Chapter 9. A Practical Guide to Adopting Sure Step - Customer Success with Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step (2014)

Customer Success with Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step

Chapter 9. A Practical Guide to Adopting Sure Step

In the previous chapters, we discussed the various features of Sure Step, including due diligence and solution selling enablement, approaches for high quality solution implementation and upgrades, options for review and optimization, and the project and change management disciplines. We'll now shift our focus to another important area—how an organization can adopt Sure Step methodology—and use it to consistently deliver solutions to its customers.

In this chapter, we will cover:

· Strategy development and execution for adopting Sure Step, including managing change within the organization

· How to make a Sure Step adoption program for your organization

· Quick wins from real Sure Step adoption programs

· How you could benefit from Sure Step Online

· How Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) can benefit from adopting Sure Step

Don't park your brain outside

Both Microsoft Dynamics partners and customers have easy access to the Sure Step application via PartnerSource and CustomerSource, respectively. From these Microsoft portals, Sure Step can easily be downloaded and installed, unleashing all of the Sure Step content and tools in minutes. Project managers and consultants can also make themselves familiar with, and knowledgeable about, Sure Step through Microsoft Official Courseware (MOC), Microsoft Online learning, and Learning Snacks and Instructor-Led Training (ILT) courses provided by Microsoft Certified Partners for Learning Solutions (CPLS). This means that, with a modest time investment, organizations can obtain Sure Step methodology tools, content, and knowledge. So, is putting your organization on the Sure Step tracks as easy as pie? As many of us know, that couldn't be further from the truth. Any organization looking to adapt their processes to adopt a new implementation methodology is bound to face a certain set of challenges. To succeed, they will need an effective strategy, which they must execute properly while managing the organization change, and these are not exactly small matters!

Executing strategy

"Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work."

--Peter Drucker

Strategy execution is not the same as strategy building, but they need to go hand-in-hand. Strategy execution can be defined as all of the actions necessary to turn your strategy into success. A great strategy cannot compensate for a poor execution, and vice versa. The book Strategy Execution Heroes, Jeroen De Flander, The Performance Factory, lists four important differentiators when comparing strategy execution with strategy building. Strategy execution involves everyone in the organization, while strategy building is mostly reserved for a selected executive team. Strategy execution takes much longer than strategy building—it's a marathon versus a sprint. Execution requires short- and long-term thinking as short-term wins are a necessity to make execution a success. Strategy execution also requires a different skill set from strategy building. Successful strategy builders are champions in analytical thinking and opportunity identification, whereas executioners are masters in communication and coaching skills.

One of the key focus areas for partner organizations is increasing the quality, satisfaction, and profitability levels in their Microsoft Dynamics implementations. During strategy building, we may look to define our quality goals as well as generate plans on how we could achieve those quality excellence goals using Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step as our vehicle. But having a strategic plan in and of itself does not guarantee success. A strategy, even a great one, doesn't implement itself! To turn the Sure Step strategy into execution, an organization will need to put a plan in place for a company-wide effort using management coaching support to detail the incremental steps needed to achieve quick wins on the way to a larger transformation. The execution of this process is a completely different ballgame as compared to acquiring resources with knowledge on how to drive implementations successfully.

Managing change

In Chapter 4, Managing Projects, we already introduced a change as a challenge in adapting to Sure Step. This cannot be a surprise as most of us must be familiar with the great difficulty in changing the good old habits in our personal and professional lives. Now think for some time about some of your change initiatives in your professional life. Did they fully succeed to the extent that you planned for? If not, try to list three reasons for their failure. Do they look familiar to the ones in the following diagram?

Managing change

This illustration highlights only a few common pain points when reflecting on reasons for failing change projects. A majority of companies do have a track record of failed change initiatives. Most of these failures were caused by typical change management challenges. If we want to successfully adapt to Sure Step, we need to have a strong execution plan to overcome these change management challenges. And awareness is the first step in this direction. People are creatures of habit and feel most secure when doing what is known.

Why change initiatives fail

In Chapter 3, Solution Envisioning with Sure Step, we have already referred to the book Our Iceberg Is Melting first edition, John Kotter, St. Martin's Press. He describes ten reasons for failing change initiatives. Let's have a closer look at these reasons in the following sections.

Underestimating the need for a clear vision of the desired change

Why do we need the change? What will the outcome be and how does it relate to our objectives and company strategy? Will we sell more and become more profitable? What is our compelling reason for implementing this change? What are the business reasons for it? We need to make sure that our change initiative is connected to goal commitment and our company objectives and that we have a strong vision behind the desired change. Just like in soccer, we won't go far unless we know where the goalposts are. So the first thing to do is to understand what we want to accomplish!

Failing to clearly communicate the vision

Do you feel comfortable about changing your way of doing things without knowing why? Of course you don't, and this applies to most people. When we introduce change to our staff, they need to know why the organization really wants and needs the change. What are the issues we want to resolve? Will it increase our performance and quality levels? Explain how this initiative fits in with the strategic plan. Will it help reach our targets? How? Leadership that introduces change into an organization must sell the vision to those that will be executing the change. They need to make this vision believable and achievable for the entire company by good communication and information. A lack of this essential communication is a disconnection between strategy and execution.

