How can I work out the time spent in each stage of a business process?

Business Problem: I want to know how long is spent in my business process by stage and by user how can I achieve this with no code?

The solution is actually quite simple if you are the latest release of Dynamics 365. The key to the solution is the fact that Dynamics now maintains the active stage and active start time for instance of a business process flow.

When you create a business process flow, a new entity is created to maintain the instances of the business process flow. So each time you start an opportunity, a business process record is created for the business process that is running that maintains the start time, active stage and status of that process. Thus when you switch process the previous process flow state is maintained.

So with this knowledge you now have a record that records the relationship to the business process and to the record it was initiated from.

Back to the problem. What I need is an entity to store the start and end time for each stage and a workflow that creates the record each time the stage changes. Simple as follows:

  1. Create a new entity, in my case I used an activity entity called Stage Duration. I used an activity entity, as it already has all of the fields that I need to record the stage duration i.e. Regarding, actual start, actual end, and subject. The one field that I did create is Stage duration, which is a decimal and is a calculated field. The calculation works out the difference between Actual End and Actual Start.
  2. Stage Duration
  3. Once I have published the entity I now need to create a workflow to fire each time the active stage changes for the business process that I want to monitor.
  4. Create a new process – workflow, select the newly created entity that corresponds to the business process that you want to monitor.
  5. Set the workflow to run on creation and when the active stage field changes.
  6. Now add action to create the stage duration activity, populate the subject with something like Stage: <<Active Stage>>, populate the actual start with the “Active Stage start time”, update the owner to the owner of the related record and set the regarding to the related record.
  7. Stage duration workflow 2
  8. Now add a wait step to wait until the active stage start time is not equal to the new activity creates actual start time.
  9. Then add the step to update the actual end time to that of the Active stage started on. (this is now the next stage started on time thus the end of the previous stage)
  10. That is it you now have a workflow that triggers at the start of the process and again each time the active stage is changed. That will record the start, end and duration of stage per process stage and user.
  11. Here is the workflow example below:
  12. Stage duration workflow 1
  13. Now each time I change the process a new activity is created as below:
  14. Opportunity stage
  15. Stage duration record
  16. This allows me to create charts as follows, i.e. by stage average time, and by user by stage average time.
  17. Stage reporting

 

The possibilities are now endless to the types of things I can do i.e. alert if a stage has not changed after a given time period, alert if average time is over norm, create a nice dashboard to show exceptions or enable me to identify focus stages to work on.

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How cool – creating word documents using a workflow

I just came across this feature the other day, using a pre-built action to generate a word document via a workflow. There are actually 100s of actions that you can explore in workflows that might actually remove some development.

So how do you generate a word document from a workflow, it’s really simple, just follow these simple steps. In my example I will use the OOB account summary template as an example.

  1. Navigate to Settings->Processes
  2. Create a new process of type workflow, give it a name “Generate Document” etc
  3. For my example I am going to make the workflow On Demand, jus to demonstrate the functionality, but think of these examples:
    1. Creating an opportunity summary at the develop stage of an opportunity
    2. Creating a campaign summary at the end of the campaign
    3. Creating a Case report
  4. At the end of the day this is a workflow so all workflow logic applies
  5. So for my example all I need to do is select Perform Action
  6. pefrom actiom
  7. Scroll down the many actions and select SetWordTemplate
  8. setwordtemplate
  9. Leave the Entity as None
  10. Click on Set Properties
  11. Select the template from the dropdown list
  12. Select Account
    1. NOTE: if you are using a custom entity, the entity is required to be enabled for Business Process Flows to be able to be added
  13. stewordproperties
  14. Save and Close
  15. Activate

That’s it, simple. Now when you go to an account record and select to run an on demand workflow, the Generate document will display.

Runworkflow

The document is stored as a note attachment against the record.

docgenerated

At the moment this solution does not attach to SharePoint, but I am sure clever people could expand this capability!

 

The Dynamics 365 App Paradigm

A new feature of Dynamics 365 is the ability to create “Apps”. An app is a set of related features and functions that are used to deliver an outcome for a user. team or function I.e. Field Service App for field resources, Sales App for sales managers and sales reps to engage with customers.

The app paradigm enables customers to define quickly and cleanly a new interface for different users in the organisation to utilise. Its the ability to limit what a user sees in a controlled configurable manner. It will enable ISVs to deliver a controlled experience for the intended user.

In previous versions of Dynamics, you worked with a single app view I.e. sales, service and marketing. To control what a user could see you needed to manipulate the site map and it could get quite messy! The new App designer makes it very easy to personalise the experience for business users.

