Sunday, November 28, 2010

SmartView - Listen to Customers

Is there anything more important that listening to customers for all of us in software implementation and development. SmartView was written because our customers kept asking for it. I have to admit that initially while I thought it was a good idea - I was not convinced it was going set our sales on fire.

I have been extraordinarily lucky in the past few years to look after presales for some great products in Extender and SmartConnect. There is nothing better than doing demos that literally 'knock the socks off' the audience. When I started showing off SmartView I was a little nervous - I had a good demo but not what I thought was an amazing demo.

As it turns out I should have been listening to customers and not worrying about my demo. Customers were amazed and falling off their chair to get hold of SmartView. SmartView is just what customers were looking for - and each one loved it for a different reason. Some desperately needed the speed. Others simply wanted to move the divider line on the screen. Another customer really wanted the unlimited filters.

None of these features are amazing in their own right, but to a GP customer they were just the tonic. In fact customers did not want amazing - they wanted something that helped them do their day to day job a whole lot easier.

As a result I have been amazed at the sales of SmartView in just its first few weeks. Customers just can not get it quick enough. I really should not be surprised as this is exactly what customers were asking for.

Upgrade to 2010

Before upgrading to SmartConnect to V2010 you must take time out to read the upgrade instructions. The upgrade steps are available for download in the same place as the SmartConnect Download, and will also open during the SmartConnect install (but at that point it is often too late).

There are 2 key steps that this document disusses:
1. Before upgrading SmartConnect you MUST have upgraded to either v9.51 or v10.51 of SmartConnect. Before upgrading the current install must end in 51. The SmartConnect 2010 upgrade path is only supported from v51. This is not optional. You will almost definitely lose maps and have maps that will not upgrade if you do not ensure you are upgrading from 51.

The 2010 upgrade is a significant upgrade step, with the big change being that the SmartConnect database is standalone and no longer tied to a specific GP database. The architectural changes are important for SmartConnect and enable us to execute our product road map for SmartConnect over the next few years.

2. Security: We have changed SmartConnect security in SmartConnect 2010 to be entirely active directory driven. The install documents step through the changes that need to occur and how the security process works in 2010. This means that loggin in as 'sa' is of little meaning as all SmartConnect cares about is the AD user security. This is an important step as more often than not the users executing SmartConnect maps (through excel, websites and push integrations) are not GP users. So please take the time to read the instructions prior to the upgrade to ensure a smooth and easy transition.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Why the eOne CRM to GP templates include custom Entities

Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Dynamics GP are very different applications and exist for very different purposes. What this means is that moving data between them is not necessarily all that simple, and concepts in one application may not exist in the other.

With SmartConnect and the eOne templates we have set out to smooth over as many of these instances as possible to make the integration process easier. I will look at a couple of those scenarios here:

Class ID: You will find that with the eOne templates we have added a field and entity called Class ID onto the account Entity. The Class ID is an important field in GP and needs to be populated when creating a customer in Dynamics GP. So there are a couple of options when building an integration:
1. Use another field in CRM to store a value for Class ID. This could accept free form data entry or be a fixed drop down list.
2. Use a complex calculated field to determine what the class ID should be, based upon other information on the account. e.g. Country, city, type etc
3. Use the templates to have a dedicated field for Class ID.

This class ID has been created as an entity in its own right in CRM. We have a map that keeps this entity in Sync with GP so that any new classes added in GP will automatically be added in CRM. This makes integration mapping easy as you are able to map the Class ID in CRM directly to a validated class ID in GP. This is an example of the flexibility SmartConenct provides. You can use the custom entity provided in the templates or map the Class ID in any other way that is appropriate to a particular implementation.


Payment Terms: This is another field in CRM that acts very differently to the payment terms field in GP. In GP this field drives due dates on invoices - and will impact on cash flow for a business. In CRM this is an informational field that 'does nothing'. In CRM the payment terms field is a pick list. This causes an issue as there is no way to automate new the addition of new values into this pick list in CRM. So when a new payment term is added in GP it would need to be manually added into CRM.

In the eOne templates we have removed the standard payment term from CRM and replaced it with a new entity and field for Payment terms. This entity is kept in Sync with GP so any new payment terms added to GP will automatically end up in the CRM list. this also ensures that only valid payments can be selected in CRM and passed to GP.