Failing to build a substantial coalition

Our change initiative needs to be supported by a sizeable group of people within our organization to overcome tradition and inertia. They need to be confident, inspired, and excited by the change introduced. As such they will evangelize the new procedures within the teams and help others bridge the gap to the new ways of working. They will also argue and overcome the criticism of those who do not believe in and resist the change. This coalition of supporters will act as your running mates in your campaign for a more effective and quality-driven company. The coalition needs to be powerful, including an authoritative mix of executive and non-executive roles within the different departments and disciplines in the company. We must invest time in the creation of such a group of believers before enforcing the use of any new tools or procedures in our organization. We need to identify the promoters and potential promoters within our organization. Both have a positive generic attitude towards change; they do not fear change and feel less insecure than others. The real promoters will welcome the particular change right away and will seek the advantages of the new ways of working with the speed of light. Potential promoters are not negative to change but they will not find the advantages as quickly. They just need that extra bit of encouragement to find the real value of the change. We need to get, and keep, both types of promoters on board during our change journey.

Permitting roadblocks against the vision

People don't like to change their ways of doing things, and new procedures make them feel insecure. This is true for a majority of people, even for the ones promoting the change. However, some people fear change much more than others, and we are speaking about change in general. This may lead to resistance to any change. We need to know our opponents here and to manage their resistance from day one. The real opponents are usually not so difficult to identify. They have a strong negative attitude against any change, and on top of that, they have strong personal reasons against this particular change.

These opponents will try to deny the change and bring up anger and resistance. We need to be prepared for that and manage them through exploration into acceptance. The following diagram depicts the aspects of this phenomenon:

Permitting roadblocks against the vision

We also need to anticipate the hidden opponents or opportunists. Identifying them will be more of a challenge. They have a negative generic attitude towards change though they seem to be supporting the change on a superficial level. They are balancing between the promoter and the opponent, and this means that our challenge is to give them enough information and encouragement to make them understand the benefits.

We need to shut the door on any rebellion against the improvement plan lead by the opponents, and we need to make sure that the opponents don't outnumber our coalition supporting the change.

Not generating a sense of urgency tied to improved performance

Even with the best intentions of a whole team, change projects are endangered by a lack of sense of urgency. Even if we support the new processes and tools, the real practice of it is frequently put off. There are certain widespread excuses, such as "Yes, we support it because it is good, but right now we don't have time for it as there are other things with a higher priority." We've heard them before, but before you know it, "one of these days" becomes "none of these days", bringing our change project to an end. That's why we need to connect our change goals to an accepted urgency.

People need to understand why we need a quick change and how the entire organization will benefit from it. There is no time to waste as this is crucial; we need to act now. John Kotter stated that 75 percent of a company's management must be convinced that the current business practice is totally unacceptable. If there is no such sense of urgency for the transformation, the change process is endangered.

Not building a plan for short-term wins

Exploring the first results and benefits from a change is major. It will motivate people to adapt to any newly introduced procedures or tools, and experiencing the benefits will encourage them to continue our quest for more improvement and change. The longer we keep the organization waiting for the first results and wins, the more support and enthusiasm we will lose, and the more ammunition our opponents will gain. A watched kettle never boils.

Failing to lead and coach changes in the business behavior

As explained earlier, change doesn't come easy, and the execution of a strategy doesn't implement itself. At the heart of every successful change project, we will find individuals. Our people need to realize the change, and therefore, they need to be coached and led into this change. There is no other choice; in fact, it is a management and leadership responsibility. Our challenge is to create awareness and build responsibility for this change in our organization. It is quite unlikely that the "do as I say" approach will bring us instant success in our transformation effort. We need people who really want to take responsibility for this change and performance, making coaching the better option. In essence, this is what leadership through change is all about—aligning the people force with a new vision and inspiring them to make it happen despite the obstacles. By coaching, we can involve our people in the change instead of imposing the change on them. People do what they think and feel, not what is imposed on them.

Failure of managers to operate in and above day-to-day execution

Changing the day-to-day execution practice is a management responsibility. Managers need to connect with the values and beliefs of the new vision and introduce new behaviors in the daily practice of their departments. This is easily said, but a large group of managers find it hard to go beyond that day-to-day execution themselves in spite of their being in charge of it. This leads us to the next section—Not practicing what you preach.

Not practicing what you preach

"Do as I say, not as I do" is clearly ineffective and yet very frequent management approach. Managers may have connected with the new vision and seized every opportunity to communicate their support for it, but in practice they still deploy the good old habits and business practices. If managers do not support the practice and execution of the new behaviors, it is unlikely that their people will. The new procedures are clearly not in their hearts, and any people organization will sense that immediately.

Failing to anchor changes in the business culture

Most of us who have worked in more than one company must have experienced that there is something called a company or business culture—something in the air of that company that makes the organization unique. We must also have experienced that this unique culture had an impact on how we behaved, performed, and interacted in that company, and how we felt. There are many definitions of what a business culture is and they all point to the set of values and norms that are shared by people and groups in an organization. As this culture influences what we do and how we interact with colleagues, vendors, and customers, it represents the outer limit of what is achievable within that company. That's why our change project, our quest for more quality, needs to stick to the company's culture. We must reinforce the new norms and values and show the organization that they are an essential part of the culture. New recruits should be hooked up immediately to these new values, and for that to happen, incentives and promotions may become valuable instruments.

Making your Sure Step adoption program

The previous sections on strategy execution and change management made clear that adopting any implementation methodology is an important but complex and time-consuming endeavor that impacts the entire partner organization. To be successful in this adoption, you need a guiding adoption program, built and envisioned in such a manner that it will help you to overcome typical change and strategy execution pitfalls. You must include essential elements such as these:

· Confirming the business need and vision

· Executive communication

· Assessing your current business practice

· Identifying and communicating risks and rewards

· Goal setting and coaching model

In strategy execution, as well as in change management theory, it is emphasized that teams need to be informed and aware about the transformation process that they will go through. Our people will all play a key role in this transformation, so they will need tounderstand the scenario.

