Chapter 10. Summary and Takeaways - Customer Success with Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step (2014)

Customer Success with Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step

Chapter 10. Summary and Takeaways

Most service providers have well-trained and/or experienced project managers, use proven project management methodologies to guide the plan, and have the discipline and rigor to carry out the project plan. Those that are substantially late tend to be fraught with serious issues and with out-of-control changes in requirements and scope—all of which are issues that a service provider must have a plan for and be prepared to deal with. Savvy service providers will highlight the proven track record of their project management methodologies, as well as demonstrate their effectiveness.

--Gartner, Inc.

Congratulations! If you have been following the previous chapters, you now have a good understanding of the principles and architecture of the Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step methodology. You understand the importance of a full life cycle methodology for a business' solution engagements, and how Sure Step provides in-depth coverage to help you achieve success in this arena.

In this final chapter of the book, we will do the following:

· Summarize learnings from the previous chapters

· Discuss the Sure Step near-term plans and what may be in store for its future

· Provide key takeaways that you can go execute in the immediate timeframe

What we now know about Sure Step

Since its initial release in 2007, Sure Step has evolved beyond focusing on deploying Microsoft Dynamics solutions. With every release of Sure Step, the design of the tools and methodology has been expanded to encompass a number of additional use cases, including recent industry/vertical and cross-industry/horizontal solutions. The underlying objective of Sure Step continues to be to help customers in the selection and successful delivery of their Microsoft Dynamics solutions, but the value proposition for the use of Sure Step extends beyond that.

The Sure Step value proposition

The first and foremost value proposition of Sure Step remains the consistent framework for solution delivery that it provides. The processes in Sure Step are repeatable and extendable, giving organizations the ability to build on past learning, thereby leading to high-quality engagements that maximize the resources and speed up the time-to-value for customers. Sure Step provides solid approaches for project scope control and management, early risk identification and mediation, and quality assurance and control, throughout the life cycle of the engagement. These approaches are, of course, valuable for the delivery organizations, but they are also very valuable to the customer teams involved in solution delivery.

For a consulting organization, Sure Step provides a common thread across groups. Consultants often have varied backgrounds when it comes to ERP/CRM solution deployments. The experienced consultants may have deployed other competitive systems, and they may each have their own preferred approach to the engagement. While having different perspectives is certainly a good thing, having a team work cohesively is of paramount importance to the customer when it comes to easing any organizational change that is intrinsic to business solution engagements. That is why, having consulting teams use the same taxonomy and terminology of Sure Step helps them mature together as an organization and work closely with each other.

The second key value proposition for Sure Step is that it provides a thorough and viable process for customers and sellers to follow in-product selection and solution selling. Sure Step V2 introduced users to an expanded Diagnostic phase with Decision Accelerator Offerings. The Decision Accelerator Offerings and services continue getting built up with each subsequent release, and Sure Step provides strong guidelines, processes, and content to support both the customer and the solution provider. Given the criticality of business solutions, which we have belabored many a time in the previous chapters, this value proposition cannot be stressed upon enough. The tie-in to Microsoft Solution Selling Process (MSSP) and its inherent focus on customer due diligence, if executed per the guidance provided, alleviates the risks for the customer and sales organizations.

The connection and flow from the Diagnostic phase to the implementation phases also facilitates information flow between the sales and delivery teams. Knowledge gained during the pre-sales cycles by pre-sales resources can be captured and transitioned to the implementation teams to avoid misalignment between expectations set in the sales cycle and the solution delivered during implementation. This helps the sales and consulting teams, and to an extent, the post-implementation support groups, to work together in the customer's best interests, rather than be in silos.

