Social Listening

I want to say boring and old. However, that would mean I am blind to what is happening around me. Seriously! Companies who do not yet have a social presence or a Customer Collaboration Team (“CCT”), must be trailing behind. Without having proper channels you end up delivering a poor customer service and appear to be hiding behind the lack of an Omni channel presence. It is not a fad! It is here to stay, the bandwagon arrived and left already, with many adopters. Slow adaptors generally tend to get left behind.

Social listening is a strategy, it is not just tech, so please stop thinking that adopting a CRM system with social listening ability is the solution.  However with, Social Selling Assistant,  Dynamics 365 makes that journey easier. This app will help you grow your network, sell more and keep your customers engaged throughout your product lifecycle.

Intelligent Cloud

Web 2.0 introduced the concept of the user as the publisher, enabling rich content collaboration such as social media, sharing videos, blogs, and YouTube. It has made the internet a common platform for users to publish and share material. Nowadays the Internet has over a billion users, most of whom access it through their phones, visiting social sites. The Internet as a platform (#IaaP) is, therefore, the obvious disruptor in enterprise software strategy, making it a trend.

I feel all nostalgic! I remember Windows 3.1, just double-clicking on a shortcut to an EXE file to launch applications, Word and PowerPoint for instance. Hang on a minute! We are still doing that today on Windows 10. What has changed?

When it comes to progress, the shift has been mainly due to the introduction of virtual platforms, Cloud technology and the explosion of Big Data.  Cloud technology provides the necessary processing power to process significant amounts of data through ML or an AI engine. These advances are therefore facilitating organisations to make use of predictive analysis and machine learning functionality and by incorporating applications accessible from across the globe to orchestrate a connected enterprise.

Key players in the market are now competing on a different scale. Take Microsoft for example; it has shifted its attention to business application development centred on the Azure Cloud platform, utilising Azure Active Directory, #Dynamics365, ML, IOT, Power BI and Office 365.  However, Microsoft is not the only one to build Cloud based solutions. Amazon, Google, Rackspace, Salesforce and IBM along with several other are organisations that have taken to the Cloud.

The transition to and adoption of cloud technology has aided the evolution of Dynamics CRM 2011 to Dynamics 365. This transformation has been remarkable.


Moving forward, hybrid cloud model is becoming a much-discussed solution allowing your organisation to switch between on premise, public and private cloud, maintaining your privacy and protecting your data online and across different providers. However, interoperability across different cloud platforms is proving to be a major challenge.

Given the above shift toward cloud technology, the question isn’t why we should move to a cloud model the more prevailing question is why should any software provider invest in keeping their solution on premise?

Data confidentiality remains the primary driver for on-premise implementations. Client side code, like JavaScript and AJAX, still leave room to exploit the client-server model, especially with the popularity of Web 2.0. This vulnerability creates room for data leaks and poses a risk to the privacy and confidentiality of data in most data sensitive and risk conscious organisations.

Internet Of Things

#IOT, perhaps best described as, a network of interconnected smart sensor devices, wirelessly sending data through the internet, signalling changes in states, which trigger an action or behaviour that will automate or add value to a process.

For Example, a car which is fitted with smart sensors or IOT devices, automatically warn the owner that the suspensions are not functioning as designed and sends a message to the manufacturer or a partner garage that its suspensions are not entirely safe. An alert will go out to a local garage CRM system, Dynamics 365 perhaps. The sales person managing the account will see the warning or alert. Owner will receive a call: “your car has just indicated that the suspensions are not in line with safety regulations, please can you bring your car in?” Alternatively, system will auto schedule an appointment and send an SMS confirmation to the owner for acceptance. I am sure having cars communicating directly with the service agents would add value to the service providers. Rolls Royce has taken advantage of this sort of technology for their jet engines.

Microsoft IoT Hub easily and securely connect your Internet of Things (IoT) devices and can send data to Dynamics 365. Dynamics 365 can then trigger workflows or display the required information in a dashboard.