Aging Buckets: On thing that every body within an organization can use is the ageing buckets for a customer. For this reason the templates add a new series of fields to store this information within CRM. The standard maps take this information from GP and moves it across to CRM on a regular basis.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Cash For Clunker - only 35 days to go

Give you clients a Christmas present - with only 35 days to go on the cash for Clunker program. Trade in your old systems for a new one that goes better, faster and does way more stuff - at a great price.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

GUID's and CRM,

If you are a CRM consultant you already understand all about GUIDS. If you are a GP consultant then GUID's may be a mystery.

In Dynamics CRM all entity records are tracked by a unique identifier called a GUID. For GP folk this is very similar to the concept of a GL account number and an account index. To reference an account number in the GP tables you often need to know the index. This concept is fundamental to CRM, and pervasive across the product.

What this menas is that if you were to try and write data directly into the CRM tables you need to pass in the GUID's into the table. The problem with this is that no source data file will contain GUID's as they not something end users will know about or understand.

SmartConnect resolves this issue by providing the concept of an entity lookup. The entity lookup is defined during the building of a map and says "for each value in this field, go and lookup CRM to find the GUID, then pass the GUID value into the integration rather than the actual entity record. So whether you are dealing with a standard entity or a custom entity you can always use the entity lookup.

This is another way in which SmartConnect makes integrating CRM and GP easy for all consultants.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

SmartConnect Hotfix

Today eOne has released a hotfix for SmartConnect 2010 for GP 2010. There are two main issue addressed in this hotfix:
1. Random 'Write Failure Error' when running SmartConnect maps after upgrading to eConnect 2010. This issue is reportedly resolved with SP1 eConnect but in our testing this issue still arises - albeit less often. This build of SmartConnect will track for this specific error message and reprocess failed document containing this error. In our testing this has resolved the issue in all cases.
2. Dates passed to the CRM webservice will be of a standard CRM acceptable format rather than the format defined on inidvidual servers. This issue impacted customers with a non USA date format server, and a USA based CRM install.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

CRM and GP: What should you Integrate

In the last post we talked about getting the right team together for the project. The next step is to scope the integration points. To do this both your GP Guru and your CRM Guru needs to be familiar with the key functionality within SmartConenct.

I must have had 50 people say to me - send me your templates and we will use that as the starting point for the scope. If you do that you have missed the point of integrating CRM and GP. Lets go back to some simple definitions:

CRM: this is where you manage the relationships your company maintains with the people your company deals with. This usually has a sales/prospecting focus.
ERP: The is where your business transacts and manages the day to day activities of running the business including billing, accounting, stock management etc.

So the question is - what data can you expose between Dynamics GP and Dynamics CRM to help the business run better as whole. In regards to the eOne templates it is important that they exist and will reduce your time to deliver certain functionality but they do not form the basis for your scope. The starting point is the knowledge that SmartConnect can create any data in GP based on any data in CRM. In Reverse SmartConnect can create any data in CRM based upon any data in GP.

That sounds simple enough. If you have a customer in one system, you can create it in another. If you have an order in one system you can create it in the other. This is the old case of 'integration' - I have one record here and I would like to create a matching record over there. Boring.

So lets get creative - can I create an activity, appointment or phone call in CRM with SmartConnect. Yes - we said you could create any CRM record. But we don't have any Activities in GP - so how can we create them in CRM. Activities in CRM require very little information, so why not just use a trigger in GP, based upon a predefined rule, to create an activity in CRM. Now we are starting to talk about clever integration.

What about this scenario described by a client. "We put all our invoices in GP, and use CRM for prospecting both existing and new customers. When we get a customer they are recurring customers, so usually make a similar spend with us every month. We really need to know if a customer has not made a purchase in a given month as we need to act quickly to ensure we retain that customers business. "

The solution is provided by SmartConnect. Build a SmartConnect map based upon monthly sales totals. If a customer has a $zero monthly spend, and a greater than $1000 spend the previous month - create an activity in CRM for that customers sales person. So what does that map look like and what data are you passing:

Destination: CRM Activity
Datasource: Anyone with $0 monthly sales. This can come from a SmartList, a GP query or a SQL query whichever you are familiar with.
Mapped Fields: You in fact would not pass any values to CRM other than to create an activity, assigned to the salesperson with a description that said "please contact Aaron Fitz - they had a zero spend last month"

So while not trying to teach you to suck eggs, it is important here to find out what type of integration/automation this business needs. I am assuming all the normal stuff Customers, items, payment terms, orders, class IDs etc are handled by the templates or simple maps. The idea I want people to consider is that you do not needing matching records in both systems - but you can use SmartConnect to create new records based upon any data that comes from anywhere.