Sure Step has also been enhanced over time with multiple Implementation project types to support the method preferred by the customer and the implementer. These project types form the basis of the Sure Step Implementation offerings. Apart from Decision Accelerator and Implementation offerings, the methodology also provides Optimization offerings. These Optimization offerings include Technical Proactive Review services, to afford additional quality assurance during the life cycle of an implementation, Project Governance services, to ensure the scope and quality of the implementation, and Technical Post Go-Live services, such as health check and performance tuning, to ensure the optimal running of the solution in production. With these offerings, Sure Step has also evolved into a full customer-life cycle methodology. Customers and partners begin their relationship in the Diagnostic phase, continue through the implementation of the solution, maintain the relationship with Post Go-Live offerings, and resume the partnership by working together on solution upgrades.

Another very important value proposition of Sure Step is its innate ability to facilitate knowledge management. You may remember from the previous discussions that the activities in Sure Step project type workflows are numbered, and these numbers also persist through to the project plans and deliverables produced. Thus, any documentation, such as a Functional Requirement Document or a User Acceptance Test Script, follows a numerical sequence that allows easy tracking, storage, retrieval, and a potential harvest on future engagements. This can form the basis of any good Knowledge Management (KM) system. A good KM system helps the service provider to be more effective in their execution of engagements, but it can also help them prove their experience in a given area to their customers, thereby building customer confidence in their services. Of course, KM is not just the domain for the service provider; customers also maintain KM systems. The Sure Step taxonomy can also help customers in terms of having clear documentation on what was implemented and how it was implemented. It could also give them a good reference for future business solution engagements across their organization.

Last but not least is the Training value proposition for Sure Step, for both the service provider and the customer. We have heard many partner organizations talk about how Sure Step gives them a good structure for creating a training/ramp-up program for their new consulting resources. We have all started on new jobs at some point in our careers and we remember the butterflies in our stomach as we began a new job in spite of the level of confidence that we may have had that we were the right person for the role. Knowing that there is a structured process to follow can only ease the initial uneasiness and help develop confidence in the roles.

This extends to the customer's organization as well. The customer will have any number of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and key users participate in the engagement. Some of these resources may have had past experience with deploying ERP/CRM solutions, while others may be new to such engagements. Sure Step provides these resources a good understanding of the approach, as well as what they could expect to contribute to the process in their own roles.

Another benefit from a customer training perspective is the organizational change aspect. The introduction of a new business solution can cause unnecessary tension and apprehension to the employee's role in the to-be organizational workflows. Being able to provide visibility into the new processes can help allay the fears in these key resources in the customer organization, and the training can help give them confidence in how they would perform their roles in the new system.

Of course, training is not just for new consulting or customer resources. We talked earlier about experienced consultants, each having their own bag of tricks. Training them on the Sure Step approach ensures that they each follow a consistent process, and that the entire team is on the same page, for the benefit of the customer and consulting organizations.

All in all, Sure Step creates a better overall ecosystem for the consulting and customer organizations.

Sure Step revisited – summary and quick reference

In the previous chapters of this book, we provided building blocks for successful deployment of your Microsoft Dynamics business solutions using Sure Step. The following diagram depicts these key aspects that are featured in Sure Step and covered in this book:

Sure Step revisited – summary and quick reference

We began with an introduction to the concept of methodology and its importance in the selection and implementation of ERP/CRM solutions in Chapter 1, Background and Concepts. We discussed the importance of a thorough selection process as the foundation for solution deployment. We also talked about implementations going awry due to poor scope, risk, and change management.

Chapter 2, Solution Selling and Driving Due Diligence, and Chapter 3, Solution Envisioning with Sure Step, focused on solution selling for the seller and how it also drives due diligence for the buyer. In Chapter 2, Solution Selling and Driving Due Diligence, we covered the theory and concepts, and talked about how solution selling is not a transaction sale, but it is something where the seller needs to build a relationship with their customer and establish trust. We built on these concepts in Chapter 3, Solution Envisioning with Sure Step, and covered specifics on how Sure Step helps with solution selling and due diligence for Microsoft Dynamics solutions. We covered, in detail, the Decision Accelerator Offerings and their services in the Diagnostic phase of Sure Step, focusing on how they help accelerate the sales cycles and bring them to a close, while also helping the customer with their solution selection process. We also talked about how the Diagnostic phase sets the stage for a quality implementation by outlining the risks involved, as well as how it drives the selection of the right approach for the deployment, and the determination of the roles that will be involved both from the consulting and customer teams.