This kind of automation serves well in any environment; however, the service industry benefits the most from adopting this application of technology.   A hive of interconnected devices driving some automated behaviour, or serving as a means of collecting data, can help build Smart Cities and Smart Nations. A world where systems can monitor our energy foot print, measure and reduce waste and improve monitoring of health issues, through to sending alerts to relevant providers to report on anomalies so they can be addressed in a timely fashion. 

Logic, though at the heart of decision making, is not the only major factor in making decisions. There are several influencing factors, such as political views, social norms and allegiance to groups which guide or impact the way we decide.  Internet of things, can provide information which can be an influencing factor in our decision-making process and reduce the amount of time it takes to implement or justify change.

The more we learn about our own intelligence and influencing factors that lead us to making decisions, the more challenges we address in building intelligent systems that can match or exceed our own abilities.

Automated Marketing

Marketing Automation refers to the creation of automated marketing tasks or workflow actions, to nurture customers and measure success.


The main aim is to deliver a consistent and compelling message across all channels.  The adoption of cloud technology has provided corporations with the scalability and processing power required to automate and streamline marketing campaigns. Leading CRM systems nowadays have adopted this feature, either as part of their out of box functionality or through integration.

However, many believe that Microsoft Dynamics 365, as one of the leading platforms, still does not offer any marketing automation. Wrong!   Don’t believe me? Have a look.

Unfortunately, you do not need a degree in computer science to do this; all you need is a mouse. Drag and drop to build a complete marketing process. Simple!

Due to the growing demand for automated marketing tools, and cloud technology, as the platform, #Adobe and Microsoft decided to partner up. They aim to offer a robust solution, enabling consistent user experience and maintaining a joined-up enterprise.

 “What does this partnership mean for CRM?”  you may ask.

Microsoft is gearing up Dynamics 365 Marketing module by embedding features of Adobe Marketing. To this end, Microsoft Dynamics 365 is set to gain improved marketing automation features for CRM online.  Their joined effort may also bring, much loved, Adobe functionality like, the ability to generate and edit PDF documents along with e-signature feature, basically the entire content workflow accessible through Dynamics 365 is also a possibility.

#Dynamics365 combined with Adobe is set to have, the power to enable advanced segmentation, customer lifecycle marketing, lead nurturing, lead scoring, cross-sell, and up-sell improving customer retention, and marketing ROI measurement features.  Regardless of the features or integrations, Dynamics 365 has full support from both CEOs. Adobe Marketing Cloud has a complete set of marketing products which could enrich Dynamics 365.

 With these marketing functions, advanced analytics and continued use of intelligent dashboards, your organisation can bridge the gap between sales, marketing, and visualisation.  Moreover, with all these features embedded on a single platform, like dynamics 365, you can expect an increase in the rate of conversion and provide a single collaborative platform for users across the enterprise. As Dynamics 365 continues to challenge Salesforce, and other competitors, we can clearly expect investment, growth, and innovation in this area by all CRM providers.

Is this a trend or just hype?

While some organisations, recognise the benefits of Automated Marketing, they do not fully appreciate the dependencies which lie at the core of this functionality. Marketing is a strategy and needs to be established organically in an organisation. giphyMarketing strategy should encompass, a suitable model for generating leads, with a clear understanding of the target customer profile and measure sentiment throughout the customer’s journey. For this reason, automated marketing is just a tool to drive a consistent marketing message across the web, mobile, video, social, and other channels.

Advanced Analytics (Machine Learning)

Data has become a commodity. The more we store, the more challenges it brings.  However, one of the key strengths emerging from captured data,  is  what we learn from it.  Companies are surviving and experiencing continued, sustained, growth by applying the right tools to effectively manage the data captured. For instance, Dynamics 365 CRM “out of the box”,  meaning without any development effort, provides cross-selling and upselling functionality. It suggests a product, based on the product’s relationship structure stored in the system.  Hence, with applications like Dynamics 365, your agents will surely be asking: “do you want fries with that?”; shortly followed by: “do you want to go large?