Another thing to consider is 'does the data actually need to be moved, or just viewed in the other system'. For example, it cna be useful for the back office team to see outstanding quotes from CRM, inside GP. htis does not necessarily mean any data integration. What about simply using SmartList builder or Navigation list Builder to look directly into the CRM data? Cna SmartList Builder look at external SQl tables - YES. So an important consideration is, do we need to move the data or just display it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Integrating Microsoft CRM and GP

This is a topic that I have been quiet on for a while, but over the next few weeks I will be returning to it many times with a series of tips and tricks specific to CRM and GP.

Despite being around for a number of years there still appears to be a great deal of trepidation when a partner sets out on a CRM to GP integration. I want to set out to prove that there is no need for trepidation and a CRM to GP integration can be and should be a standard activity for any GP/CRM reseller. There are a number of reasons why I think this trepidation has developed:
1. Partners being burnt by launching into the complexities of Scribe, unprepared.
2. The original GP/CRM connections in SmartConnect were not yet fully functional
3. More recently the inflexibility and simplicity of the standard connector from Microsoft
4. Underestimating the complexity of the line 'we just want a simple and standard integration'
5. Choosing the wrong team to implement the integration
6. Fear of the unknown
7. Lack of useful specification

To resolve point 1, 2 and 3 - SmartConnect has come to the rescue. After a recent SmartConnect (for CRM) training session the attendee was quoted to say "Holy crap, I can not believe how far SmartConnect has come in the last few versions. This means that any clown that can double click can integrate CRM and GP. I will dig deeper into the reasons why SmartConnect has blown away any competition over the next few weeks.

Today I want to focus on the team that should implement an integration. Traditionally the CRM team has either put up their hand, or been nominated to lead the integration process. GP consultants got to hide their head, and hope it all worked out for the good. This is a dreadful model. The reason for this is that more often than not the CRM team were already familiar with Scribe and had used it in conjunction with Sales Logix or the initial releases of Microsoft CRM. The use of Scribe was for initial data load to CRM, conversions from ACT etc and duplicate checking on these data loads. This meant a file of data (usually a spreadsheet) that needed to end up in CRM. There is almost no similarity between that type of project and a two way ERP to CRM integration project.

The fundamental difference between ERP software and CRM software is 'unique records'. Now this sounds fundamental to any database but in CRM it is perfectly legitimate to have the same customer or contact in your database multiple times. (for example John Smith can be a vendor, a customer, a prospect, an ex employee, have worked for multiple customers previously etc etc). Where in an ERP each record must have a unique identifier.

Secondly, most CRM implementers have no idea what an ERP does and often times why you would even have one. (a wild generalization I accept). CRM's are a place to store large volumes of data - but are not really transactional. CRM's have many less transaction rules for things like Tax, Double Entry accounting, Serial Number Processing, Inventory tracking etc. An ERP is a whole bunch of Business Rules through which all data is funneled/processed before and after hitting the database. Once that data hits it moves to history as processed, unchangeable data. Compared to a CRM system and ERP is an extremely complex beast.

The above said, do not underestimate the free form flexibility and associated complexity of CRM. ERP's are to an extent governed by the rules of accounting, rules of tax and governments and the standard process of doing business. CRM's are governed by the creativity of a sales manager and sales team. Now that can get complex.

Terminology and concepts are different with CRM and GP. In CRM you have to understand GUID's and in GP you have to understand the impact of the payment terms field on all Receivables transactions. What about a class ID? How do you integrate form CRM to GP without passing through a class ID for customers? There is no Class ID in CRM so too bad? A GP consultant understand the importance of this field in GP but a CRM consultant sees it as just another classification.

In CRM the workflow is everything - what happens next and who should be reminded to act after this step. When you create an order what happens next, when does it become committed and when can users stop editing the record. These are questions that are usually givens in an ERP but are all open to change in a CRM.

So in short you need both a CRM guru and a GP Guru on your implementation team - particularly for the scope and design exercise. YES - the scope and design exercise for the integration. I will come back to this topic as it is the most important step in any integration, and is essential no matter how simple the initial requirements.

With SmartConnect you are able to configure an entire integration form within GP. You never even have to log into CRM (other than testing). So in theory all you need is a good GP consultant? (it has been done but not recommended). You must have both a CRM Guru and a GP Guru involved in each and every implementation project. I tend to recommend that the GP Guru take the lead as the GP side is usually the more complex as far as transaction complexity. The CRM guru is essential for the work flow of what happens in CRM and how things are displayed to the sales team. The mapping and pushing of data is the easy bit and tends to be best handled and mapped by the GP consultant, with the CRM team working on the display and who gets to do what when within CRM.

Lastly, involve the customer in every step. They need to own it, feel part of the process and truly understand it.

