Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step 2010 : A repeatable process for the sales teams (part 1)

11/13/2012 3:06:59 AM
With its alignment to Microsoft Solution Selling Process (MSSP), the Diagnostic phase innately supports the solution provider's sales cycle, providing guidance and activities that lead the seller through a prescriptive selling cycle.

The following diagram shows the Sure Step Diagnostic phase flow and alignment of the seller with the MSSP. The flow shown in the diagram specifically depicts how the sales cycle for a prospect, that is, a new customer is supported. Sure Step Diagnostic phase also has a similar flow for existing customers, which will be discussed in a later section. The flow includes six Decision Accelerators for the prospect (we will discuss the seventh DA for the existing customer in the later section).

Just as with MSSP, the Sure Step Diagnostic phase is broken down into seven stages of the sales cycle. For the seller, these stages correspond to the probability that the sale will be completed. The Activities and Decision Accelerator Offerings are then aligned to these stages in a manner so as to accelerate the sales cycle to bring it to a close. The final stage in this process is a lead-in to the solution delivery, or the Implementation phase and the corresponding activities of Sure Step.

  • Prospect 0% through Qualify 10%:

  • Diagnostic Preparation Activity

  • Qualify 10% through Develop 20%:

  • Requirements and Process Review Decision Accelerator Offering

  • Solution 40%:

  • Fit Gap and Solution Blueprint Decision Accelerator Offering

  • Architecture Assessment Decision Accelerator Offering

  • Scoping Assessment Decision Accelerator Offering

  • Proof 60%:

  • Proof of Concept Decision Accelerator Offering

  • Business Case Decision Accelerator Offering

  • Proof 60% through Close 80%:

  • Proposal Generation Activity

  • Final Licensing & Services Agreement Activity

  • Deploy 100%:

  • Project Mobilization Activity

Starting the discovery process with solution positioning

  • The Sure Step Diagnostic phase begins with the Diagnostic Preparation activity, which provides the sales teams with key information on positioning the solution to the customer. Along with the guidance on positioning the solutions for select industries and their corresponding sub-industries, the solution capabilities for the Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM solutions are also covered in this section.

  • As seen in the previous diagram, the Diagnostic Preparation activity is situated across the 0% — Prospect and 10% — Qualify stages of the selling cycle in Sure Step. At the 0% — Prospect stage, the customer is looking for more information on the potential solutions in the marketplace, and they may or may not have a complete grasp of the needs of their organization for the new solution. The positioning content can then help the seller start the initial dialog with their customer around the general business needs that the Microsoft Dynamics solutions are designed to solve. The content could be used as preparation by the seller for face-to-face meetings with their prospective customers, as part of a script for a telephone conversation with the customer, or for a prospectus or introductory letter to the customer that may set the stage for a future meeting.

The positioning content can also be used by the sales teams to respond to high-level questions on a customer's Request for Information ( RFI) or Request for Proposal (RFP). Most of this positioning information is available on product websites, but it has been brought together in Sure Step as a quick reference for the sales teams.

Positioning guidance and solutions for the industry is another important area covered in this activity. In the Sure Step 2010 release, the methodology has been expanded beyond coverage of general Microsoft Dynamics solutions usage to a specific application of the solution, for an initial subset of industries. The topic of industry solutions will be covered in more detail in an ensuing section.

Sure Step also provides links to other Microsoft tools such as the Microsoft Dynamics Business Solutions Roadmap and the Industry Playbook, to help us position the right modules of the solution in this activity. The Microsoft Dynamics Business Solutions Roadmap tool is designed to determine the right modules of the core Microsoft Dynamics products, along with the corresponding number of seats that a customer may need for their organization. The Industry Playbook tool, on the other hand, addresses the Independent Software Vendor ( ISV) solutions for Microsoft Dynamics for given industries and their sub-industries.

The next screenshot shows the general positioning guidance for the Microsoft Dynamics solutions, including links to the Microsoft Dynamics Business Solutions Roadmap tool:

As the sales team moves towards the 10% — Qualify stage, they will need to gauge if the customer organization has already defined a selection process, and appointed resources to evaluate solution fit and alternatives, as well as ascertain if the customer has a high-level budget allocation to acquire the solution in the near term. They will also want to ensure that the customer's evaluation is a fair one, meaning that it is not already weighted towards a particular competitor and they are just going through the motions to appease corporate standards or rules. When the qualification has been accomplished, the sales teams can begin making use of the Decision Accelerator offerings to help the customer envision their future solution.

