, using the same stuff.

Mona Bassett: Exactly. So they did that work and now anything new that goes in, falls into that same approach. It worked great.

Steve Mordue: So what are your thoughts about PowerApps moving forward with the Atrium, both on this particular one that’s been done, other opportunities, how are you seeing it play out in the future there at Atrium?

Mona Bassett: Yeah, I, think this has been successful. I think some other teams have seen it in play and have shown a little bit of interest in it. So whenever I hear questions or opportunities from other teams around doing something similar, even if the information is different, even if some of the fields are different, even if some of the flows are slightly different, I think this could be a really, really good approach.

Mona Bassett: Again, it’s so fast, it gets them up and running really quickly, and we’ve been able to really, I want to say customize, but that sort of gives the sense that it takes a lot of time, but it doesn’t. I mean we’re able to customize things very, very quickly. So as new teams come to us looking to do something similar, we definitely run them through our current application of it and show them how it can be adjusted for some of their needs.

Mona Bassett: So I think there’s definitely some opportunities, and we have licenses that we have purchased and are part of our agreement. It would be great to be able to use some of those existing licenses and have folks use something similar, designed just for them.

Steve Mordue: Yeah. I think for Microsoft, when they’re dealing with an organization of your size, up until PowerApps, you have Salesforce, you’ve made a huge commitment and investment in Salesforce. And you’re not just going to rip that out and replace it with Dynamics 365 anytime soon.

Steve Mordue: And I think it kind of left those teams without much else to talk about until PowerApps. Are you ready to replace Salesforce yet? Nope. Okay. Well, I’ll call you in a year. Not a whole lot to talk about until PowerApps kind of came on the scene and really not even looking at PowerApps as a Salesforce competitor anymore. I think it’s going to be interesting for big companies that have kind of looked at Microsoft business applications. We already have Salesforce, we have no need for that.

Steve Mordue: But clearly, that wasn’t the case for you guys.

Mona Bassett: Yeah, I think it’s something that we had readily available and we were just not taking advantage of what we had, which I’m sure you probably see a lot with your clients. They have licenses or capabilities as part of a larger agreement and perhaps it may not have gotten on the roadmap to get the expertise or develop some of those areas. And I really wanted to take advantage of some of the things we weren’t really using. We already had them, why not try?

Steve Mordue: You’re paying for them, right? They’re just sitting there idle, people squawking over here about a requirement and wanting some help from your team.

Mona Bassett: So it seemed like an easy way to do it. And so far, so good.

Steve Mordue: Very cool. So what advice would you give to, let’s think of a couple of folks. So let’s think about, what advice would you give to folks at your position, either at healthcare or any other large organizations that are looking at this?

Mona Bassett: I would say it’s important to, as you’re getting your questions and opportunities brought to you by your partners, think about what the need is first, and then really understand what tool could help them meet that. So going the opposite direction, I think you may miss the opportunities, saying, okay, we need a use case for Salesforce or we need a use case for Dynamics. Allow the need to help define that.

Mona Bassett: And I also think just really be open to looking at all the different tools that you have and which may fit for your particular need or use case. Not everything has to fit in one capability or one tool.

Mona Bassett: And then the third thing is, also really think about how you want to bring your data over. The mapping is definitely something you want to think about early on. And I mean, I think that exercise is useful, regardless of which tool you end up using.

Steve Mordue: So what advice might you give to Microsoft as a customer of theirs, and how they’re positioning or approaching or communicating these kinds of things to you or folks like you?

Mona Bassett: That’s a good question. What advice would I give to Microsoft? I get a lot of advice from them. Again, I’d turn it back around and say understand really the need that the client is trying to fill. And I think our contact did that with us in this case. They were really listening to what we were trying to accomplish and came up with a solution and got us connected with you to be able to meet that need. I thought that was really important.