Creating a roadmap

An adoption roadmap is a structured way to lead your organization toward change. It must include recommended roles and responsibilities for every step of the way, emphasizing the importance and timing of executive communications, implementation team activities, sales and IT involvement, and the ultimate deployment of the transformation across your company. With the roadmap as your guide, you will be able to maintain momentum toward realizing the full benefits of adopting Sure Step.

A roadmap can be managed in six phases, following the six phases of Sure Step shown in the following diagram:

Creating a roadmap

Let's have a closer look at each phase in the following sections.


This is a call to action for business leaders to identify a compelling reason to implement Sure Step. Why do we need Sure Step? Do we have strategic reasons to do so? What is the business need for it? What is our vision behind it? Identify the beliefs and values that urge the usage of Sure Step in our daily practice and behavior. Where are the goalposts, what do we want to achieve, and how will it be measured?

At this stage, we also want to start building up our substantial coalition. We need a team that has a general positive attitude toward change, who can lead and facilitate change within the organization by generating quick results and motivating others to explore the new procedures. They will encourage and help their colleagues to find their own personal benefits and reasons for adapting to this change. This is a team that wants to take responsibility for the new performance—our backbone for the desired output. It is time to plan for the assignment of a Sure Step champion and a Victory-team (V-team).

The Sure Step champion

The champion is the day-to-day leader for the transformation. They are responsible for developing and executing the adoption plan for the company. The ideal champion is a senior-level person with the expertise, gravitas, and credibility to facilitate, lead, and coach a company-wide change initiative. It must be somebody who deeply understands the business, has the support of the most senior members of the company, and at the same time, is well respected up and down the hierarchy of the company. The champion needs to understand people's fears and be able to coach them into exploration and acceptance. A champion who has worked in a diverse set of roles across the company or for competitive companies may be better placed to put himself in another position. The champion needs to be well aware that he/she sets an example for others. Therefore, the champion needs to practice what is preached.

The V-team

Our champion's first task is to identify and recruit the V-team candidates, who will each take responsibility for assessing, configuring, and deploying Sure Step. This must be a well thought out move, involving the identification of a good mixture of proponents.

The V-team needs to be a powerful representation of our entire company, including all roles and departments. Think about including at least the following roles:

· A sales manager

· A senior application consultant

· A senior development consultant

· A senior project manager

An ideal V-team will also have part-time participation from IT, Marketing, and HR, as we want to stick our change initiative to the company's culture, and our initiative may have an impact on job roles as well.

By assigning the champion and the V-team, we have formed our substantial coalition. At this point in the process, we need to inform and train our champion and team about this new world of Sure Step. What is Sure Step and what are the true essentials and benefits of this methodology? This training needs to be inspiring and informing rather than detailed and overloaded. We want our coalition to feel the benefits and not overload them with detailed technical aspects.

At this stage, you should also schedule for executive communication—a truly essential activity for change success. The executives need to communicate why this change is so important and explain the compelling reasons for it. They need to make it clear that this is not just something that is imposed but involves everybody's initiative. They need to provide a shared picture of what success looks like. Your people need to understand the strategy, and be motivated and committed to take action.

The next diagram summarizes the steps of the Diagnosis phase:

The V-team

The average time to complete this phase is estimated to be 30 days.


This is where we will go over our habitual implementation process with a fine-tooth comb to discover in detail why this transformation is so urgently needed. Where do we need to focus, where can we find the quick wins, and what will require more redesign time? We need to prepare to make a deep and honest assessment of ourselves, including our processes, skills, and organizational structure. All will be affected. In the end, we need the right input to develop our adoption plan.

This investigation is typically conducted by organizing one or more assessment workshops. It may be a good idea to make use of an external expert Sure Step adoption facilitator to manage these workshops and their output.

The output received from the workshop must be converted into an action plan to be carried out in this execution of the adoption program.


Just executing this program once would be a missed opportunity for continuous improvement. Quality improvement philosophies such as Kaizen show us that quality improvement should be a continuous effort, and not a one-time introduction of small improvements and standardization. Therefore, we will hopefully go through the roadmap many times, each time improving our level of quality in general and Sure Step adoption in particular.

From the results of our assessment, we can identify any specialized skills training required for individual V-team members to fulfill their responsibilities. For example, this could include sales methodology or project management training. The action plan will also advise us on how we need to further develop the skills of our V-team in terms of Sure Step.

This phase asks for strong collaboration of the V-team and important stakeholders of our company. We need their input and honest opinions, and we really need to listen to them. Practice has shown that this opportunity of giving input and co-driving this change opportunity truly motivates them. Experience with previous projects showed us that the feedback of most V-teams was extremely positive and resulted in great commitment to get the Sure Step practice really executed.

Together with the V-team, the champion must keep his/her eyes open for the attached risks and pitfalls of this adoption. Some of the important questions to be asked are as follows:

· What might become an obstacle?

· What would be too ambitious for the organization?

· What is achievable and what is not?

Do not become overambitious and do not throw everything overboard. Your improvement plan needs to be achievable and acceptable to your organization.

We also need to finalize our business case here and report our adoption plan and Return on Investment (ROI) case to the CEO. The CEO will then confirm the decision to proceed.

The average time to complete this phase is estimated to be 30 days.


At this point, we have collected valuable information from the assessments and workshops conducted in the Analysis phase. What we want to improve and change in our current sales and implementation processes is right on our radar. We also know where the goalposts are as we have determined our short- and long-term goals and returns. We are now ready to start redesigning our current processes to the ideal processes for our company by mapping them against the Sure Step template with regard to what is achievable in our company.

