Prior to joining Seer 365, Alison Hartland, our Senior Partner Success Manager, worked for 16 years in a variety of senior delivery-focused roles for various Microsoft Dynamics partners. So, she knows only too well the struggles that Microsoft Dynamics 365 Delivery Lead’s and Practice Head’s face when signing off on project estimations, especially within the short turnaround times that they are often given. In this blog, she discusses those struggles and offers some valuable advice on how to overcome them.
If you’re involved in Dynamics 365 projects, especially in the handover from Sales to Delivery, read on…
Navigating the Estimation Maze
For Heads of Practice or Delivery Leads, deciphering the rationale behind the figures proposed by Sales and Pre-sales teams can be a daunting task. This is a familiar struggle for many within the world of Microsoft Dynamics 365. Does this ring true for your business?
It’s a process that demands a significant amount of time and effort, often with tight deadlines looming. Attempting to understand what commercial decisions have been agreed with the customer regarding project rates, as well as obtaining clarity on what assumptions have been made regarding the project scope, is no easy or quick task.
As a Delivery Lead or Practice Head, you’re often not involved in the initial capture of customer requirements or the ‘discovery’ process. You must be confident that all requirements have been captured and that the customer is fully aware of what is and is not in scope before reviewing a project scope. However, assuming that these tasks have been carried out can cause confusion, which can lead to an extra cost to the project if mistakes have been made or areas overlooked. All too often your organisation must bear this cost.
So, how can we overcome these challenges? Below, I discuss my top four top tips.
- Implement a standardised process
Stating the obvious, right? However, you will be amazed how many organisations I have worked with, or for, that have not had a set process in place that the whole team have adhered to.
The key lies not only in implementing a standardised process, but also ensuring everyone is on board and understands how it works.
Implementing standardised processes ensure that the project estimation tasks are performed in a uniform way throughout the Sales Discovery, and Analysis and Design phases of a Dynamics 365 project. This will dramatically reduce the chance of mistakes and misinterpretations, and ensure the customer is aware of exactly what is and is not in scope.
The new process should aim to produce the required project numbers in a standardised way, which means there will be no need to spend unnecessary time with the pre-sales and sales teams discussing how the numbers were derived.
- Train your team effectively in the new process
The success of a new process hinges on ensuring that the whole team are thoroughly trained and understand exactly what is involved. This is the perfect opportunity to ensure the whole team is onboard, understands why the new process is needed, how it will make their lives easier, save them time, and help them to hit their targets. Why wouldn’t they want to get on board?
Training the whole team effectively will help to prevent people from reverting back to the old processes and old habits. With everyone onboard, the new process will help to save valuable time and money.
- Create standard documentation, including all key information
The Sales to Delivery handover can be a painful process for all parties involved. Issues tend to arise from the lack of structured documentation in the requirements gathering phase. During the sales process, customer requirements are frequently recorded in written note format by sales or pre-sales. Often, these notes are not turned into a more formal document until later, by which time memories of exactly what was said are no longer clear and may be interpreted incorrectly.
In my experience, having standardised documentation that needs to be completed will help ensure the right information is collected during the discovery phase. As the Delivery/Practice Head, this will help to increase the level of confidence in the requirements that you received. You can be assured, providing the documentation has been completed properly, that the requirements are accurate.
This structured documentation can be used to show customers easily and confidently, what is and is not included in their project scope, allowing them to quickly agree to what is in the document and sign-off on it. This means there is less chance of any unpleasant surprises for the implementation partner or the customer as the project progresses.
- Decide if you will develop your new approach in-house
Now that I have given you my first three tips, it is just a simple step of implementing them…. or is it? Here, I discuss my thoughts on whether you try to do these tasks in-house or look for external help.
Developing and implementing a new process in-house that is going to be more successful than the current process is the key. Achieving this task involves not only creating documentation that aligns with the requirements of all teams engaged in the Dynamics 365 projects but also getting everyone’s buy-in. Additionally, the business will also be responsible for overseeing the process, maintaining the documentation and any software you use for the new process, addressing any problems that arise, and ensuring it is up-to-date with any updates to Microsoft Dynamics 365, your business, and any other products or services offered.
This is a considerable challenge, especially on top of the existing daily tasks and deadlines that need be met. And if a dedicated team is put in place to develop and maintain this new approach, there will be a considerable overhead both in terms of cost and the time required to get them up to speed on and ensure they are continually aligned to the business vision.
So, is it wise to do all this in-house?
There’s nothing wrong with deciding that trying to re-define and roll-out new requirements capture processes and create new project documentation in-house is a step too far. After all, if doing it internally hinders daily operations or impacts on the already limited time available, it is not really helping things, is it? It is for these exact reasons, that, at Seer 365, we developed our GYDE365 platform. Our GYDE365 allows Dynamics 365 partners to achieve all the changes suggested above without the hassle of attempting to do everything themselves.
We have developed an online, survey-driven application, supported by an experienced team, that enables the quick, accurate and consistent capture of customer requirements. With its highly configurable, project estimation engine, reliable numbers can be quickly generated, rather than best ‘guesstimates.’ The requirements survey questions within GYDE365-Discover are easily tailored to each partner’s needs and the way they want to operate.
Once a prospective customer has successfully completed a GYDE365-Discover survey, the application automatically generates a high-quality sales proposal document, with a ‘bottom-up’ estimation, delivered in the same way every time. If necessary, the contents of the document can be easily reviewed and amended before being sent on to the potential customer. It is also straightforward to adjust the rates of effort and costings. GYDE365 gives partners the confidence that everyone is using the same up-to-date tool, not outdated spreadsheets containing questions or data that are no longer relevant for the latest release of Dynamics 365.
So, the question is…. Why try and do all this in-house when you have a ready-made solution in a GYDE365 subscription?
GYDE365 will help to transform your Sales process and Sales to Delivery handover process. Our suite of applications can also help you to generate more better-qualified Dynamics 365 sales leads by automating and streamlining key components of the Analysis and Design phases of your Dynamics 365 projects.
Find out more about our GYDE365 platform – Book a Demo
Written by Alison Hartland
Alison Hartland, our Senior Partner Success Manager, has been with Seer 365 for almost two years. A seasoned operations specialist, Alison has over 16 years of experience within the Microsoft Dynamics 365 arena and plays a key role in ensuring our GYDE365 platform meets the evolving needs of our customers.