So what can I do with the App designer in the first release of Dynamics 365?

  • Define the sitemap elements
  • Define which Dashboards are displayed
  • Define the business process flows that can be utilised
  • Define the Entities to be included
  • Define which forms are to be consumed
  • Define the Views that will be available
  • Define which charts should be displayed

All in all pretty comprehensive ability to control what a user can see.

Remove the project data silo from your business with project services for Dynamics CRM Online

What do your customers remember you by? Your last delivery.

Building long lasting trusting relationships around a solid reputation of delivery is paramount into today’s services economy. With many providers delivering similar services your customer experience needs to be distinct and consistent across every client interaction. As an organisation the level of transparency and collaboration both internally and externally has escalated to the point people expect it, they expect to be involved, they expect to collaborate, they expect to be online, they expect to be able to do it anywhere, and they expect it to be simple. Delivering projects is all about the relationships and team collaboration so why should it not be embedded into a Customer Relationship Management solution?

Process maturity as published by SPI Research for Microsoft on 2016 Professional Services Maturity talks about moving organisations from Project Heroic and Functional Excellence to Portfolio and Collaborative Excellence, the move away from individual project heroes leads to significant performance improvements and increase in average EBITDA compared to organisations that are less mature. To be able to progress on the maturity lifecycle you require systems that are embedded into the process, systems that remove silos of data, that enable greater collaboration amongst teams both internal and external

The focus of Project Services

Project Services for Dynamics CRM focusses are removing the project data silos by embedding deep project services capabilities into Dynamics CRM. This focus of Project Services is on three core operational excellence factors:

  • Deepen customer and employee engagement – focus on building credibility through collaborative project planning, estimation and expectations setting. Provide confidence in project success through proven processes and a responsive engagement model. Then deliver predictable on-time and on budget projects with process automation and transparency. 2015 Miller Heiman Global Sales Best Practices study states that 94% of world class organisations collaborate across all departments to close large deals, as opposed to only 43% across all organisations.
  • Empower Professionals – at the end of the day it is the quality of your professionals that deliver excellent customer engagement and customer experiences. The focus here is ensuring consistency and process excellence to drive up the maturity lifecycle. Through a single system view, you can facilitate transparency with comprehensive views of skills and their relationship to project requirements, ensuring the right resource with the right skills is assigned to work. Inevitably, driving more realistic attainment of on-time and on-budget projects. You can enhance productivity through providing collaboration tools via Office 365 groups, project team sites and tools like visual studio online. By empowering the employee to find projects to maintain skills, to collaborate amongst the team increases loyalty through visible interaction, recognition and skills development.
  • Optimise Growth – 2016 SPI Professional Services Maturity Benchmark states organisations using an integrated project-based solution with CRM are 44% more profitable than those using neither. Coordinating a firm wide approach to prioritizing client and pursuit management using team collaboration in consistent ways helps to deliver successful projects. Monitoring and managing overall status and having that visible to the professionals is critical in ensuring that real time visibility of project status. The more people are aware then the more they care and focus on delivering successful project outcomes. Using the built in metrics in Project Services and PowerBI reporting tools facilitates timely decision making enabling the business to adapt and change accordingly before it is too late.

Introducing Project Services for Dynamics CRM

Project Service is an end-to-end solution that extends Microsoft Dynamics CRM to provide a single system of customer engagement for project sales, resourcing, delivery and billing.

Microsoft_Dynamics_CRM_Online_Project_Service_cycle

Through Office 365 integration collaboration becomes second nature and automated, notes can be shared using OneNote, documents worked on by multiple people seamlessly and shared with the team both internally and externally.

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If you’d like to know more about Microsoft Dynamics CRM project service and how we can help your organisation to deliver project excellence and move along the project lifecycle, we’d love to talk to you. Find out more and download a datasheet here.

CRM + OneNote = Productivity

In the latest release of Dynamics CRM Online, a large focus has been on increasing productivity, by deeper integration with the Office 365 products. One of these investments has been with OneNote. OneNote is a great tool for capturing all sorts of notes, from meeting notes, to actions, to pictures and the list goes on via any device. So image the ability to take ad-hoc notes and seamlessly link them to the appropriate CRM record be an Account or Opportunity or Case, no more hidden notes in emails, description fields, appointments it’s all discoverable.

So why Integrate to OneNote?

OneNote is a well-established tool that enables people to take notes, to collaborate to capture ad hoc conversations, to embed voice and photos of whiteboards, while being fully accessible on any device from Phones, to Tablets, to Desktops, to iPads and Android based devices.