Our champion must lead the V-team in the redesign of sales processes, project implementation processes, and performance management processes based on Sure Step principles and guidelines. We will focus on those that require our attention, as identified in the previous phase. A part of this process redesign is a Proof of Concept exploration, examining the common sales and implementation scenarios, and mapping out how to address them using Sure Step. During design, we need to find consensus in the V-team about our new ways of doing things. We may even need to check a broader basis within the company as these new processes need to be acceptable and achievable. We need to hunt for the added value for all of the stakeholders. This is exactly why the roadmap suggests running a pilot of these new processes with a few prospects. Based on the outcome of this pilot, we should revisit our design, making necessary adjustments. This is an interactive process, allowing the stakeholders to cooperate with our new execution plan.

Once we have consensus on the new process design, we can start to document this into new working instructions. These documented instructions will guide our organization through implementations and will ramp up new hires quickly. At the same time, we need to be aware that these new procedures may have an impact on job roles, and therefore, we should inform the HR department of our outcome. We also need to check what the impact of the new processes on the IT infrastructure might be.

Before Sales can engage with a pilot including the new processes, they need to fully understand how our organization will be working in the Sure Step way. So, we need to organize role-based training on Sure Step and the new procedures for our sales teams involved with the pilot. After the pilot, the V-team compiles and absorbs the feedback from the pilot, and adjusts the processes based on this feedback.

It is then the moment for the executives to inform the company about these new procedures and the results of the pilot. This crucially important communication will drive the company into acceptance.

The following diagram summarizes the steps of the design phase:


The average time to complete this phase is estimated to be 30 days.


With the new processes defined, the next step is to develop them. This not only involves using the resources found in Sure Step but also completing any custom work that is required. As we discovered in the previous chapters, Sure Step includes an impressive collection of tools and templates that may help you. Some are critical and required, some facultative and helpful, while some may not be of any immediate use to our specific needs. In the previous phase, we designed a set of these tools and templates to support our new processes. Some of the tools and templates may need some customization to tailor them to our specific needs. We may also need to configure and set up our SharePoint collaboration infrastructure. Here is what we need to do at this stage.

The pilot started by the sales team in the previous phase continues. Marketing captures the reaction of customers to our new engagement based on Sure Step, while HR will go thoroughly into changes to role definitions and organization. Based on the results of our pilot program and customer acceptance measurement, it is now time to make final modifications to our Sure Step processes.

The following diagram summarizes the steps of the Development phase:


The time to complete this phase depends on the amount of work needed to be done.


It is now time to ensure readiness to go live with Sure Step across our company. All of our employees need to be knowledgeable so that they can perform, and all customer-facing roles need to comprehend the Sure Step essence in order to communicate the value of Sure Step among their customers and prospects.

This readiness needs to be accompanied by effective communications. Our CEO should send a company-wide communication signaling our readiness to go live with Sure Step, fulfilling the promise and goals made at the beginning of the process. The CEO needs to recognize the company-wide effort and the importance of each individual's contribution to reaching this great result. This communication needs to trigger excitement and a great belief in this new way of working.

Ensuring the readiness of our teams involves focusing on the necessary skills training, such as project management, for our people before deploying Sure Step training. Both sales and implementation team members need to believe in and evangelize the great benefits of Sure Step by now. They need to be able to take responsibility over these new procedures by practicing them in their daily work and helping customers collaborate to the full extent.

The following diagram summarizes the steps of the Deployment phase:


The average time to complete this phase is estimated to be 30 days.


Your people are now practicing the new procedures, tools, and templates in their daily jobs. This means the new way of working is based on and inspired by Sure Step principles and tools. It is important to reinforce this use by discussing the results, showing improvements, and learning from daily routines. We need to continue the chain of communication within our company by detailing the progress made to date, the results of everyone's efforts, and the future goals for Sure Step partner adoption.

The Sure Step adoption roadmap advises us to perform a second health check of our implementation adoption maturity. How has it improved since we began this journey? It is advisable to compare our reassessment with the deep and honest self-assessment that we established as our baseline. We are looking for any gaps still outstanding so that we can plan how to address them.

This is not the point where our change initiative stops; it's quite the contrary in fact. We are in charge of ensuring the continued effectiveness and adoption of Sure Step by coaching our managers to continually reinforce and manage the process. Mature consultants and managers will require coaching on an ongoing basis. Their natural tendency will be to fall back on what they already know.

Communicating the results of customer satisfaction surveys to the customers who have received a Sure Step partner adoption-based implementation will drive our organization's learning curve.

Our newly gained, quality-driven values, along with the experience of our people of having participated in a quality improvement project, is a good basis for a second round of this adoption program. Remember the goal of the first round is unlikely to have been to adopt Sure Step in its entirety. Instead, we redesigned our processes in those areas where we identified improvement opportunity, and that urged us to do something. We will always find improvement opportunities. Therefore, planning a second round of this improvement cycle is the right way to move forward.

The value of the adoption program

The preceding sections only raised a small corner of the veil in terms of challenges that go along with any change program. An adoption program provides you with a predefined framework based on the best practices to overcome typical pitfalls. It also allows you to communicate and visualize to your people how the desired change will be implemented in your company. It is very important that all involved and affected know, in advance, how their journey is organized. To make it even better, this program teaches us how to convert transformation into real performance by means of a repeatable change process. For any strategy executioner or change manager within our business, such a program is priceless!

GROW into new behaviors

Being a thoughtful reader, you have noticed that coaching was positioned as your most effective management instrument on the quest for transformation. At the heart of every transformation project are people, and people do what they feel and think, not what is imposed on them. The GROW model is one of the most well-known coaching models, a framework to become a better coach. The name GROW stands for:

· G: Goal setting

· R: Reality

· O: Options

· W: Will

Goal setting involves defining of the goal. What is it that the end user wants to achieve? What are this person's short- and long-term goals for this transformation process? Together, the coach and the end user need to agree upon the goals to be achieved. Realityrefers to the real current situation of the end user. What problems does this person experience in the current way of working or with the proposed transformation? What is his or her perceived reality? Options stand for choice. As a coach, we need to help people find different possible solutions for the perceived problems. Will commits to action. What decisions does the end user take? What will he or she do, and by when?