Chapter 4, Managing Projects and Chapter 5, Implementing with Sure Step, discussed the essence of projects and successful delivery of the envisioned solution. In Chapter 4, Managing Projects, we introduced the concepts of project management, talking about managing projects from a result-driven and real-life perspective. We discussed the resistance to project management, covered the four pillars of project success, and explained the project management essentials. In Chapter 5, Implementing with Sure Step, we focused on the implementation life cycle, covering the waterfall and agile solution delivery approaches in Sure Step. We covered the implementation phases and cross phases that make up the Sure Step project types. We also talked about the real-life challenges that implementers and customers face while implementing ERP and CRM software solutions, and demonstrated the true value of the Sure Step methodology in terms of supporting tools and templates.

In Chapter 6, Quality Management and Optimization, we discussed the Proactive and Post Go-Live services in the Optimization offerings as options for the service providers and customers to ensure quality implementation. We introduced the Sure Step Optimization Roadmap, and discussed the technical Proactive and Post Go-Live offerings, as well as the project governance and upgrade review offerings.

In Chapter 7, Upgrading with Sure Step, we focused on using Sure Step to help existing Microsoft Dynamics customers with their solution upgrade to the latest product release. The approach begins with the Upgrade Assessment Decision Accelerator Offerings to ascertain the right approach, followed by the Sure Step upgrade project type for technical upgrades. We also suggested approaches for adding new functionalities during the upgrade process.

In Chapter 8, Project and Organizational Change Management, we covered Project and Organization Change Management (OCM) disciplines in Sure Step. We discussed the subdisciplines of project management, such as risk, scope, issue, and communication management. We also explained why organizational change management is a key area for customers and partners to consider when it comes to ERP/CRM engagements. We also covered the SharePoint feature built into Sure Step to assist the solution delivery teams to effectively collaborate with each other.

In Chapter 9, A Practical Guide to Adopting Sure Step, we switched gears to provide a practical guide to the Sure Step methodology Adoption for Microsoft Dynamics' partner organizations. We talked about how organizations can make their implementation methodology as one of their core competencies.

Sure Step updates

From its initial version through to the latest release of Sure Step, a lot of work went into building up the foundational elements of Sure Step; this includes the solution envisioning, waterfall and agile solution delivery, and solution optimization aspects, which we elaborated in the previous sections of this chapter and chapters. Of course, each release also produced new and updated content elements, and this continues to be the focus of the recent and future Sure Step updates. With the workflows and other foundational elements established, the Sure Step team now focuses primarily on ensuring that the content that surfaces in Sure Step, including the guidance and templates, corresponds to the latest Microsoft Dynamics AX, CRM, GP, NAV, and SL product versions.

Sure Step Online

One of the major changes to the Sure Step platform was the release of Sure Step Online a couple of years ago. This was a significant change in the methodology as well as in the release process, because it allows for quicker content updates. With Sure Step Online now getting more established in the user base, the Sure Step client is being phased out, with future investments continuing on Sure Step Online content updates. The following is a screenshot of Sure Step Online:

Sure Step Online

As of this writing, the Sure Step team recently launched a new content update for the following areas:

· Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2013: Sure Step content from the older Role Tailored implementation has been replaced by a new RapidStart guide for NAV 2013, and includes additional links to online resources.

· Microsoft Dynamics GP 2013: All GP content in Sure Step has been updated to correspond with the latest GP 2013 product release, including an implementation guide for the GP 2013 web client, and other content focused on the new Web Client.

· Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012: The Visio business process flow diagrams, which are one of the most widely leveraged sets of documents, have been updated to the AX 2012 product release.

