Hosk’s recommended Dynamics 365 and other articles September 2018

Quotes

The pain of legacy code never goes away

Writing code is a long lesson in humility #HoskCodeWisdom

 

Power is like being a lady… if you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” – Margaret Thatcher

Articles of the Month

awesome-1

Great Dynamics 365 articles this month

Programming/Scrum

Other/Business/Leadership/Management

The Hosk – currently reading

The Hosk – has read and recommends

Selected  HoskWisdom from September

  • No Developer likes to be told they have ugly code
  • Meaning can come from great suffering, just ask anyone who has worked on an IT project
  • You can’t refactor code until you understand what it does
  • To many people try to do Agile when they should focus on being Agile #HoskCodeWisdom
  • The complexity of code is proportionate to the stress of supporting it #hoskcodewisdom
  • There is a game Microsoft likes to play with developers, They call it Master and Servant. It’s a lot like life and that’s what’s appealing

Last months Monthly articles

Last months recommended monthly articles

Hosk’s CRM Developer Articles

A collection of my favorite CRM Developer articles I have written

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Why apprentices work well with Dynamics development

Youth is the gift of nature, but age is a work of art. Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

It’s not the quality of the plan but the quality of the people that is vital to success #HoskWisdom

Capgemini has a degree apprentice scheme which offers an alternative to going to university, it allows you to study for a degree funded by Capgemini, whilst working full time.

In 2018 Capgemini are hoping to add 90 apprentices.   Watching apprentices grow and improve is like a home-grown player making the football team, it feels more rewarding.

The Capgemini Dynamics team added at least two apprentices each year for the last 2 years and it’s worked well.

The cost of degree?

The cost of degrees in the UK is huge, students pay back via a percentage of their wages for 20 years after graduation (the degree gets them a better paying job and worth the investment)

With degree’s costing so much money, I’m surprised alternatives or getting a degree at university is still the popular choice.

Alternatives such as

  • Making degrees into 2 years (do you need 3 months off for summer?)
  • Night school
  • smaller focused courses relevant to software engineering/programming or other specialisations

The cost of a degree is £9000 per year (tuition fees, excluding living costs) lasting 3 years, people should question

  1. Is a degree worth the money?
  2. is a degree worth the time?
  3. What are the alternatives?

The Capgemini Dynamics team experience

we had at least 2 apprentices each year for the past 2 years and it worked well.  The apprentices are put onto projects and work as Dynamics developers.

Recent articles on apprentices on the Capgemini Dynamics team blog

Apprentices often learn faster than experienced developers who have learnt bad habits.  The Capgemini Dynamics team bring the best practices of software engineering to Dynamics development

  • Plugin framework
  • Unit testing
  • code using business logic and repository pattern
  • DevOps (CI, CD)
  • GIT not TFS (pull requests differ from check ins :-))

The apprentices pick up the development process often quicker than experienced developers because they haven’t got use to writing code without designing their code or writing unit tests.

Some CRM developers don’t see the value of unit tests but if you are working on a large projects and don’t write unit tests the quality of your code base will deteriate.  The effects of reduce quality code is harder to read, maintain, test and extend your code; The project will slow down and make any changes costly in terms of time and money.

Articles on why you should unit test

Articles on designing code and technical debt

My experiences

The apprentices are are expected to

  • Contribute ideas
  • One Microsoft Dynamics Certification each year
  • Share information with the team (presentations, blog posts)

These help the software engineers learn about Dynamics 365, integrate and get engaged with the team.  Studying for Dynamics certification allows apprentices to learn Microsoft Dynamics 365 quickly and learning good software engineering principles takes longer.  Using frameworks and code reviews you can make sure junior developers creating code the right way.

Junior developers work best on a project with experienced developers who help them with the intricacies of Microsoft Dynamics development (which has it’s idiosyncratic ways of doing things).

Summary

Its a great way to get a degree and Dynamics project experience without the debt (it does take longer to get your degree)

You need to be hard working and dedicated to take this route but the benefit is you get your degree paid and project experience.  The downside is it takes longer to finish the degree and you need to study and work.