Now you may be wondering why coaching based on these GROW principles is emphasized in this chapter about Sure Step adoption. The answer is simple: because this model is most effective in generating the awareness and responsibility of your people. We want people to take responsibility in our transformation project as only they can realize the desired change. As long as people blame others when things go wrong or don't work as expected, they are not committed to the outcome.

Responsibility goes hand-in-hand with choice. When people make choices, they are committed to them because they feel responsible. This is exactly what we want when we want to execute our change strategy. Our people need to feel responsible for executing Sure Step principles in their daily professional reality. An important detail is that they need to make the choices. By asking questions and exploring their daily perceived reality, a coach can help commit to action in order to realize the agreed upon objectives. A coach must not make the choices; we want true commitment. A good coach is an active listener, provides perspective, is someone who can make their peers think, and someone who can make them be receptive to new input and see new options because of that.

The Key Documents Visio diagram

As individuals or organizations examine Sure Step for the first time, the initial reaction from many is that Sure Step contains too much information to be practically applied. This preliminary judgment is actually misguided due to the depth and breadth of knowledge available within Sure Step.

To help easily acclimate with the methodology, Sure Step includes a Key Documents Visio diagram that lists out the twenty one primary activities to focus on along with any associated tools or templates. This wireframe is the minimal, ideal, critical path required for any successful Sure Step project. The following screenshot shows the Key Documents flow diagram:

The Key Documents Visio diagram

Starting with this diagram, you can easily examine and evaluate the listed documents and ultimately assess whether you want to use them in your adopted approach. The need for documentation varies depending on project type selection. Waterfall and Agile project management do have different documentation standards. Within waterfall, there is a different need for documentation of the Rapid, Standard, Enterprise, and Upgrade project types. The uniqueness of projects also determines the required documentation set.

Some tips from real, conducted Sure Step adoption programs

Each adoption process to Sure Step is unique and includes a set of challenges specific to the company involved, but some challenges are recurring and widespread, such as the following:

· Scope identification challenges: Lots of customers and implementation partners struggle with the complexity of making good, reliable scope definitions

· Communication: A basic, formalized communication foundation is missing in many cases

· Project life cycle planning: Many organizations lack a default, standardized project life cycle planning known and used by all of the project managers

Sure Step includes good and easy-to-use guidance, tools and templates, and ideas to help you overcome these challenges:

· Efficiency instruments for scope identification, such as questionnaires, product-specific process maps, and the Fit Gap Analysis worksheets

· Off-the-shelf communication documents, such as a project charter and a project status report

· A standardized project life cycle approached with visualized activities and deliverables available for both waterfall and Agile project types

The adoption practice has proven that the implementation and company-wide usage of these tools gives many companies bigger wings than ever before and a boost in project performance.

How to access Sure Step

There are two methods to access Sure Step. The first is the traditional desktop download version, the second is Sure Step Online. Both offer very similar functionality and allow users to perform similar processes, but with some variation. In this section, some of those differences will be detailed out.

Sure Step 2012

The latest release of the downloadable version of Sure Step was labeled Sure Step 2012. This is available as a 328 MB download from either PartnerSource or CustomerSource. This download will include all of the English content. Further downloads are available for additional languages, some of which are complete, while others are partial language packs. The languages available are Chinese, Danish, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish. Each download is approximately 350 MB in size and thereare no limitations on the number of language packs applied to the client.

The release cadence of the downloadable version of Sure Step from Microsoft is expected to be limited moving forward.

Sure Step Online

Cloud-based Sure Step Online is created in Silverlight and requires Silverlight to be installed on the host computer. Access to Sure Step Online is either through PartnerSource or CustomerSource. All language packs are included with the online version.

The release cadence from Microsoft is on an ad hoc basis, and due its architecture, new content can be made available to the end user without the need to download or reinstall content packs.

Key differences between Sure Step 2012 and Sure Step Online

The key differences between Sure Step 2012 and Sure Step Online are as follows:

· Search: In the downloadable client, searches will be performed on tools and templates, content names, tags, and within each document. In Sure Step Online, it is the same except that search results will not include content from within documents.

· Creating projects: In the downloadable client, projects can either be created locally, for use on the specific machine, or on a SharePoint site for the project teams to access. Existing local projects can be cloned for reuse on other projects. In Sure Step Online, projects can only be created on SharePoint. There is no copy feature; however, project templates can be created in SharePoint to accommodate this requirement.

· Creating new projects: At the time of creating a new project in Sure Step Online, the latest content is always downloaded to ensure the latest project content is utilized. Sure Step Online does this by connecting to Microsoft's online data store while running through the Project Creation Wizard. Conversely, with the Sure Step 2012 client, new content would only be available in new content packs and are subject to the limited release cadence from Microsoft.

· Customizing templates with logos and default project properties: This is only available in the downloadable version of Sure Step (as discussed in Chapter 8, Project and Organizational Change Management).

Preparing for the Sure Step certification exam

Reading this book is of course already a good first step.

The Sure Step certification exam targets the project management audience for the following two reasons:

· Project managers have the necessary project management knowledge background

· Project managers can overlook a full project life cycle

If you are lacking in the project management basics, it is recommended that you acquire this knowledge by participating in the project management essentials courses.