The following sections explain the usage of Decision Accelerator offerings for the sales cycles of the selling organization. A later section expands on this usage, and provides the customer's perspectives for their usage.

The first step to envisioning the future state

The first Decision Accelerator offering in Sure Step is the Requirements and Process Review offering that is designed to help the customer determine the business requirements for their future state, as well as visualize their "to-be" process flows for the associated organizational functions.

The first part of this DA offering enables the seller to ascertain the customer's requirements, with detailed, role-tailored questionnaire templates specific to the ERP or CRM solution that the customer is exploring. The role-tailored aspect of these questions in these templates allows the seller to address the functional requirements of the specific groups in the organization, such as accounting managers, marketing personnel, inventory manager, product planner, or production manager. This is a key enabler of solution selling in that the seller is able to engage the prospective customer in a manner that resonates with them. Instead of approaching the customer and leading with product features and functionality and potentially turning them off, the seller now has the ability to engage the customer in a meaningful discussion on their day-to-day functions and job responsibilities, allowing them to unearth the customer's pain points and other valuable information such as current system limitations and other inhibitors of their performance.

A good solution seller and/or a services sales executive should be able to parlay these questions to develop a relationship with the customer. Depending on the size and scope of the prospective engagement, the sales team may also involve a solution architect, senior consultant, or project manager in these discussions, to provide real-life credibility and experiences to the customer. Going through the questions in a methodical fashion, the sellers document the findings from these customer sessions, and they in turn become the basis for the business requirements of the solution.

The following is a screenshot from Sure Step of the contents of the Role-Tailored Questionnaire for Microsoft Dynamics AX. The AX questionnaire includes questions to initiate dialog with the executives of the organization, such as the President or CEO, through to individual roles such as Accounting Manager, Accounts Payable Coordinator, and Materials Manager, among others.

While the questionnaires assist with the requirements part of this offering, this DA also provides access to specific business process maps to enable the process objective of the offering. The business process maps constitute the standard processes when using the solution features, and they can be used as a starting point to envision the future state workflows of the customer organization.

From the service provider's perspective, they are helping the customer through their needs analysis in this exercise. While the templates included in Sure Step for this offering, including the Questionnaires and Process Maps, are distinctively fashioned along the lines of the corresponding Microsoft Dynamics product, it is not a stretch for the customer organization to take this output and use it as the basis for other solution evaluations. In doing so, there is also the potential that the customer decides to go down the path of an alternative solution other than Microsoft Dynamics. Keeping that in mind, it is important for the service provider to expect fair compensation for their services. This is one of the keys to positioning this mini-engagement as a DA offering — the service provider is putting forward experienced resources from their organization to enable the customer to envision the future state of their organization, and document the requirements for a solution to meet this vision. In the strict sense of the engagement, the services rendered are akin to business consulting, even if there is a bias towards a given solution.

As such, the service provider can legitimately position their services for customer compensation. Of course, the service provider may also choose to view the engagement as a business investment, and provide all or part of the services pro bono; however, it is in their best interests to do so only when they see it as fair competition, and that they have been afforded an equal shot at winning the customer's business as their competitors have.

It also bears mention that the Requirements and Process Review does not always have to be executed, and there are circumstances such as when the customer has already independently executed a thorough analysis of their needs and documented them into a Request for Proposal (RFP). However, in the cases that a customer already has an RFP in place, it is possible that another competitor or vendor assisted the customer in developing the requirements, in which case you may have to execute the Requirements and Process Review DA, at least to an extent. This discussion is elaborated in the Other usage scenarios for the Decision Accelerators section.

Identifying the right solution

After the requirements for the new solution have been identified and documented, the next step in the process is to ascertain how well the proposed solution fits for these requirements, and how it aligns with the vision of the customer organization. The Sure Step Fit Gap and Solution Blueprint Decision Accelerator offering has been architected to serve that purpose. This also aligns well with a major tenet of the Microsoft Solution Selling Process (MSSP) to make yourself equal before you make yourself different.

Fit Gap analysis is an important exercise that the customer and sales teams should perform in the solution evaluation phase. The premise of the analysis is to go through each of the requirements defined for the new solution and determine if they can be met by the proposed solution. To do so, the first step entails that the sales team translate the business requirements gathered in the previous exercise into solution requirements. As noted in the previous section, it is also possible that the sales team gets involved after an RFP or Request for Quote (RFQ) has been generated, in which case, it becomes even more important to be able to translate the general business needs into specific solution requirements.

