Choosing the right Microsoft Dynamics Partner is as important as choosing the right business automation system. The risks involved in a failed project — whether it’s an implementation or a training program — can range from losing money to losing personnel. Similarly, a successful relationship with a Dynamics Partner can unlock business growth and transformation.
This article will cover the most critical aspects of what to look for in a Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM Partner, as well as provide some tips on how to work with one more effectively.
Table of Contents
- Expertise and Experience
- Microsoft Solutions Partner Designation
- Implementation Methodology
- Communication and Project Management
- Familiarity with Your Business Needs
- Pricing and Engagement Types
What Does a Dynamics 365 CRM Partner Do?
A Dynamics 365 CRM Partner will use system design, implementation, and user training best practices to provide an end-to-end business automation solution that fits your organization’s unique needs.
The first and most important thing a Dynamics 365 CRM Partner can do is listen. Dynamics 365 CRM solutions are highly configurable, and work best for your business automation needs when they are designed to work precisely for your business processes. This means that you not only have to know your processes, but you need to be able to clearly communicate them to a partner who can translate them into system architecture.
Beyond that, your partner must have a proven track record in successfully implementing, customizing, configuring, and integrating the system, as well as both guiding and training users. Even if they don’t offer ongoing, post-project support, you should understand how they support your team throughout your project’s scope. Your partner should be dedicated to your team and your business goals.
Note: There are now 5 different Dynamics 365 CRM apps, which fulfil different needs: Sales, Field Service, and so on. All 5 of them are built on the same technical foundation, Dataverse. You may also hear this group of Dynamics 365 applications referred to as “Customer Engagement” apps.
Expertise and Experience
One of the more obvious aspects of a well-chosen Dynamics 365 Partner is proven experience.
Some questions you should consider about experience are:
- What projects have you successfully completed that are like ours?
- What would you say your team’s particular expertise is? What does your company do especially well?
- How often are your projects delivered on time and on budget?
- Do you have references from job titles that are the same as or close to those on our project team?
- Have you done integration projects with ERP solutions, like Dynamics 365 Business Central or Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations?
If you’re looking for a more cookie-cutter approach to business automation that doesn’t adapt to and elevate your company’s unique ways of doing business, then engaging with a widely experienced partner may not be as important for you. At Encore, we listen carefully to our customers and build scalable solutions that fit each company’s true business needs and strategic goals.
Microsoft Solutions Partner Designation for Business Applications
Microsoft uses six different Solutions Partner designations to recognize partners that have particular expertise in certain areas. The most relevant of these for Dynamics 365 CRM applications is the Solutions Partner designation for Business Applications.
Ask whether a prospective partner has that designation – it indicates that Microsoft places its trust in that partner’s ability to meet customer’s needs with Dynamics 365 and Power Platform solutions.
As in any project, elements in an implementation must be accomplished in the right order. Furthermore, there is no such thing as a “standard” project because companies, teams, and processes differ. This is why choosing a partner with a repeatable methodology or approach is critical to success.
Even the smallest Dynamics 365 CRM projects rely on properly identifying and analyzing requirements, designing the correct solution for them, and effectively managing both deployment and ongoing operation. A partner who is adept at the order and pacing of these elements has a higher likelihood of keeping your project within its original scope.
Sample questions regarding implementation methodology:
- Is there a discovery phase and what does it look like?
- How often will you meet with our team during the project?
- Will there be a clear roadmap that covers all aspects of the project?
Simply because your system is configured to your business processes doesn’t mean that your users will understand how to navigate it, or which data is critical as they move along. Working with a partner that adjusts to the different ways users learn and provides supplemental resources is critical to user adoption.
Things to ask about training:
- Will initial training be performed in our actual, configured solution or in a demo environment?
- What kinds of resources do you provide alongside formal training (documentation, recordings, knowledge base, etc.)?
- Do you offer new-user training for our team going forward?
Even after a training or implementation project is complete, you will need ongoing support as your business evolves over time. This support speeds up user adoption, resolves errors that may arise, and improves your company’s return on investment (ROI).
Your partner should also provide advice and guidance over time to help you adapt to a rapidly changing landscape of business technology and competitive forces.
In many cases, it’s efficient to get support from the same partner that configured your solution. However, some partners choose to focus on implementation only, and at Encore some of our customers have come to us after finding that their needs for ongoing support and advice didn’t align with what their previous partner offered.
Ask your partner about their support offerings, including:
- Do you offer unlimited support to users and admins?
- What methods can we use to submit support tickets?
- Do you have a mechanism whereby our company can provide feedback on support efficacy?
- How will you keep us informed about relevant changes to our Dynamics products as Microsoft continues to improve and adapt them?
Communication and Project Management
An often overlooked, yet critical aspect for a successful project is working with a partner that has clear communication and project management guidelines.
Most companies have undergone only a small number of major business system projects. Working with a partner that can guide your team through the steps can keep you from common pitfalls.
The partner’s project management services should include regular and reliable communications, covering everything from scheduling meetings to roadmap status updates. The project manager should maintain full understanding of how the project tracks to the initial scope, and proactively alert your company to potential risks.
Important questions to ask about project management are:
- Do you have dedicated project management resources?
- How will your project managers interact with our team and what should we expect?
- What would you say your project management practice does best?
- Can you tell us about a time when your project management team had to course correct on a project like ours?
Some partners leave project management aspects to you while others will not employ project management best practices at all. At Encore, we have dedicated resources that are assigned to each project and are committed to delivering them both on time and on budget.
Familiarity with Your Business Needs
While there is no such thing as a “standard” repeatable project, there are commonalities across business needs, like sales process automation and customer service outputs. Selecting a partner that not only has experience with similar projects, but also understands your core business needs will speed up almost every aspect of the project — from discovery to training.
Your partner should speak a common language with you around your requirements and become fluent in the business processes that govern them.
Things to ask about the partner’s familiarity with your business needs:
- How will you learn about our unique business processes and needs?
- What projects have you done in the past that included close work with business process owners like ours?
- What kinds of solutions have you built for similar departments? What improvements did those teams see?
Pricing and Engagement Types
The partner should have transparent approaches to formulating both scope and cost for your project. It’s possible that both scope and cost can change over time, so it’s important that your partner explain how they will handle potential changes and keep you informed. You should also clearly understand how the change approval process is governed and what to expect when a change is identified.
- Do you charge only for time and materials (so, on a metered basis) or as a fixed fee?
- How do you ensure we’re able to control costs as the project proceeds?
- How do you handle change requests?
- At which points (if any) are additional scopes of work or estimates generated?
Is Encore the Right Dynamics 365 CRM Partner for You?
Encore’s CRM solutions team works on the cutting edge of the latest Microsoft technologies and has special integration experience between different Dynamics 365 applications, the rest of the Microsoft stack, and 3rd party technologies.
If you’re looking for a purely transactional relationship with your CRM partner — where you receive the simple essentials of a Dynamics 365 CRM application without training, testing, technology strategy, or configuration — then we may not be the best partner for you.
On the other hand, if your business processes and technologies are unique, or other partners have struggled to fit your needs, you may be a perfect fit for us. We get to know each customer’s needs in detail.
In many cases, we find it’s best to start with a small assessment project to help us scope your technology roadmap. That way you have confidence in which solutions and configurations are best for you.
To start the conversation with our experts, and learn more about how we could work together, please contact us.
What are the steps in a CRM implementation? What are the biggest causes of failure? How long will it take?