Microsoft Dynamics MVP, Vjekoslav Babic (MCP, MCT, PMP), documents seven steps to get certified in Sure Step on his blog They are as follows:

1. Take a Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step course.

2. Learn the Document flow.

3. Read the guidance material.

4. Take the Proficiency Assessment tests available on the Microsoft Dynamics PartnerSource portal.

5. Read some more guidance material.

6. Retake the Proficiency Assessment tests.

7. Take the exam.

Sure Step for ISVs

In the previous section, we discussed how service providers can benefit from adopting Sure Step methodology as well as the process for adoption itself. We now shift our attention to the ISVs, who develop solutions to augment the Microsoft Dynamics Core solution.

Classifying ISVs

In the Microsoft Dynamics ecosystem, the ISVs provide solutions that can be broadly classified into three areas, as follows:

· Vertical solutions

· Horizontal solutions

· Complementary solutions

Industry-Vertical and Cross-Industry-Horizontal solutions were introduced in Chapter 3, Solution Envisioning with Sure Step, and the notion applies to ISVs as well. A vertical solution is a subcategory of an industry, characterized by enterprises with similar products or services. For example, automotive, chemicals, and electronics are subcategories or verticals of the manufacturing industry. A vertical solution generally covers end-to-end processes, and it is accordingly designed to meet the specific needs of a vertical-oriented business.

In contrast to a vertical solution, a horizontal solution is designed to meet a broad business process or need, and may need a little variation to cover multiple verticals or industries. For example, bookkeeping, payroll, and human resources applications are horizontal solutions.

The third category, complementary solutions, can also be viewed as horizontal solutions because these solutions can also be used in multiple verticals or industries. But while horizontal solutions can address multiple processes for multiple verticals or industries, a complementary solution is a "point solution" that addresses a specific function for a vertical or horizontal market, and as such, complements a vertical or horizontal solution. Examples of complementary solutions include credit card validation, address lookup, or bar code solutions.

How ISVs can benefit from the Sure Step program

As an ISV, regardless of which of the three categories you develop solutions in, you can benefit from aligning your solution's documentation to Sure Step methodology. Due to the inherent scope of the solution, if you are a vertical or horizontal solution provider, this alignment can especially help you. In this section, we will learn how you can benefit.

As you already know, Sure Step is designed to assist with requirement gathering for the customer's solution. This leads up to a Fit Gap exercise to determine how much of the standard solution fits with the customer's requirements and whether any gaps exist that must be solved by other means. During the Fit Gap exercise, the Value-Added Reseller (VAR) and/or service provider may determine that a subset of the requirements can be best met by an ISV solution. If this determination occurs in the diagnostic presales phase, having appropriate documentation such as requirements questionnaires and Fit Gap worksheets would assist the VAR or service provider with selecting the right ISV solution. As an ISV provider, this is your primary benefit as it enables the selection of your ISV solution. Even if the determination occurs only during the implementation, foreseeably during the Functional Requirements and Fit Gap workshops in the Analysis phase, these documents will once again help the service providers ascertain that they are making the right ISV selection.

Obviously, making sure that your ISV solution is the one that gets picked is your primary goal. We will talk about other artifacts you can provide to increase the confidence level for the VARs or service providers. For now, let's continue with the additional benefits that you, as an ISV provider, can gain from aligning with Sure Step methodology.

The more recognized your ISV solution becomes in the Microsoft Dynamics ecosystem, the more demand you are going to have for your product, which without any doubt, is a good problem to have. But with that also comes organizational scale issues. Do you have the resources to assist on multiple sales opportunities, or do you have the resources to support implementation questions as they arise? Having your process and documentation aligned with Sure Step can help you address these questions.

The other inherent benefits of the Sure Step alignment are alleviating project risks and improving solution delivery times. As we have learned in the prior chapters, having a consistent, repeatable, and end-to-end life cycle method that Sure Step provides helps the service provider decrease the overall risks and issues that may arise during the engagement. This, in turn, can also lead to reduced deployment times, thereby reducing the overall solution delivery costs for the customer. If your ISV application is a component of the overall solution being deployed for the customer, ensuring that it also aligns with Sure Step will only help make life easier for the implementation team. They will be able to find artifacts for the appropriate activities, thereby reducing the overall delivery time for this component. They will also be using a single taxonomy in describing and implementing the overall solution, which is not something to overlook. The customer user base goes through enough churn as it is during the course of an Enterprise Resource Planning(ERP) or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution implementation; they do need to also have to figure out multiple terms thrown at them to describe the same task.

Having good Sure Step-based documentation can also reduce the time taken for a service provider to become an expert on your ISV solution. As these consultants go into other engagements, they become evangelists for your product, resulting in more demand. Also, the documentation can help the consultants deliver quality training for this part of the overall solution to the customer's users.

These are just some of the potential benefits from Sure Step for ISVs. All in all, it is a win-win situation for the ISV, the VAR/service provider, and most importantly, the customer.

ISV artifacts for Sure Step

We have already discussed requirements questionnaires and Fit Gap worksheets as key artifacts that an ISV provider should make available. Other important documents that you may provide are noted in the following list.

Consider them for the diagnostic phase to assist with solution selling and the customer's due diligence.

· Product overview: This is self-explanatory! A good product requires a strong overview document that describes the solution capabilities.

· Requirements questionnaires and Fit Gap worksheets: This has been discussed previously but is added here to complete the list. These documents can be used with the Requirements and Process Review Decision Accelerator Offering and the Fit Gap and Solution Blueprint Decision Accelerator (DA) Offering, respectively.