· Connector for Microsoft Dynamics: Sure Step provides guidance and links to supporting documentation on the Connector tool between Microsoft Dynamics CRM and the Microsoft Dynamics ERP solutions.

· Management Reporter for Microsoft Dynamics: Sure Step now provides content with links to numerous online resources for Management Reporter, references to Management Reporter through the various ERP solution implementation materials, and a dedicated Functional Requirements Document (FRD) for Management Reporter. Also available are links to implementation tools and videos.

The Sure Step updates continue to be facilitated by the Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS) R&D teams and the Microsoft Dynamics product teams, to ensure that customers and service providers have appropriate guidance for their desired solutions. Sure Step has come a long way since its beginning in 2007 , and its evolution will continue with alignment to new R&D tools, including the Microsoft Dynamics Lifecycle Services (LCS).

Sure Step and Lifecycle Services

As we discussed in Chapter 3, Solution Envisioning with Sure Step, Microsoft Dynamics R&D is developing and releasing a new genre of Lifecycle Services tools to help customers and solution providers with a range of services, including business process modeling, infrastructure sizing, rapid configurations, customization analysis, system diagnostics, and upgrade analysis. An overview of the tools and services with their alignment to Sure Step, was shown in Chapter 3, Solution Envisioning with Sure Step, in the following manner:

Sure Step and Lifecycle Services

For more on the LCS tools, please refer to Chapter 3, Solution Envisioning with Sure Step. As these tools get built up, Sure Step will continue to provide key links to the tools, as well as callouts in specific activities and/or offerings where they can be invoked. With this, Sure Step evolves into the role of the orchestrator. Users will be able to leverage Sure Step for end-to-end workflows to execute a corresponding offering, and within each offering, Sure Step will provide guidance on which tools to invoke; this includes the LCS tools.

Key takeaways

As we come to the end of this book, we take this opportunity to summarize some key takeaways that you can execute with Sure Step, in the immediate time frame, and achieve quick wins in your organization.

Takeaways for customer due diligence and solution selling

Selling and implementing a business solution should be about driving value in the customer's organization. Strive for win-win deals that result in both parties being better off and more profitable by following these these five takeaways:

· Use the Sure Step Diagnostic phase as an opportunity to propose an adaptable value proposition instead of selling a blurry proposition from the pre-analysis phase. This represents a unique opportunity to start collaborating with the customer and to ensure appropriate due diligence efforts by the involved parties.

· Do not limit yourself during pre-analysis activities to a written reproduction of what has been said in terms of the as-is situation. Focus on envisioning the to-be processes and how they map to the solution. Architectural firms do not plan, design, and budget a client's new house based solely on the description of the old house, neither should you architect the customer's solution based on existing information. Use the Sure Step product and industry-specific process flows, and the numerous other tools and resources to ascertain the future state processes and solution needs as early as possible.

· Manage perceptions from the beginning by ensuring that the customer understands what they will get as a solution when they sign the contract. This involves explaining and visualizing how critical business processes will be executed with the new solution. The Diagnostic phase helps you manage this perception with the Fit Gap and Solution Blueprint Assessment service of the Decision Accelerator Offering, and it continues this effort in the implementation phases.

· Make sure that the customer and partner stakeholders agree upon real objectives and conditions of satisfaction for the new solution, by leveraging the corresponding Sure Step guidance.

· Before contract completion, use the Sure Step implementation options and select the most appropriate approach for delivering the solution to the customer. Envision, communicate, and validate your most effective approach with your customer, as it impacts the budget, timelines, and risks.

Implementation takeaways

The following takeaways focus on the impact and value of Sure Step on implementations, both in terms of initiating and delivering a project, and for building on lessons learned from previous engagements:

· Use the off-the-shelf advantage of the Sure Step project life cycle planning with the project type options. The longer the project, the more uncertainty in the solution delivery process. Having predefined Sure Step project life cycle workflows and plans will help you jumpstart the envisioning, planning, and budgeting required for successfully delivering the project objectives.