It’s amazing to think of the practical experience the apprentices get working on projects, learning from software engineers whilst people studying at university only have theoretical knowledge.

I look forward to the Capgemini Dynamics team getting more apprentices each year.  You can find out more here if you want to learn more about it.

How to improve as Dynamics 365 developer

Everyone wants to improve but few want to put in the work needed to get better #HoskWisdom

Becoming a champion is not an easy process… It is done by focusing on what it takes to get there and not on getting there – Nick Saban

 

Improving as a Dynamics 365 developer takes dedication and persistence.  It takes years to build up your experience and knowledge but you can speed up the process by learning from the mistakes and experience of others.

This blog post my advice to Dynamics 365 developers who want to improve.  The core message of the post was written to a frustrated junior developer who wrote me an email simply saying “I want to stop making mistakes and get better, what is the quickest way to improve.”

A few posts improving and tips to improve, start by reading those

No shortcuts

Becoming a good Dynamics developer is difficult and takes time, which is why there are so few good Dynamics developers.

 No shortcuts to becoming an awesome Dynamics 365 developer 

It involves focus, effort and learning from your mistakes.  The more focus on improving the quicker you will improve.   It takes time for your skills, knowledge and experience to accumulate and learn from your mistakes.

Aim to finish work wiser about Microsoft Dynamics than you when you started.  Each day learn something new, improve your skills and reflect on your experiences

If you want to be a better coder then commit to being better and start being a better coder now #HoskCodeWisdom

There is no shortcut, only time and dedication.  Warren Buffett talks about Charlie Munger and his focus

“Charlie, as a very young lawyer, was probably getting $20 an hour. He thought to himself, “Who’s my most valuable client?” And he decided it was himself. So he decided to sell himself an hour each day. He did it early in the morning, working on these construction projects and real estate deals. Everybody should do this, be the client, and then work for other people, too, and sell yourself an hour a day.”

Enjoy being a Dynamics developer

 “You must understand the following: In order to master a field, you must love the subject and feel a profound connection to it. Your interest must transcend the field itself and border on the religious.” ― Robert GreeneMastery 

 

If you don’t enjoy Dynamics development you will find the work boring and the days long.  If you are not passionate, you won’t care enough and you devote the time needed to improve.

Want to improve

Development is difficult but rewarding when you do it well #HoskCodeWisdom

Improvement comes from within, it‘s a desire to get better.  You need a passion for development, keep motivated, know why you want to improve if you don’t have a good reason you will give up.

It’s a slow process of continuous improvement, end each day learning something new or improving skills.  This is sucking less each day.  Junior Dynamics developers struggle with the limitations of Dynamics 365 functionality, often creating a customisation only to find due to a limitation the solution won’t work.

Why .NET developers struggle with CRM Development

A student mindset uses opportunities to learn and improve,  the more experience and knowledge you build the fewer mistakes you make.

“Most people don’t have the patience to absorb their minds in the fine points and minutiae that are intrinsically part of their work. They are in a hurry to create effects and make a splash; they think in large brush strokes.

Their work inevitably reveals their lack of attention to detail – it doesn’t connect deeply with the public, and it feels flimsy.”
― Robert GreeneMastery

Visualise your day – plan your day

What will you check? What processes will you follow?  When visualizing the perfect day, remind yourself how you should do everything.

Plan your day, make sure you tackle the important tasks and don’t be reactive to change via email or requests.  Developers need to concentrate and focus on one task, avoid switching between many tasks and losing time through switching.

Don’t let email push low priority tasks to the front of the queue,  Email tasks can be the tasks which shout the loudest but the task you do next should be the most important.

Reflect

Learn from your experiences, review your mistakes you and avoid repeating them.  Inspecting how you work and adapting, keep improving.

Learn from your mistakes, identify patterns, catch yourself from being busy but not productive.

The person who doesn’t learn from their mistakes, repeats them.  Don’t waste your experiences, make the most of them.

Start with the SDK

The CRM SDK is the main tool for a CRM developer, the better a CRM developer knows its capabilities, limitations, and documentation the better they do their job.