· Infrastructure and third-party software requirements: These specifications will be used in the Architecture Assessment DA, by the technical consultants, to determine the infrastructure needs for the add-on solution. The technical consultants will need to ascertain whether the existing hardware may be sufficient or if additional hardware components are needed for the combined solution. For example, if any third-party components are also needed for your ISV application, this should be known upfront so that the teams can plan in advance for their procurement.

· Cost Estimation worksheets: Use these worksheets to guide the service provider with developing the budgetary estimates, timelines, and resource needs for the ISV component as part of the overall solution deployment during the Scoping Assessment exercise.

· Demonstration data: This is an important need for presales if the sales team, during the Proof of Concept DA or at any other point in the sales cycle, has to demonstrate the solution add-on to the customer. This dataset should be easily installable as time is often of the essence in a sales cycle. It may also be noted that demo data can help during the implementation, for example, during solution overview or for setting up a Sandbox environment for user training purposes.

While the aim of the diagnostic documents is to assist the sales team with positioning and envisioning the overall solution for the customer, the following implementation subset will help the consulting team deliver the promised solution to the customer. The recommended artifacts for ISVs noted next are aligned to each of the nine cross-phase processes in the Sure Step Implementation Project Types. These phases are as follows:

· Program Management cross phase: If your ISV solution may need additional activities during deployment, consider providing a project plan addendum. You may also consider other documents to describe the Conditions of Satisfaction (COS) or Key Performance Indicators (KPI) with your solution.

· Training cross phase: If applicable, include guidance on training for your ISV solution.

· Business Process Analysis cross phase: Use case scenarios provide examples of real-life usage of the product, which can be very helpful to the solution architects developing the overall solution vision. Business Process Maps, especially for the vertical ISV solutions—and to an extent, for the horizontal ISV solutions—can also help in this aspect. These may also be leveraged during the sales cycle.

· Requirements and Configuration cross phase: Providing templates for setup/configuration will be of great help to the implementation team in areas such as parameter setting so that the consultants can correctly configure the solution specific to the customer's needs.

· Custom Coding cross phase: Templates such as Functional Design Document (FDD) for customizations and Technical Design Documents (TDD) may help the development resources on the consulting team with designing and documenting any required customizations of the solution.

· Quality and Testing cross phase: Scripts for User Acceptance Testing (UAT) and other related tests for testing your ISV solution are very important. These will help ensure quality delivery of the combined solution. If feasible, you may also consider other templates, such as technical review and project governance compliance checklists.

· Infrastructure cross phase: Key documentation in this area is in the form of installation guides describing how the ISV application should be installed in tandem with the core Microsoft Dynamics solution. Remember to include uninstall procedures in these guides, which may help when switching environments, among other things.

· Integration and Interfaces cross phase: Use this area to explain how your product integrates with the core solution. If applicable, you can also include guidance on how your product integrates with other third-party solutions that are typically used in the customer's industry or vertical.

· Data Migration cross phase: If applicable, provide guidance on data migration scripting and specific mapping templates for migrating data from other third-party solutions into your product.

Sure Step provides you with starting templates, including Requirements Gathering Template, Costing Worksheet Template, User Acceptance Test Script Template, and so on, which can help you get started on your journey to alignment with Sure Step! The following screenshot shows some of these templates:

ISV artifacts for Sure Step

The list of ISV artifacts shown in the preceding screenshot may seem overwhelming at first, so it is very important to remember that you do not need to develop all of these documents in one fell swoop. This list should help you think about areas that will help the sales and implementation teams that represent and deploy your product. Use judgment to decide which areas need to be worked on immediately and which ones you can develop and provide as your business evolves. In the next section, you can also find a table with recommendations of templates for the Certified for Microsoft Dynamics (CfMD) program, which may also help you determine which ones to start with and which ones to build over time.

Sure Step and the CfMD program

The CfMD program introduced by Microsoft applies high quality and testing rigor to partner-developed business management solutions. CfMD solutions are tested by an independent company and also go through verification by customers. By committing to the quality requirements of the CfMD program, the ISV solutions are provided higher visibility and afforded increased marketability to the resellers and customers. These solutions offer customers and resellers a lower risk profile in that they are used and recommended by other companies in the industry, are thoroughly tested and proven to meet Microsoft's highest standards for partner solutions, and very importantly, are tested as being compatible and integrated with Microsoft Dynamics and Microsoft technology solutions.

One of the main objectives of the certified solutions is to provide trusted, lower-risk solutions that can be implemented faster and maintained more easily when the solution is in production. As such, in conjunction with the Sure Step 2010 release, the CfMD program introduced best practice guidance on the Sure Step artifacts to be developed by Microsoft Dynamics ISV solution providers. The CfMD program also instituted a requirement for the ISV organization to have one or more resources with Sure Step methodology certification to ensure alignment with Sure Step.

The following table illustrates the documentation requirements of the ISV provider from a CfMD perspective. The documents noted with a check mark under the ISV Software test column are required for the CfMD test process, while the others are recommended.

Proposed document

ISV Software test


Diagnostic phase

Product overview

Questionnaires for requirements gathering

Fit Gap Analysis worksheet with specific considerations for the ISV solution

Augmentation of the Fit Gap and Solution Blueprint for ISV considerations

ISV Infrastructure and third-party software requirements

Guidelines for the VAR on how to accurately scope, determine resources, and cost the respective ISV solution

Short demonstration video

Medium demonstration video

Product positioning and Unique Selling Propositions (USPs)

Case studies

Analysis through the Operations phases

Installation, configuration, and uninstallation procedures

ISV sample project plans and guidance on how these can be incorporated into the standard Sure Step plans, such as providing examples

Integration guide

Operations guide

Installable demonstration data

Training plans

ISV-specific business use case scenarios

Setup/configuration requirements for ISV

FDD and TDD considerations, including security requirements

User Acceptance tests

Testing scripts for all relevant testing, unit, functional, performance, data, or integration testing as examples

Delivery Audit Checklists

Additions to environment definition and deployment plans for ISV infrastructure requirements

Guidance on specific dynamic solutions and ISV integration

ISV data migration guidance

The CfMD program also created a Certified for Microsoft Dynamics Partner-to-Partner Connections site as an added benefit, allowing resellers to directly contact the certified solution provider. This provides the ISV an additional forum to showcase their solutions, and an opportunity to recruit the best reselling partners.

