Tuesday, September 29, 2009

FACT: ISV's are a pain in the rear.

As a long time GP VAR I understand where this comment comes from. I myself for some time worked on the motto "if you can find a way not to sell an ISV product, then don't". This thought process is driven by the principle of keeping things simple. Simple things work. Successful projects are simple. Lets keep things really simple and all will be good, business will grow!

I would like to be bold and challenge this mentality. If all we do as VAR's is the status quo and implement out of the box, simple GP systems then we opening the door for the competition. Why would we as VAR's let Sage, Accpac, SAP, NetSuite get a sniff of our market? We have a great market, loads of prospects and a great client base. If all we have to offer is an accounting system that has been around for awhile - we have nothing to offer the market. We will be overtaken eventually.

It is easy to sit back and throw blame by saying "Microsoft are not doing enough" to help us. That's rubbish. I firmly believe that GP VAR's hold the key to determining the future of Dynamics GP over the next 5, 10, 15 and 20 yrs. We all know GP is a great product, and Microsoft are doing all the right things to ensure the base tool keeps growing by developing and supporting the demands of customers. (Portals, Sharepoint, Office integrations, eConnect, Sarbanes Compliance and the list goes on). Microsoft could certainly do more at times, but they generally do a great job and we are here to support and benefit from their efforts.

So the challenge for VAR's is to get creative and differentiate. Differentiation can take the form of Service Delivery or Product Offering. I have generally found that partners offer a good, although widely varying, level of professional service. Successful projects result from good people, good process and careful management.

So then, how can a VAR benefit from the great GP ISV community, and deliver great, profitable projects?More often than not the success of a relationship with an ISV has less to do with the ISV, and more to do with the VAR.

1. Choose your ISV's carefully. There are some dodgy vendors out there, they know who they are and so do most of the VAR's.
2. Take the ISV seriously. You will find ISV's really willing to help you and bend over backwards to assist, but do not waste their time if you want their help next time. Avoid being opportunistic with your prospects and connecting them with an ISV. A one off sale of an ISV product will be a failure as delivery and ongoing support is too hard.
3. Train your staff, or use the ISV's services team. If you think you consultant will just pick up Wennsoft modules, Scribe, Business portal etc in their spare time - you are wrong. The world has moved on from throwing a .cnk into a folder and working things out on the fly. Clients are paying by the hour - give them an expert.
4. Embed the solution into your pre-sales. This is obviously critical as it ensures not only that you can position the solutions correctly, but also have confidence that you can deliver - as your services team deliver this solution all the time. With eOne tools, that are horizontal rather than vertical, you can show these tools in every demo you ever do. Make it a natural part of your demonstration.
5. Learn how to make money. Leverage the tool you are selling, and position it correctly to gain software revenue, services revenue, annual maintenance revenue.
6. Value your support. ISV's that are taking small margins $1-3K per sale can not offer unlimited help desk. Like you they need to be profitable too. Certainly ask questions and seek support but do not abuse the service.
7. Build a relationship. Ever wanted a favour? It is much better to ask a favour of someone you speak to often, rather than someone you speak to every 2 years, when you need something. Note the onus is on the VAR as much as the ISV.
8. Sell a bunch. Sounds funny - but if you are selling a bunch of product then you will find your ISV will bend over to help you out.
So the question remains, are ISV's a pain in the rear? Usually not, they are a dedicated bunch of people doing their best to support their customers - you. Can ISV's do a better job? Absolutely and you should demand this from them.

Can VAR's make more money, deliver better projects, sell more GP and give Microsoft reason to improve GP into the future by selling ISV solutions? YES THEY CAN.

I recently overheard a GP VAR say "if you want us to sell your product, you need to build a relationship with us". It takes 2 to have a relationship. Unless a VAR is prepared to follow some or all of the 8 steps above - they will eternally believe "ISV's are a pain in the rear" and their business will be poorer for it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

For those that were unable to apply the moral.

A very large GP installation went bad.The companies owners tried one freelance consultant after another, but none of them could figure out how to fix the install.

Then they brought in an experienced consultant who had been working with GP since his days on the Microsoft help desk in Fargo. He carried no manuals with him, and when he arrived, he immediately went to work. He inspected the system very carefully, asked a bunch of tough questions, and retired to ponder in the server room.

The Financial Controller and CEO were there, watching this man, watching their watches, hoping he would know what to do. After looking things over, the consultant opened up a GP setup screen. He ticked a few boxes and instantly, GP started working how it should. He packed away his laptop. The system was fixed!

A week later, the owners received a bill from the consultant for ten thousand dollars.