Functional solution architects and/or experienced functional consultants are typically involved in breaking down a larger business need into smaller solution requirements. An example of this may be when the customer indicates that an overhaul of their Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP) process is one of their business needs. S&OP involves many areas, including sales planning and forecasting, supply and inventory planning, among others. While this is an extreme example, it just goes to show that a business need may be a bigger objective, but a solution requirement will need to be more compartmentalized to ensure that the solution delivery team can truly map the degree of the requirement to the solution.

If a requirement can be achieved either by the out of the box solution features or by configuring the standard solution, the requirement is considered as a fit to the proposed solution. It is also possible that minor change in the current process or workflow of the customer organization could lead to a fit with the solution. However, if the base solution needs to be customized, or in other words, some code needs to be written to achieve the requirement, that requirement is considered as a gap to the proposed solution.

It is also important to understand what constitutes the solution. Typically, the Fit Gap analysis is conducted with the base Microsoft Dynamics solution. If, however, add-on Independent Software Vendor (ISV) solutions for the Microsoft Dynamics solution are expected to be part of the overall solution, the term solution should encompass the base Microsoft Dynamics solution as well as the corresponding ISV solutions. Accordingly, a requirement will be considered a fit if it can be met by the combined solution, without the need for any additional custom code components.

The percentage of the requirements that fit with the overall solution to the total number of requirements deemed necessary for the new solution is expressed as the Degree of Fit of the proposed solution.

Number of Requirements that fit the proposed solution =

Requirements met by the standard features of the solution + Requirements met by a configuration of the solution + Requirements met by a workflow/process change in the customer organization

Degree of Fit of the proposed solution (expressed as a percentage) =

Number of requirements that fit the proposed solution/Total number of requirements for the new solution

The point about a simple change in the customer's business process or workflow to meet a given requirement cannot be overemphasized. In practice, this option is often not given consideration; instead, you can see the service provider coming up with expensive customization designs or add-on solutions as alternatives. But the first step should always be to examine the current workflow of the customer organization. We need to find answers to questions, such as are they presently going through the steps because of limitations in their current systems, or perhaps because of a creative workaround that was set up sometime in the past and is no longer necessary, or any other minor reason that a simple shift in a procedure could result in the company using the standard feature of the solution to achieve their goals? If our answer to the questions is yes, it is preferable for both parties to consider workflow change as the alternative, not only from the perspective of lower delivery costs for the solution, but also from a long-term perspective—the more the customer can use standard features of a solution, the easier it will be for them to maintain the customizations as well as to upgrade to future releases of the solution whenever they decide to do so. In the long run, this results in a lower value for the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for the proposed solution for the customer. If the seller is truly practicing the solution selling ideology, they will also work towards lowering the TCO for the customer, and not towards increasing the scope of the solution via customizations. Additionally, the service provider should always strive to architect the simplest solution to meet a customer's needs, thereby lowering the overall risk profile of the proposed solution. This should also be a point of consideration for the seller in moving away from complex customizations wherever feasible.

Coming back to the Fit Gap analysis, the output of the exercise is to determine the Degree of Fit of the proposed solution to the customer's requirements. However, what value for the Degree of Fit the solution should have for it to be acceptable is a contextual question. Some organizations may require a minimum of 75% Degree of Fit for lower TCO objectives. Others may be fine with a lower value for the Degree of Fit due to the specific nature of their business that precludes them from using out-of-the-box functionality to meet their needs, and could be evaluating if they should be developing their own application or if it would feasible to start with an existing code base and expand it to meet their needs.

The following screenshot shows a sample output from Sure Step of a Fit Gap analysis for a Microsoft Dynamics CRM engagement. This is just a simple screenshot with five requirements being mapped to the categories, but it shows the pictorial depiction of the Degree of Fit for the customer to the CRM solution.

Upon completion of the Fit Gap analysis, the second part of the Fit Gap and Solution Blueprint Decision Accelerator offering is to develop the solution blueprint. The solution blueprint is a document that communicates the service provider's conceptual design of their proposed solution to meet the customer's requirements. The document should include the seller's understanding of the customer's business needs along with the overall solution, including any add-on solutions, customizations required, and integration components that are deemed necessary to meet the customer's future state vision.

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