As an ISV solution provider, consider the CfMD program and take advantage of the benefits to grow your business.

Use case – Sure Step adoption by a small Dynamics partner

In this case study, we look at the journey of a small Dynamics partner (let's call them Partner1) to adopt Sure Step methodology. The clientele of Partner1 is predominantly in the Small-to-Medium Enterprise (SME) space. Partner1 is a VAR and solution implementer whose main focus is not only the Microsoft Dynamics CRM solutions, but also undertaking smaller ERP engagements. Partner1 has 24 employees, including six in sales, 15 in consulting, and three in administrative/accounting/infrastructure roles.

Partner1 was struggling in two areas: a spotty win-loss ratio on the opportunities it was chasing and inconsistency in its solution delivery resulting in less-than-satisfied customers. In a way, the two issues were tied together: the lack of good customer references was causing it to lose out to the competition more often than not.

The CEO of Partner1 first learned of Sure Step at a Partner Conference, where he was also able to see a demo of the methodology. He came away impressed with the capabilities, and also felt that it could help his organization in both of its current struggles. But before embarking on the evaluation exercise, he wanted to get affirmation from others in his organization that this was worthwhile to pursue, and he accordingly asked his Consulting Director to evaluate whether Sure Step would be a good fit for them.

The Consulting Director of Partner1 and a Senior Project Manager reviewed the 100-level online training course on Sure Step, accessible through PartnerSource. They were also convinced that the time and effort to further evaluate Sure Step would be money well spent, with the Consulting Director going as far as feeling that it was essential to their survival as an organization.

As a first step, they downloaded Sure Step from Microsoft's PartnerSource website to get a better grasp of the guidance, artifacts, and tools available to them. The second step was to institute a Train-the-Trainer model, where the Senior Project Manager would undertake a deep-dive, instructor-led classroom training on Sure Step and then come back and educate the rest of the organization on Sure Step. After other key consulting resources received training on Sure Step, the company would evaluate whether and how the methodology needed to be customized to fit their processes. They would also select a project and use Sure Step on a trial basis.

While the plan was fairly logical, the execution did not quite pan out as Partner1 had intended. First, while the training that the Project Manager attended delivered the Sure Step knowledge, Partner1 still needed to go through an exercise of mapping their processes and deliverables to Sure Step methodology. This required dedicated resources and time. This was task that the Project Manager, whose primary job was to keep his/her current customer project on the right track, did not have the luxury to carry out. Partner1 also felt a bit overwhelmed by the documentation that they thought was needed in Sure Step and struggled with aligning their internal taxonomies between sales and delivery. Finally, as the sales team was not involved in this exercise, the selling motions, and more importantly the deliverables promised by the sales teams were not aligned with the new approach that the delivery team wanted to take. The project stayed mired on the shelf, and it was business as usual for Partner1. The problem was that their sales and delivery struggles continued as well.

At this juncture, the CEO was able to meet with a Microsoft executive and another partner at an event. The discussion and follow-up notes exchanged affirmed his belief that Sure Step could help alleviate his company's struggles and also led him to go after a more sound adoption approach.

Partner1 decided to use the Sure Step Adoption Roadmap for guidance. Having already identified a compelling reason to adopt Sure Step, the first step for Partner1 was to assign a Sure Step champion for the project. The Project Manager was designated as the Sure Step champion, and she was also relieved of some of her day-to-day pressures so as to be able to focus on the adoption. Partner1 nominated a V-team that comprised of a Sales Manager, the Consulting Director, and other consultants. The team availed of the Sure Step Online self-assessments to analyze where they were as an organization and what steps they needed to take to improve their processes.

After the CEO signed off on the plan, the team went about redesigning their processes to align them to Sure Step. Partner1 decided to begin with a subset of the documents that were important to the sales and delivery processes—the key documents designated by Sure Step, as shown in the following screenshot:

Use case – Sure Step adoption by a small Dynamics partner

For their CRM implementations, Partner1 decided to build their templates around the Agile project type, while they selected the Standard project type for their ERP implementations. Using Sure Step's Projects functionality, the teams adapted the Sure Step templates and created Partner1-centric deliverable documents for their CRM and ERP solutions. The Statement of Work (SOW) template provided to the customers at the end of the sales cycle was also recreated and aligned to the new Sure Step deliverables.

Partner1 piloted these documents for a CRM and ERP project and fine-tuned them as needed before requiring their usage on all projects. They also instituted periodic reviews of their projects and processes to ensure that their lessons learned were being transferred to future engagements.

Partner1 has been able to streamline their processes and have also leveraged Sure Step to show their customers that they have a viable approach to deliver the promised solutions. Not only are they closing more opportunities, but customer satisfaction is also high, as are employee morale and retention rates.


In this chapter, we covered the adoption of Sure Step methodology from the perspectives of both a service provider and an ISV. We learned of the resources that have been made available to help them with the adoption process and how they can manage the resulting change in their organizations.

We will wrap up our discussions in the next chapter by summarizing our learning of Sure Step. We will also talk about some key areas for the reader to focus on in the immediate timeframe.