· Make sure to lay emphasis your project kickoff meetings as noted in Sure Step. Each project is unique, so treat this activity as an opportunity for initiating team communication and coordination.

· Use the Sure Step Project Charter to align all the stakeholders with an all encompassing document.

· Leverage the Sure Step templates to develop reference models for your organization. This will not only help improve the efficiency of your implementations, but will also prepare your consulting teams to be goal driven while helping the new employees to ramp up.

· Focus on driving value to your customers and keep away from scope documents containing several pages of blurry analysis. Documentation is important, but only if it includes real value in the form of current situation analysis, outcomes, and solution vision. Use the Sure Step workflows, activities, workshops, and reports to ensure that the delivery teams avoid these pitfalls. Begin by capturing the solution requirements (what needs to be delivered), then build on them with the Fit Gap exercise to drive to an early consensus on how the solution will be delivered. If these exercises are executed thoroughly in the early stages, the outputs can serve as a compass for the delivery teams throughout the course of the engagement.

· Leverage the visibility provided by the Sure Step cross-phase processes to further cross-functional coordination and integration across the various roles and teams involved in the engagement.

· Use Sure Step templates and guidance to continually interact with the key users during the project life cycle, keeping them informed of the solution progression and building their knowledge of the solution at appropriate points in each implementation phase.

· Sure Step is a methodology that assists with packaged solution deployments. Use the guidance provided for configuration, setup, and customization of the solution, as well as for the corresponding testing of the solution during development.

· Leverage the templates and guidance provided for tollgate reviews at the end of each implementation phase. Getting a sign off on key customer facing documents improves the visibility and confidence of your customer in your delivery performance.

Sure Step adoption takeaways

Adopting any implementation methodology is an important but challenging endeavor. The following takeaways will help contextualize this challenge:

· Do not confuse knowledge on Sure Step with the company-wide use of the methodology. Adopting the methodology as a core competency involves the institutionalization of a formal change program. See this as an opportunity for continuous improvement in your organization.

· Sure Step does not have to compete with your own internal implementation methodology. Leverage Sure Step as a baseline to enhance your own implementation processes with appropriate guidance, templates, and tools.

· Do not underestimate the effort needed for adopting a methodology. Leverage the Sure Step Adoption Roadmap to execute a step-by-step approach tuned to your needs, your industry focus, your customers, and your projects.

· Focus on finding value within Sure Step that can drive your organization, and make sure that your teams understand it.

General takeaways

We highlight a few general observations about Sure Step in this section:

· Remember that your offering should be all about delivering value. Review your implementation processes to ensure that they are designed to deliver value to your customers.

· Instead of looking at standard project methodologies such as PMBOK or Prince2 as alternatives to Sure Step, you can view them as complementary frameworks. Sure Step is a customer engagement methodology that specifically caters to Microsoft Dynamics engagements, while PMBOK and Prince2 provide a general project management framework for a wide range of project classifications.

· Improvement is an attitude, and if at first you don't succeed, try, try, and try again. Use the lessons learned as a foundation for bringing together any insights that can be usefully applied to future projects.


When someone who is new to the ERP/CRM space is exposed to Sure Step, they are often overwhelmed. For that matter, given the volume of content, even experienced consultants don't fully understand all the resources available to them. As such, one of our objectives with this book was to provide more clarity to those starting in the Microsoft Dynamics solution space and at the same time, transforming the savvy consultants and arming them with additional ammunition for their bag of tricks.

Therefore, this book is much more than just another step-by-step guide into project management. Our goal was to address daily challenges of different stakeholders and not only those of the project manager. We fashioned the book as an easy-to-follow guide for high-performance team members who use Sure Step as the basis for delivering Microsoft Dynamics solutions.

We hope you have gained insights into the design and architecture of Sure Step, as well as into the applicability of the methodology to your engagements. Sure Step is a methodology developed by the field, for the field, and its success will continue to be driven by you, the users of the methodology.