No Project should commence without sign off on the scope by all parties.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Promotional Pricing

I wanted to tell everyone about our $US promotions that run through until Dec 31st 2010. These deals will end at the end of the year so if you want to take advantage of the lower pricing now is the time ot act.

Cash for Clunkers is Back and Bigger until Dec 31st 2010
The Australian version of Cash for Clunkers, Bucks for Bombs, Razoo's for Rust Buckets, Dollars for Dumps looks like it may be scrapped before it even gets started. With the Government needing to make budget cuts, it looks like the policy itself will end up on the scrap heap rather than the cars.

So to balance things out, we are bringing back our Cash for Clunker program that allows you to trade in your legacy integration and automation tools and receive a cash break on the purchase price. All you have to do is tell us what product you are trading in, and you will qualify for the SmartConnect Cash for Clunker Program. The big advantage to your 'Business Environment' is that you will save time and be able to build many more efficient automations and integrations than you could with your Clunker.

eOne's Cash for Clunkers will run from 15th November 2010 through to December 31st 2010. SmartConnect normally retails for US$4,500 but with a Clunker Trade In you receive $1,500 off, making the total price just $3,000.

SmartView Launch Promotion
SmartView is brand new and so we are offering a great opening price of just $1,500 through to Dec 31st. Get in now before the price moves upward.

SmartView and SmartConnect Bundle
Now this promotion is a cracker. When you purchase SmartConnect you are entitled to upgrade the package to include SmartView for just an extra $1,000. This applies to both the regular SmartConnect price as well as the clunker promotion. This means that under the clunker promotion you can get both SmartConnect and SmartView for just $4,500 - which is the normal price for SmartConnect on its own. That is effectively SmartView for free!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

SmartView Available from Today.

One of the primary things that mid market companies look for in an ERP system is better and faster access to data. One of the most loved features of Microsoft Dynamics GP is SmartList and SmartList Builder - and that is because it provides an extremely simple interface to access all the data captured within your ERP system.

SmartView is a tool that takes the best thing in Dynamics GP and makes it a whole lot better. I am very excited to announce that SmartView is now available for download and sale. To learn all about SmartView you can watch a demonstration here or review the features here.

I can hear you asking - how do you make SmartList better? The primary way is to make it faster. Smartview makes all your Smartlists and SmartList Builder lists much faster. The second way to make SmartList better is to modify the user interface to elimiate the little things that frustrate users, and make leaps in functionality with unlimited filters and the ability to Group and Subtotal records.

Before beginning work on SmartView we spoke to a number of Dynamics GP customers to understand their needs, "There is nothing better than the list view for accessing and reviewing transactions. We love SmartList because it is so simple and everyone can use it without training." Based on this feedback we set out to make SmartView as easy to use as we could. To fit with all eOne products it had to be fast, it had to be flexible and configurable to specifically met the needs of any business.

"On a day to day basis we need data and we need it fast. We do not have time for pretty graphs and pie charts, but we need to find transactions really quickly so we can move on with our next task. For us it is about finding and processing Purchase Orders, Fullfilling sales and getting goods out the door." Based on this comment we decided that SmartView must be a tool for the everyday GP user. It was not a tool that the CEO will use to analyze sexy graphs and make presentation to the board but rather SmartView is a tool for the user who spends much of their day working inside Dynamics GP.

If you would like to find out more about SmartView please contact me at martin.olsen@eonesolutions.com

Thursday, November 04, 2010

SmartView

Thanks for the feedback that the Flash version of the SmartView demos were taking too long to download and watch. Today we posted a WMV (Windows Media) version of those same demos. If you struggled with the Flash file, please take a new look at the WMV's.

Watch the demos now.

We have also been overwhelmed by the positive and passionate feedback on SmartView. If you need any assistance in taking SmartView to your customers please contact me directly martin.olsen@eonesolutions.com

Monday, November 01, 2010

We Love good Feedback

Support can be one of the most rewarding jobs, but also one where you get bogged down in the most troublesome of software issues and human frustration. We at eOne are very proud of our help desk and believe the combination of our teams total customer focus and deep product knowledge mean our team are second to none. It is always great to recognize positive feedback - and here is a great message and reccomendation given recently about David's work.

Hi David,

I want to personally thank you for your assistance on this. I know you put a lot of time and effort into resolving with us and glad to see we have such a great partner like eOne working with us. You will definitely see more business from us simply from this support case alone. Feel free to use this as a testimonial.

Regards,

==========================================
David J. Smooha, CPA
Chief Executive Officer
Business Solution Partners