Every time you don’t understand something, read the Dynamics 365 SDK, understand it, master it.

Improve code quality

Read Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship.  To write simple code you need to understand design principles are important, they decouple code and avoid making code brittle.

Brittle code with large methods is hard to read and breaks.  When you change one line of code ,it breaks other unrelated parts of the code.  Controlling dependencies and decoupling code allows you to manage the effects of change.

Naming is important, go back over your code and get the names of variables, methods and classes correct.  Like writing a book, developers never give the best names in the first draft, it‘s important to edit, refactor and refine your code.  The first draft gets it working, further drafts are to simplify and improve readability.

Design code

Don’t just write code. Think about it, design it, write it, refactor it, be proud of it #HoskCodeWisdom

Before you start typing, spend time designing your code, find classes and abstractions.  Designed code is easier to read, debug, reuse, unit test, maintain and extend.  All code has an impact, well-designed code minimizes the dependencies

Understand SOLID principles

SOLID principles are the building blocks of good code.  You will produce better quality code, fewer dependencies, and fewer problems later.  SOLID principles help developers recognise good code.

Help yourself

Don’t suffer in silence and sit frozen in front of the code, don’t waste time not making progress.  Don’t look give me the answer, I want to be pointed in the right direction.  Software development has lots of dead ends where to solve a problem you must rule out options and clarify assumptions.

Resolving your own problems is time-consumingbe pragmatic and know when to spend the time learning it yourself and when to get help.

A useful tool is to describe my problems to a toy/cardboard developer,  explaining the problem to the toy and myself I can uncover the solution and I avoid wasting other peoples time.

Why all developers should be friends with a cardboard developer

Understand how Dynamics CRM works

He who knows the most, get’s paid the most #HoskWisdom

Take every opportunity to understand how Dynamics 365 works. A greater knowledge of Dynamics 365 allows consistent choice of the right customisations and enabling quicker trouble shooting.

Dynamics 365 error messages point you in the right direction

Seek out what you are weakest

Improve knowledge and skills, build up your experience.  Don’t hide from these, focus and improve.  Use weaknesses and mistakes as triggers for learning.

Its better to learn functionality before it’s needed on a customer project, where the pressure is on and deadlines are looming.

How to cope when you are out of your Developer comfort zone

Learn from colleagues

Fellow developers are walking, talking troves of knowledge and experience,  learn from their experience.

Colleagues might be useful sources of knowledge but don’t ask them for help without trying to solve problems yourself.  Solving problems yourself gives you the solution and the learning.

The goal is to create customisations delivering the required functionality but it‘s the journey which improves your skills.  Create customisations and get senior developer to ratify your solution.

All developers have tips, tricks and shortcuts which can help you, if you ask and talk to them.

Write unit tests

Know how are you going to test the logic of your code, understand every line of code is doing what it should.

Test your code with unit testsit‘s best practice and encourages you to write decoupled code which is easy to unit test.

A good framework is Unit Testing Microsoft Dynamics CRM using FakeXrmEasy Framework

At Capgemini we structure plugins to separate business logic and repository layer (CRM SDK CRUD) to make testable.

Unit tests are a vital part of emerging code design 

When manually testingDonjust test the happy path

Talk Dynamics 365

Talk Microsoft Dynamics 365 with your colleagues and you will learn something or at worst give information to someone else.

Share knowledge with the team and work together to create a broad knowledge of Dynamics 365 bringing in your differences experiences and thoughts.

Be organised

Don’t waste time looking for files, projects and code.  Be professional, be organised and minimise distractions.

Get Certified

Certifications gives a more rounded and in-depth knowledge of Dynamics 365.  Investigating functionality in Dynamics 365 which they no practical experience of.

Dynamics 365 is the developers main tool, they should know it inside, outside, up and down.

Studying for Dynamics certifications helps to understand the limitations of Dynamics 365 functionality.  Limitations are key factors when deciding the right customization for a requirement.

