In Praise of the Incomplete Dynamics 365 consultant

If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes. John Wooden

We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellencethen, is not an act, but a habit. Aristotle

During dynamics CRM projects there are many scenarios when something goes wrong.  Mistakes shouldn’t surprise us, CRM projects are complex, involving multiple people, processes and goals.

A project is organised chaos, setbacks and mistakes can lower affect the morale of the team but when mistake’s are opportunity to make strategic decisions to put the project back in the right direction, ensuring you are delivering the business goals

Don’t be surprised when mistakes happen during a Dynamics 365 project, be prepared #HoskWisdom 

Complexity 

In the excellent book The Mythical Man-month: Essays on Software Engineering Brooks challenges adding more people to a project to shorten time scales, highlighted by this quote

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.”
― Frederick P. Brooks Jr.Mythical Man-Month, The: Essays on Software Engineering

In the Mythical man-month Brooks discusses communication overhead, described here  Brooks Law

Communication overheads increase as the number of people increases. Due to combinatorial explosion, the number of different communication channels increases rapidly with the number of people. Everyone working on the same task needs to keep in sync, so as more people are added they spend more time trying to find out what everyone else is doing.”

Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM projects meet project complexity overhead when a team works on different parts of a project becoming difficult to understand what other people are doing and how their information affects the CRM project.

The book The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things RightAtul Gawande examines complexity and knowledge.  A problem doctors face is not having the required knowledge to cure patients but understanding what treatment should be used among a list of possibilities.  The increase in medical understanding has doctors struggling to make the correct diagnoses in time.

“sometime over the last several decades—and its only over the last several decades—science has filled in enough knowledge to make ineptitude as much our struggle as ignorance.”

― Atul GawandeThe Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

Microsoft Dynamics 365 projects involve teams working on different partscollecting customers’ requirements and creating technical solution. The difficult to create CRM solutions aligned with business requirements, constraints and limitations required by the business, it’s a great breeding ground for mistakes and missteps.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 projects have many moving pieces with different directions and purposes.  You can’t focus on each piece because you need to understand the whole picture and overall strategy.  Dynamics 365 projects focus on many tasks and trying to understand the overall strategy can lead to mistakes because it‘s difficult to focus on many parts of a project with the same intensity.

Think like a datacentre

data center must not fail to keep within it‘s 99.9% uptime promise,  when failure occurs, it must recover because that what the customers pay for.

Microsoft Azure’s data centres need a strategy not to avoid hardware failure but to cope with hardware failure and not lose service.  Microsoft Azure allow you to choose different availability sets to reduce the likely hood of your servers being on the same rack, datacentre and country.

I’m not suggested you work on a project with the aim to fail but you should be prepared there will be mistakes and you must learn from them and not let mistake turn into failure.

Incomplete Leader

The article the In praise of the incomplete leader https://hbr.org/2007/02/in-praise-of-the-incomplete-leader inspired me to write a CRM version, the quote below gives a flavour.

It’s time to end the myth of the complete leader: the flawless person at the top who’s got it figured out. The sooner leaders stop trying to be all things to all peoplethe better off their organizations will be

The leader’s job is no longer to command and control but to cultivate and coördinate the actions of others at all levels of the organization. Only when leaders come to see themselves as incomplete—as having both strengths and weaknesses—will they be able to make up for their missing skills by relying on others.

Incompleteness and Dynamics 365 Professionals

Incompleteness is a fact of life in the Microsoft Dynamics CRM professional, we
  • Incomplete requirements
  • Incomplete solutions
  • incomplete code
  • Incomplete knowledge
  • Incorrect estimates
  • incomplete knowledge of the project due to communication overhead issues + time issues

Customers expect dynamics 365 consultants and developers to be experts Microsoft Dynamics 365, Dynamics 365 professionals expect customers to be experts in their business, capturing their requirements, limitations and complexities of their business.

There is too much to knowtoo many distractions, not enough time in an IT project.  During a project mistakes are likely, we can miss something, not collect all requirements and there is plenty of scope for misinterpreting the requirements.

We shouldn’t be surprised when things go wrong or off track because this happens with people, complex requirements, complex solutions.