On the other hand, Advanced Analytics,  is what puts your organisation leaps and bounds above its competition. To do this properly, you must have the right data set, and must also know the traits required to get the most value out of your data.  For example, Azure Machine Learning (ML) service, a part of Cortana Intelligence, can process significant amounts of prepared data, uncovering patterns and trends in your customer interaction history. To do this effectively, #ML uses techniques from statistical analysis to build a coded algorithm, called a Model. This model is used on data to identify traits and can be plugged into an application, like Dynamics 365, to provide some real insights.



This form of advanced analytics, surfacing on your CRM system, delivers the right kind of customer-centred information, adding a new dimension to your decision-making process.

For example, banks may use machine learning to identify fraudulent transactions.  To achieve this, data is prepared to isolate traits such as location, transaction amount, time and type of transaction. ML  can analyse these traits from customers transaction history to build a model, that can learn the general trend or pattern of a normal transaction. This model can be  used to deduce the probability of a transaction being fraudulent.

#ML will not only increase the value to your business; it will also enable you to work more in line with your customers’ behaviour, understanding your customers’ demands  and reveal some interesting “Relationship Insights.”



Consider the amount of data harvested by companies like Google and Smart Phone providers, I shudder to think, what data do they hold? Moreover, What kind of insights can they gain about our behaviour, using this data? Who has access to that data and how are they sharing that information?

These questions raise further concerns around data protection,  data privacy and more importantly, challenge the authenticity for consent of data processing. This use of data also raises legal and moral debates surrounding data privacy, especially, when data is transmitted across international boundaries.

Five Challenges of CRM Projects

When implementing an off the shelf, CRM solution, organisations carry the mind-set of purchasing a product, much like buying a car. Whilst you are indeed purchasing a tangible product, the journey is completely different. Here are several misconceptions which disrupt the implementation of a CRM solution in an organisation.

Note: Data migration has deliberately been omitted from this list, I will explain in a later post.

Estimates are deadlines: CRM solution providers are expected to provide quick estimates, for delivery timeline, right from the start. This forces the solution providers to make assumptions around complexity, functionality and usability. To win the bid, solution providers assume the simplest solution and provide a competitive estimate. However, when implementation process starts, every aspect of software development is engaged, and detailed analysis reveal complexity that was unaccounted for in the original estimates. Nevertheless, solution providers are expected to deliver according to their estimates, treating them as deadlines.


We know what we want: At the start of a CRM initiative, organisations build a list of requirements. These requirements or list of features highlight what is considered necessary, at that time, for a successful implementation. Some features do not necessarily aid the user journey, reduce complexity and consider the importance of the requirement in relation to the overall organisations goal. Additionally, when solution providers dive into the details of each requirement they uncover several system and project dependencies. These features often, not aligned with the overall goals of the project, pull the project towards a new direction.


Automation improves efficiency: Organisations want more automation at a reduce cost with an expectation to improve efficiency and output. Automation does improve efficiency where lengthy processes, cause delays, derail the flow of information and stretch the decision-making process. Automation is justified where there is a high cost of human error. However, automation for the sake of automation, makes the user journey more difficult to manage, takes control away from the end-user, and consumes a lot of development effort and time.


Management is always right: Management compiles a feature set based on a “To Be” vision. However, daily responsibilities do not allow end users to be fully engaged in the compiling process for requirements. When these users are eventually engaged, in implementation of the “to be” vision, gaps are discovered. Additionally, lack of awareness of the “to be” goals also derails the information flow and creates additional work for the developers. In these situations, organisations tend to quickly jump to the path of least resistance, and try to build a solution which retains legacy functional behaviour and the developers are forced to build on top of existing functionality. Alternatively, the business ends up adding new high priority stories or features to the product backlog which adds to delays in releasing the software.  In the end the developers are left to blame for delays.

Users will do as told: Management is usually busy with removing conflicts to business, increasing productivity and making decisions. This leaves little time to fully appreciate the pains of customer engagement. Emphasis is placed on reporting, analytics, data capture and structure of the application. Ignoring the true driver of those elements i.e. the process associated with the capture of this information therefore, leaving user experience, customer and user journey as somewhat of an after-thought. This builds an impression amongst the users and stakeholders that, the business is leaning to accommodate the applications functionality rather than building an application with enables the business to perform better, deliver better customer service, increase productivity and reduce complexity.