Average is not good enough

Developer skills are like a snowball, they start off small and quickly pick up speed as your knowledge and skills grow #HoskWisdom

Don’t do average work, do great work.  Customers and other developers can quickly tell if someone is delivering quality work.  Good developers code works well and anticipates the needs of the users, it contains fewer bugs and when bugs are fixed they don’t bounce back.

Developers who work too quickly often don’t fully understand the requirements, don’t clarify them and deliver what they think the users want.  The code contains assumptions and bugs and never seems to be finished

Deliver code you are proud of

Don’t put non-supported customisations

If you write unsupported customisations Microsoft will not support your Dynamics 365 customisations.  A detailed explanation below

Why you shouldn’t put unsupported customizations in Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Know why things are not working

Errors and functionality not working is an opportunity to learn.  Don’t just find the solution on the internet, make sure you take the time to learn what the problem was and how/why it’s fixed.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM not working? check these common causes

The next problem you might get could be different and the better your understanding of Dynamics 365 the quicker you will be able to diagnose the problem.

Read CRM blogs

There are lots of great Dynamics 365 blogs which will help you keep up to date with the latest functionality in Dynamics 365, you can find a great list of them here

https://community.dynamics.com/crm/b

I also recommend follow these hashtags on twitter

  • #MSDYN365
  • #Dynamics365
  • #HoskWisdom and #HoskCodeWisdom 🙂

Finally here are some of my other favourite blog posts I have written

Hosk’s Top Dynamics 365 Articles of the week – 27th January

Quotes

Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent effort. John Ruskin

#HoskWisdom Favoutes this week

  • The only limitation to what you can develop is the person developing it #HoskWisdom
  • The end always triggers a beginning #HoskWisdom
  • The pressure to make things complex will be great but you must keep it as simple as possible #HoskWisdom
  • Don’t waste words, make every one count #HoskWisdom
  • Don’t blame other people for your failures #HoskWisdom
  • Constantly talking about doing something is a barrier to doing something #HoskWisdom
  • It’s not just what you say but how you say it #HoskWisdom
  • if you tried your hardest you have nothing to regret #HoskWisdom
  • If something has no value, stop measuring it #HoskWisdom
  • Contributing to a successful team is better than achieving personal goals #HoskWisdom
  • Don’t over think and under act #HoskWisdom
  • The difficulty working with cowboy coders is dealing with the all shit that comes from their code and horses #HoskCodeWisdom
  • Increasing people on a project increases complexity of working, colloborating and communicating #HoskWisdom
  • When I see someone crying when their football team has lost, I want to tell them they need to take football more seriously #HoskWisdom
  • Respect silence, its thinking time #HoskWisdom
  • You cant solve all of life’s problems in a day but you can start with one of your own #HoskWisdom

Want more #HoskWisdom then follow #HoskWisdom or follow @BenHosk

Articles of the week

awesome-1

Using Portal Capabilities in Dynamics 365 (CRM)

Good run through portal capabilities, a detailed step by step guide

Best of the rest

The difficulties of scaled agile projects

Dynamics 365 SDK refreshed (11 January 2017)

10 Types of Dynamics 365 Project for IT Decision Makers

Getting around Delegated Admin Restrictions

Read Barcode Value Using Barcode Scanner Control in Dynamics 365

Step by Step Guide to Setting up your Dynamics 365 Portal Trial

Working with JSON objects in Dynamics CRM Plugins

Smart Buttons in the Ribbon Workbench

ALM for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011: CRM Solution Lifecycle Management

Everyday is a school day, yomi fields are for phonetic spelling

Programming/Scrum

5 Steps To Better Agile Retrospectives

Trello board on better retrospectives

It’s Not Just Standing Up: Patterns for Daily Standup Meetings

CannotMeasureProductivity

Other

Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule

Leadership That Gets Results

Servant leadership – the leadership theory of robert K. greenleaf

Effective Leadership Styles for Scrum Masters

Five books every ScrumMaster should read

Béla Guttmann: the mastermind who was more than just a curse

Stephen Hawking’s Productive Laziness

To Everyone Who Asks For ‘Just A Little’ Of Your Time: Here’s What It Costs To Say Yes