Steve Mordue: And we’ll go ahead and give Bob Grohovsky a plug. He is your a Microsoft representative for business applications, and he was actually on the live show from Business Applications Summit. So I did an interview with him back then, if anybody wants to go back and listen to that. But, yeah, sharp guy. I think that’s a key for these Microsoft folks is, obviously everybody has their agenda, they’ve got their scorecard, they’ve got their metrics, they’ve got their goal.

Steve Mordue: But you kind of have to look and see what’s the problem that I can solve for the customer with what I’ve got or what they’ve got? And sometimes I think not every salesman, Bob definitely was a good example, one who was able to take himself outside of his own specific quotas or criterias, and think about what the customer needed, and what have I got that could solve it? It’s kind of playing more of a long game.

Mona Bassett: Absolutely. Absolutely. I would agree. Hi, Bob.

Steve Mordue: Hey, Bob. So it all sounds like such an awesome experience and everything went wonderful, but clearly there had to have been some problem somewhere. What was always the one part of this whole thing that had you, we want to be honest with everybody. There had to be something that was like less than fun part of the process.

Mona Bassett: Sure. I think I’ll mention again just the data piece. So usually when you’re trying to implement something like this, it’s because your data is in all different places, it’s not organized, it’s not consistent. So on our end, we really did have to take some time to look at what we had, and figure out how we were going to make that all come together.

Mona Bassett: So if you have 12 different spreadsheets, you have organizations listed in different ways, you have certain types of contacts, not others, different formats, all that kind of stuff. So I think that was the hardest piece on our end. But doing that really made a difference with the end tool, because once you got in there, everything is easy to see, easy to track. And then as you mentioned, everything new that goes in, and there’s a lot of new information that goes in there, is automatically put into that new model.

Steve Mordue: It’s consistent going forward.

Mona Bassett: Exactly.

Steve Mordue: So not a push button experience to move from spreadsheets to a PowerApp. Definitely some effort required. It wasn’t all something you could just farm out to a partner and say here do all this. There was some effort you had to put in to get there, around that data stuff, because that’s the kind of stuff that… You and I had these conversations and as a partner, we don’t know what your data means. And we’re going to learn it as we go, but you know. And then it’s just a matter of what kind of falls on the customer side, what kind of falls on the partner’s side to pick up, to get these things done quickly.

Mona Bassett: Absolutely. We wanted to spare you.

Steve Mordue: Yes. We appreciate that.

Mona Bassett: There was definitely some data in there that we had to translate, for sure.

Steve Mordue: So what are you guys thinking about other parts of PowerApps? Like maybe Power BI, is that something you guys are planning to explore in the future? A Microsoft Flow, more PowerApps?

Mona Bassett: I haven’t thought about it yet, but I’m writing those things down, Steve. Maybe I need those things. I don’t know.

Steve Mordue: We can certainly have another call without everybody listening and talk about what those things can do.

Mona Bassett: So now that this will have been in place for a little bit, with the teams using it, they’re putting their new information in there, they’re starting to do their report. I think potentially, they will want to see some more complex types of reporting out for their executives and some of the stakeholders. So I think looking at some of the more complex reporting tools may be a next step for them, but we’ll see.

Steve Mordue: Yeah. These groups, you think they should be happy enough just getting off spreadsheets and you get them off spreadsheets, and then they go get greedy on you. Start making more demands, and just be like, you’re lucky to get off spreadsheets.

Mona Bassett: Well, that’s a great problem to have, because that means they love it and they understand it and they’re ready for the next thing.

Steve Mordue: Yeah, exactly. Well, Mona, I appreciate you taking this call kind of unexpectedly and being a good sport and talking to us a little bit about your experience with PowerApps.

Mona Bassett: Sure.

Steve Mordue: I will be talking to you again soon.

Mona Bassett: Sounds good. Thanks, Steve. Take care.

Steve Mordue: Bye-bye.

Mona Bassett: Bye.

Steve Mordue: Oh wait, I just thought of one more question. Hello? Hello? Damn.

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