Business of change: the seven pillars.

As humans we live in a constantly changing environment, be it social, economical, political or personal. We learn to react and adapt to our changing environment by creating routines, procedures or systems which help us to grow and maintain normality. Simple routines like waking up in the morning, some of us like a strong cup of coffee, some tea,  some like to have cereal first whilst others prefer to have fruit. Whilst, these and many more appear to be simplistic examples, they showcase our need for routine. We take these routines and apply innovation to enable us to improve our efficiency. Our innovative ideas drive our ability to change, and through this process we learn, react and adapt to a constantly changing environment. This process of learning and adapting to change helps us to grow as a productive functional society.


Similarly, every day, businesses grapple with change. Every change begins with an idea to add value, increase productivity, or reduce waste.  Organisations therefore initiate several programs to address the flux in business, such as, implementation of a Customer Relationship Management system.  My aim here is not to address every aspect of change management, but, to outline, in my opinion, the mind-set required to address change and  the seven pillars that, I believe, support change.

As part of implementing a change initiative, organisation must appoint and empower a Change Leadership Team. The aim of this team should be to inform the stakeholders of the reason for change, and to convince them of the initiative which aims to promote growth of the organisation in a competitive environment.

In order to do this successfully, the change leadership team – or steering group, should appoint, a body or team, with the responsibility to communicate and engage with stakeholders. This gives a voice to people and informs the leadership team of sentiments around business issues and barriers to success. Stakeholders should feel empowered, and convinced of the underlying driver for change. If people are not engaged or are not convinced of the drivers for change, then they become anxious, frustrated and tend to stick to their existing routine.  These feelings raise barriers to adoption and also cause resistance to change.Changes Change leadership must be able to influence and encourage adoption by engaging in dialogue and establishing a learning environment for people. A key component of this is to understand the skills gaps and create programs to train people therefore avoid feelings of anxiety, alienation and dissociation. Another component is to build forums, to discuss, convince, and reassure people of their role and the importance of it for the organisation.

Another basic example: I recently bought a PlayStation. My son was not as excited at all. I loaded a game and began playing with the hand controller and started interacting with the characters on-screen, he was intrigued. Next morning, he wanted to have a go, but did not know how the hand controller interacted with the characters in the game.  I noticed he started playing with the hand controller,  moving the levers on the controller, all his energy was spent in copying my actions. When I explained how the system works, he understood the concept, and started getting to grips with the characters on screen and learned how to move around in the game. Now, he is too engaged, in-fact, I have to set a timer to control the amount of time he spends playing on the console.

Perhaps it is a simplistic example, but it does outline the seven pillars of change.



The seven steps of implementing change are:

  1. Plan: Undertake an impact analysis to reveal skill gaps, training needs, potential technical obstacles, and scope.
  2. Train: Understand the difference between communication and engagement. Speak the same language and bridge the skill gaps.
  3. Empower: Establish champions for change and engage the CEO and senior leadership, setup visible training programs.
  4. Enact: Make the change visible, understandable and accomplishable by enacting or bringing in examples of a role model or create an environment to test and engage.
  5. Control: Understand the impact of other dependent programmes or systems and set a boundary to what you aim to accomplish, set clear and realistic goals.
  6. Reinforce: Outline the team roles structure use RACI model, and create incentives to speed adoption.
  7. Reflect: Report on the gained benefits of the change and show the progress of the project against goals or set milestones.. Keep it simple and reflect on previous mistakes.

An enterprise’s organisational structure, operating model, internal politics, policies, information governance framework, communication strategy, budget, time, engagement style, business model are all dependencies that are significant in the success or failure of a change programme, especially when there are multiple interdependent programs running at the same time.

Organisations must accurately assess the impact, dependencies, capability and availability of employees, so that, the change leadership team can implement plans to engage, train, enact and encourage the right change. It is important to outline immediate or short-term wins and explain the long-term steps needed to reach key milestones so people are convinced of why the change is necessary.

Change should not have to be forced onto people. It is important to try to nurture a culture of change, start incentive schemes which would encourage people to understand, adapt and accept change.