Two things are important

  • communication
  • relationships

When you add the two factors together you get collaboration.  Collaboration is a vital ingredient to a successful project and if you have worked on an unsuccessful project, you will find problems in the relationship and communication which created an environment ineffectual collaboration

Internal collaboration

CRM professionals won’t know everything individually, to be effective you must use the experience, knowledge and ideas of your colleagues.  The size and breath of CRM and related services means no one CRM professional can have deep knowledge of all new CRM features and new products.

Group knowledge/experience is key to delivering projects which don’t implement customisation not suited to the business requirements or might cause problems later down the line.

One attribute of CRM professional is to know when to get help or delegate part of the project to someone who specialises in that area.

Four Capabilities

leadership as a set of four capabilities: sensemaking (understanding the context in which a company and its people operate), relating (building relationships within and across organizations), visioning(creating a compelling picture of the future), and inventing (developing new ways to achieve the vision).

Sensemaking

Business requirements must always drive solutions, if a CRM solution is not aligned to a customers business needs it won’t make a significant impact or deliver significant gains to the customer.  When gather requirements the key is to ask the right questions, to do this you have to understand the context of the company and how it operates.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM has generic functionality for sales, marketing, case management etc, most companies do not have generic requirements.  Companies want you to tailor the CRM solution to fit their individual way of working and their particularly business needs.

When gather requirements you must constantly relate them to the companies needs, goals to ensure you solution makes a business impact.

When demoing functionality the CRM professional must simplify the functionality to enable the user to understand what it does and how it works.  On the other side try to get the business users to simplify their requirements and remove any ambiguity.

Sometimes it‘s a case of the CRM professional keep working, understanding the business will help you understand the business requirements.  When you understand the reason behind a business requirement it‘s easier to understand and explain to other members of the team.

Relationships

A successful project builds on the foundation of a good working relationship between the users and the CRM professional.   During the project you spend time asking the team to do things for the project, the better your relationship the quicker and better the users will carry out those tasks.

The key to building a good relationship is to understand the users perspective and present information so they can understand it.  Encourage input and listen to their options.  Successfull projects are collaborations between the user (business knowledge) and the CRM team (technical CRM knowledge).  Unsuccessful projects occur is when one side is to dominate or doesn’t listen to the other sides opinion.

The article called the key point is you when you understand where the user is coming from you can relate to their business requirements and functionality needed.  CRM professionals will find customers can find it hard to relate to Microsoft Dynamics 365 functionality you should use the customers business language and terminology to help visualise the solution.

Solutioning

You gather requirements, user stories which you use to create a solution.  The features of the solution must be easily traced back to the business goals/objectives.  When creating a solution create a compelling vision of the future and sell this to the customer, they must believe this will make their working life better by helping them to their job more effectively.

When creating the solution get input from the business and technical experts with deep knowledge of Dynamics 365 functionality.  Feedback from business users and technical experts is vital at these stage, you must find flaws and problem areas.  A useful tool is a premortem where you predict the source of problems with the solution and investigate it.

The problems you find in the designing the solution are easier to fix before you started creating the solution.  Problems you find later means rewriting code or reworking a customisation as well as designing an alternative which fits the constraints of an existing solution.

Don’t let bugs get into production environments

Delivering

The customer needs to be prepared for the incomplete solution, it‘s this time when missed requirements, incomplete requirements and misunderstood requirements can distort the solution to not forefill the customers requirements.  Mmisaligned solutions are often assumptions not fully questioned.

A key part of delivering is to make sure the users get trained on the new system, customers can get frustrated and annoyed if they don’t understand how to use it.  The new system instead of helping them do their work, hinders the user because they can’t do something or it takes longer than the old familiar system.

Conclusion

Successfully delivering a project is an art not a science, you will make mistakes along the way.  A team delivers a project and the more people you have contributing the better it will be.

Projects must relate to the business goals, processes and the people who work there.  When project teams focus too much on technical solutions they can lose sight of the real purpose of the project and the CRM solution, help users archive business goals, which helps the business execute it‘s business strategy.

There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure. Colin Powell

If someone does make a mistake, make sure they get given the Fail Fairy – The Fairy of failure – Who broke the build

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