everything Ryan Holiday wrote in 2016

how to improve success rates in NFL drafts

David Foster Wallace: The String Theory

Great course for Scrum masters

How to build a great team and culture

The Hosk – currently reading

The Hosk – just finished reading

Hosk’s CRM Developer Articles

A collection of my favourite CRM Developer articles I have written

CRM 2016 – Tips on passing the MB2-712 customization and config exam

All the CRM 2013 content to help you pass the exam

#HoskCodeWisdom

When you are going through project hell, don’t stop to create the nice to have features #HoskCodeWisdom
Quick fixes are never quick and usually add technical debt, so take longer and do it properly #HoskCodeWisdom
If not managed properly, adding more people to a project can slow it down instead of speeding it up #HoskCodeWisdom
Don’t waste time adding functionality the user might like but hasn’t asked for #HoskCodeWisdom
Never optimize code unless you have to #HoskCodeWisdom
Scrum master should never have answers they should ask the team for answers #HoskCodeWisdom
Writing code is simple but writing simple code is the hardest thing you can code #HoskCodeWisdom
You need to love code with your heart and write code with your head if you want to be good programmer #HoskCodeWisdom
Creating bugs bothers good developers #HoskCodeWisdom
If you don’t find writing code fun, you will never be good developer #HoskCodeWisdom
If you don’t control technical debt, it controls you and the horse you rode in on #HoskCodeWisdom
You cannot be the master coding because some days the code wins and you lose #HoskCodeWisdom
When programmers think they are good, code will find a way for you to waste a whole day on something which doesn’t work #HoskCodeWisdom

The difficulties of scaled agile projects

There are many projects which are Agile in name but chaos in reality #HoskWisdom

The Agile framework is like a person with a hammer, all problems look like nails and all projects look like Agile projects #HoskWisdom

 

Agile/Scrum used on large/enterprise projects with multiple Scrum teams, scaled Agile increases the complexity of a project and if not managed, adding more people can slow projects because there is a cost to adding more people to a project and increasing complexity.

Many agile project require an increase in velocity to meet an earlier completion date, the common method is to add more people to the project.

These Brooks quotes, author of the Mythical man month are apt
Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later. Fred Brooks
The bearing of a child takes nine months, no matter how many women are assigned. Fred Brooks

Adding more resources (usually developers) to a project would seem sensible.  If one team have a velocity of 25 story points Sprint (Story points gets internally translated to days by 91 percent of the population #HoskWisdom).  So if there are 4 teams a velocity of 100 story points per sprint.

The reality is teams and individuals don’t start delivering 100 percent instantly because there are other factors to consider.

Increasing people on a project increases complexity of working, collaborating and communicating #HoskWisdom

These other factors have been explained by Brooks Law

Brooks Law

 Brooks points to the main factors that explain why it works this way:
  1. It takes some time for the people added to a project to become productive. Brooks calls this the “ramp up” time. Software projects are complex engineering endeavors, and new workers on the project must first become educated about the work that has preceded them; this education requires diverting resources already working on the project, temporarily diminishing their productivity while the new workers are not yet contributing meaningfully. Each new worker also needs to integrate with a team composed of several engineers who must educate the new worker in their area of expertise in the code base, day by day. In addition to reducing the contribution of experienced workers (because of the need to train), new workers may even make negative contributions, for example, if they introduce bugs that move the project further from completion.
  2. 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.[3]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.
  3. Limited divisibility of tasks. Adding more people to a highly divisible task such as reaping a field by hand decreases the overall task duration (up to the point where additional workers get in each other’s way). Some tasks are less divisible; Brooks points out that while it takes one woman nine months to make one baby, “nine women can’t make a baby in one month”.
The problems associated with adding new teams is ramping up, individuals need to learn/understand
  • Business logic
  • Project processes
  • Best resources for situations
  • Project politics
  • Collaborate with others

A scrum team takes 2 sprints to get up to  speed, usually 50% efficiency for sprint 1 and 60/70% in Sprint 2.  When you add the added overhead of trying to collaborate with other teams this can slow new teams further and slow existing teams.  

Deadlines are the common cause of adding more people to a project which adds more pressure to the project and the newly arriving people.