If we look at traditional CRM systems, when it came to note taking or capturing the outcome of a meeting we were left with wondering what to do with the notes, do we attach them as a note, do we summarise using a text box field, do we implement a web resource to invoke a rich text editor in CRM, often though these notes were never updated in CRM, leaving a hole in the interaction, probably the most important interaction.

To demonstrate the value of this productivity enhancement, let’s take a simple example, I am a sales person going to meet a client regarding a new opportunity to deliver some services and implement a new product. I know I will be asking plenty of questions, taking notes and I am sure the whiteboard will be used to draw some pictures. So how does this play out with CRM and OneNote.

I open the CRM App on my tablet. I bring up my opportunity and review the customer details.  Onenote 1
I click on the OneNote link and start taking my notes in OneNote.

I can draw pretty pictures, write some notes, and do what I need to do.

Onenote 2 - Copy Onenote 3
I complete the appointment record against the opportunity  Onenote 4
My pre sales team can immediately review the notes of the meeting.  onenote 5

 

So as you can see a seamless experience for me and my team. Writing notes in a tool meant to write notes in. The benefits being:

  • Based on security access, everyone who needs to see my notes can, in the context of the record
  • I can work on any device anywhere, seamlessly
  • OneNotes are stored in SharePoint so no storage impact on my CRM Online
  • I can take photos, draw pictures, record videos, take typed notes, I am not restricted by a field or size of a field
  • I can collaborate real time with other users in the OneNote
  • Users do not need access to CRM to contribute to the OneNote
  • I can utilise other tools that are integrated with OneNote i.e. IFTTT.com provide many simple tools to really start empowering users usage of OneNote

 

How do we set this up, what do I need to know?

Ok, so you get the point CRM + OneNote = Productivity, so how do I enable it what are the must haves. It is simple really if you meet the following criteria you can enable this integration:

  • You have Dynamics CRM Online, with the latest Update 1 applied
    • If you a new customer, then when you create a trial instance of CRM you will be on this latest update
    • If you an existing customer then you can schedule your instance to be updated via the O365 admin centre
  • You have SharePoint connected to your CRM instance, be Online or On Premise
    • OneNote files are stored in SharePoint using the documents area

 

If you meet this simple criteria you can get going. So to start using OneNote integration, follow these simple steps:

STEP 1 Decide which entities you want to enable OneNote integration for i.e. Accounts, opportunities, Cases etc
STEP 2 Open “Customise the System” and for each entity make sure the Document Management and OneNote Integration flags are checked. Publish the changes.

onenote step2

STEP 3 If you have already enabled SharePoint integration skip this step. Otherwise you need to enable SharePoint Integration via Settings -> Document Management

onenote step 3

STEP 4 Finally you now need to select the entities in which you want to enable OneNote integration for. So navigate to Settings -> Document Management and select OneNote Integration:

onenote step 4

Now select the entities and click Finish. You have now configured OneNote Integration.

onenote step 4a

STEP 5 Once you have enabled OneNote, to create your first connected OneNote section, open up the record and ensure a document library has been created, then in the social panel click on the new OneNote tab and an OneNote file named Untitled will be created. Open this up and start creating your notes.

onenote step 5

 

Finally how are they stored and linked?

 

The OneNote files are stored in SharePoint within the document library for the record. Each record where you initiate an OneNote, a new Notebook will be created. In the social panel, sections of the OneNote notebook are displayed individually.

onenote step finally

 

In Summary

Bringing the power of OneNote together with the structure of Dynamics CRM, enables individuals to work within the tools that are best suited to the job, while being connected to the context of the CRM record. OneNote enables collaboration, sharing of information and enables users to work smarter reducing the duplication of data entry and the complexity of sharing insights amongst the team.

 

 

Dynamics CRM 2016 Release Preview Information

Dynamics CRM 2016 in the name of the next release for Dynamics CRM expected this Fall (December / January), and what a release it looks like it will be.

I have listed some resources that share some of the new features and content:

Microsoft Blog by Bob Stutz

Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016 – Delivering the Next Generation of Intelligent Customer Engagement

YouTube Video on the new features

Youtube2016

Preview Guide

CRMPreviewGuide2016

MSDynamics World MVP Profile – FozzyNZ

Read an interview on me by MSDynamicsWolrd.com at:

http://msdynamicsworld.com/story/dynamics-profile-evangelizing-crm-across-industries-countries-creates-even-greater-understandi