Ask the expert: How to manage a Microsoft Dynamics project
One of the key challenges in Microsoft Dynamics is the process of managing the software development lifecycle well over different stages of the project and different kinds of Microsoft Dynamics projects. Let us go through this and try to understand some of the key aspects of managing Microsoft Dynamics 365.
Managing Dynamics 365 implementations
It is a key metric in the software world that the majority of CRM and ERP projects fail. There are lots of reasons to attribute to project failure, but don’t you think as a Dynamics 365 professional that a lot of it is to do with the way Dynamics 365 projects are being implemented?
Here are some key areas that need to be considered ahead of time to manage a successful Dynamics 365 implementation:
Dynamics 365 product knowledge in the team
With an array of Dynamics 365 product offerings from Microsoft, it’s always important to be on top of the knowledge game in terms of the Dynamics 365 product family. With the Power Platform also coming into play, it becomes even more important.
Fit Gap Analysis
Often, the business needs of an organization are not mapped into the right product feature, or excessive customizations are made to the product. This creates a technical debt, which should be avoided at all costs and can unnecessarily increase the implementation time and cost of a Dynamics 365 implementation. Fit Gap Analysis early on in an implementation can help bridge the gap correctly.
Choosing experienced consultants and a Microsoft Partner
Skillsets have always been a big challenge within Dynamics 365 implementations and projects. It takes a lot of skill to be experienced in the product domain as a consultant or a Microsoft Partner, so choosing an experienced partner is key to a successful Dynamics 365 implementation.
User adoption and training is key
A lot of Dynamics 365 implementations forget to focus on the fact that user adoption and training are the key to success. Initially, the training involves basic sessions to impart knowledge on the product (I’d suggest this is done before requirements gathering).
In User Acceptance Testing, training involves identifying the right champions or ‘power users’, who will help train the others and also play an active role in getting the product to correctly suit the needs of the business. Most Dynamics 365 implementations fail at user adoption, so a training plan should be devised at the project deliverables stage to encourage eventual user adoption.
Choosing the right software methodology is important
Traditionally, Dynamics 365 implementations used to be powered by Sure Step methodology from Microsoft. Over time, Agile approach has taken over. Deciding the number of sprints and duration is pretty important. Often, times users are not well aware of the actual use of Agile with Dynamics 365—experienced architects or project managers need to explain the right software methodology at the start of the implementation.
Integration and migration design and approach
Dynamics 365 systems are often integrated with a lot of back end, internal and external systems. At times, initial implementation involves moving over from an existing system. Integration and migration design and approach thus play a very crucial role in a Dynamics 365 implementation, and that is what we will go through in the coming sections.
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Managing Dynamics 365 Migrations
As I already mentioned towards the end of the last section, more often than not there is an existing application or set of applications managing the customer business. Dynamics 365 implementations thus involve migration of data from this line of business applications and moving them to a Dynamics 365 product. Here are some of the considerations one should keep in mind to manage a Dynamics 365 migration successfully.
Data quality is everything
Data quality is a key consideration when migrating it into Dynamics 365. In case data has been stored in an existing application over the years, some of the relevant questions to consider are:
- Does the organization really require this data?
- Is there data that can be purged?
- Are there certain fields that do not make any sense or can be mapped to something more relevant?
- Can there be a re-structuring of this data to make better use of a Dynamics 365 product?
Data migration also requires a good design time
Data migration is often lacking enough time spent on design. Considering it is only a one-time activity, it is rarely given enough think time on the design board or a proof of concept to validate the outcomes. This is a big risk to a Dynamics 365 implementation. Some of the challenges one can later see in the project, where not enough thought process has been put into your Dynamics 365 project, are:
- Delays due to wrong mapping being done on the data.
- The impact of data moving into Dynamics 365 not being considered in terms of processes, forms and automation.
- An increase in effort of migration, mostly before User Acceptance Testing and no realistic measure of completion time.
- Performance metrics not being considered to move the data into Dynamics 365 in an optimal way.
- A re-design on the metadata structure and architecture of Dynamics 365, late into the implementation.
A good Dynamics 365 consultant might not be the best data migration expert
Just like Dynamics 365, data migration also requires its own specific skillset. Often a Dynamics 365 consultant is also seen playing the role of a data migration expert. This might not be the best-suited approach for data migration, considering all of the best practices and approaches a data migration expert will bring.
Using the right data migration tool is going to be beneficial
Often, implementations fail and people spend too much time trying to re-invent the wheel when there are already proven tools, solutions and approaches provided by Microsoft, as well as partners, to speed up the data migration effort for a Dynamics 365 implementation. Using the right tool can greatly enhance the ability of migration required for a Dynamics 365 implementation.
Managing Dynamics 365 Product Upgrades
As far as the online version of the product family is concerned, Dynamics 365 has been growing thanks to a rigorous set of upgrades. One of the key asks is utilizing the latest and greatest for you or your customer’s business in the best possible way. Some of the considerations for managing product upgrades successfully are:
- Know-how of the latest features and product roadmap is very important in case one has to adopt them.
- Identify key champions for each product within the product stack and features within your team, and give them sufficient time to keep themselves informed about the latest product upgrades and features. It should also be their job to periodically share this with the team.
- Inform your management or customers in a timely manner of what is coming. Holding webinars or knowledge sharing sessions can help.
- Test the latest version in a test or sandbox environment on a regular basis, to make sure that the product upgrade does not break anything. It can be a useful exercise if re-engineering is required to utilize a new feature.
I hope you found this article useful, and hopefully it will help you on your Dynamics 365 and Power Platform journey.
Deepesh Somani is a Practice Director for Customer Engagement and Power Platform at Dynamisity and a Microsoft Certified trainer. He has been implementing Microsoft Dynamics for the last 12 years, has been a Microsoft Business applications MVP awardee since 2015, and was recognized as one of the top 50 CRM bloggers in 2019 by Feedspot. You can find his blog by clicking here.