A big overhead is integrating the work from multiple teams into one solution, even with continuous integration there will be problems when bringing solutions together

 

Sutherland one of the creators of Scrum mentions scaling in this article

InfoQ: Now that more and more larger organizations are using Scrum, the need for scaling increases. Can you give some suggestions how organizations can scale Scrum?

Sutherland: Scrum is designed to grow like a biological system. To create a baby, you need one good cell that replicates. If this cell is bad you have a lot of problems. So the challenge is to first get a single team successful to use as a model for other teams, then replicate it. As you grow, Scrum as large follows the same basic principles as Scrum in the small. If it doesn’t you have introduced waste into the system. You will build out organ systems, just as in the human body that have some specialization and need some training on how to handle cross team coordination, elevating impediments all the way to senior management, avoiding the introduction of unnecessary teams that can compromise performance, and scrumming the entire organization.

We have published several papers showing that a properly scaled Scrum can provide linear increases in global velocity, something never seen before in software development. However, you need to do Scrum really well to make this happen.

Hosk thoughts on scaling agile projects

The first rule of large agile projects is not to do large agile projects #HoskWisdom

Large Agile or Scrum projects are difficult but this doesn’t mean Agile/Scrum are not right for large projects because large projects are difficult and have similar problems no matter the framework or methodology used.

Agile projects have an extra dimension because quick decisions are needed from empowered product owners to give Scrum direction and feedback

Having multiple teams adds the need for more communication and collaboration and managing dependencies between teams.

There are lots of different scaled agile frameworks, many of them discussed in article below

Comparing scaling agile frameworks

Most of the frameworks try to solve problems with shared resources between teams and collaboration between teams (Scrum of Scrums meeting).

If you want existing teams working efficiently, you must remove project level impediments before adding new teams.  When a team works well then try adding one more team at a time.

There are other reasons for project troubles

Is Safe Evil

Conclusion

Big projects are difficult, hard and challenging and having people with experience of large projects helps.  There is pressure with big agile projects because sprinting and collaborating create conflicts and complexity.

Stick with the processes and aim to keep improving your processes and relationships.  Challenging projects are the most satisfying to deliver because you have to work hard and earn the achievement of a successfully delivered project.

A few last great quotes from Fred Brooks on why projects are delivered late
Fifth, when schedule slippage is recognized, the natural (and traditional) response is to add manpower. Like dousing a fire with gasoline, this makes matters worse, much worse. More fire requires more gasoline, and thus begins a regenerative cycle which ends in disaster. [page 14]

How does a project get to be a year behind schedule? One day at a time. Fred Brooks

picture from here

The Top 10 Hosk Dynamics CRM blog posts for 2016

Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results. Willie Nelson

The company that needs Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and hasn’t bought it, is already paying for it #HoskWisdom

I have written Dynamics CRM blogs for 6 years and this year I got the most views in a year 673873,  beating last years numbers 661057.  Thanks to all the people who read my blog posts and support the Hosk Dynamics CRM blog post.

I have written blog posts so long the default category is CRM 2011!

A lot of people have told me this year how the Hosk Dynamics CRM blog post has helped them which is great.

Here is a list of the most viewed blog post in 2016 (I am always tempted to write CRM 2016, that will now stop with Dynamics 365).  The views don’t include articles viewed on other sites.

Home page / Archives 48326
CRM 2013 – Understanding Solutions and how they work 13408
Microsoft Dynamics CRM Developer Interview Questions 12904
CRM 2013 – Step by Step Update Plugin Tutorial using the CRM 2013 Development Toolkit 11382
What are the limitations of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online and how do you work with them? 10162
CRM 2015/CRM2013 – JavaScipt to get the current users name 9753
CRM 2013 – Javascript to get id of current record 7370
CRM 2015 – how to find Statecode value 7141
MB2-703 – CRM 2013 Customization and Configuration Certification Information 7131
CRM Plugins – Stopping infinite loops and understanding PluginExecutionContext.Depth 7005
Where is the CRM Developer toolkit for CRM 2015? 7004

image from here

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