"What?!" the owners exclaimed. "He hardly did anything!"

So they wrote the professional services manager a note saying, "Please send us an itemized bill."

The consultant sent a bill that read:

Ticking a box ...... ......... ........ $ 2.00
Knowing where to tick.......... ......... ...... $ 9, 998.00

Monday, September 21, 2009

Charge for your time, what you know is valuable.

A giant ship engine failed. The ship's owners tried one expert after another, but none of them could figure but how to fix the engine.
Then they brought in an old man who had been fixing ships since he was a young boy. He carried a large bag of tools with him, and when he arrived, he immediately went to work. He inspected the engine very carefully, top to bottom.

Two of the ship's owners were there, watching this man, hoping he would know what to do. After looking things over, the old man reached into his bag and pulled out a small hammer. He gently tapped something. Instantly, the engine lurched into life. He carefully put his hammer away. The engine was fixed!

A week later, the owners received a bill from the old man for ten thousand dollars.

"What?!" the owners exclaimed. "He hardly did anything!"

So they wrote the old man a note saying, "Please send us an itemized bill."

The man sent a bill that read:

Tapping with a hammer...... ......... ........ $ 2.00
Knowing where to tap.......... ......... ...... $ 9, 998.00

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Microsoft CRM Adapter - finally available soon.

You may have read or heard that Microsoft will shortly be releasing their integration piece for Dynamics CRM and GP http://blogs.msdn.com/gp/archive/2009/09/10/information-about-the-microsoft-dynamics-crm-4-0-adapter-for-microsoft-dynamics-gp-10-0-integration-tool-now-available.aspx

We think this is a fantastic and essential release and have been supportive of Microsoft's efforts to build this tool. Including stepping them through the way SmartConnect works, and taking a walk through of the new tool with them earlier this year.

At eOne our mission is to help our resellers sell more Dynamics GP. We do this with eXtender, SmartList Builder and SmartConnect. We do not sell 'just another add on' but our tools help our partners win deals with GP. We have always believed that Microsoft needed an entry level integration tool for Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Dynamics GP, it was embarrassing for partners to have to say that Microsoft did not even integrate their own tools. This release will make the GP offering stronger in the market and will help our partners attract and retain new customers.

We are also confident that the more people that use GP, the more people that will use eOne tools, and especially eXtender and SmartConnect.

The new Microsoft tool is pretty similar to SmartConnect in base functionality, but stops at the same point that out SmartConnect templates start. All of our partners know that CRM/GP integrations are complex in nature, and 95% of our SC CRM customers will heavily modify our template integrations to suit their business needs. Below are a few of the reasons why Dynamics GP/CRM customers are selecting SmartConnect for their GP implementations:

1. Custom Entities: Everyone has custom entities and SC supports this out of the box.
2. Custom Workflow: CRM requires clearly defined and structured process. SmartConnect can be configured to match your specific needs.
3. Map anything to anything: Link data between GP and CRM however you need. There are no limitations.
4. Calculated fields: Inevitably you need to transform data. The SC calculated fields let you run any c# or vb.net code you write. This is on top of the 90 out of the box functions for formatting data.
5. Pre and Post Tasks: SC allow you to execute code at the completion of the map or an XML record to update either system or other systems as required.
6. Single Tool for all data imports: SmartConnect has multiple uses. You can use the same tool for all your CRM data loads as well as your GP data loads. This means you only need to learn one tool and use it for all integrations.
7. Automation: SC acts as a complete automation tool for GP and CRM. You can read any data from anywhere, and use this data to create transactions in either system. e.g. Read GP data to create new entries into GP.
8. Integrations that inspire: The SmartConnect templates and Microsoft templates are just the starting point. Moving orders, items, pricing, payment terms and customer from one system to another is nice, but rather redundant. We encourage our customers to get creative and use their own business data to drive the business forward. This is the type of thing that makes the ERP/CRM investment great value for money.
Example 1: Build a map in SC that looks at total sales by customer at the end of each month. Use this data to create activities in CRM for your CEO to call the customer an thank them for their business. SmartConnect does this.
Example 2: Have a map that create sales opportunities for all customers that purchased travel time from you this month. Assign these to you hosting department and up sell customers to managed services. SmartConnet does this.
9. Pull data from any data source: Grab your data from where it is, without intervention.
10: Multi currency Support: Full support for Multi Currency environments.
11: Support CRM Online: SmartConnect supports CRM Online, Hosted and on premise installations.
12: No Need for an SDK: Give the integration work to the people that know and understand both the ERP/CRM and the data the best - your consultant. You do not need a developer for 95% of integrations.
13: Integrates to eXtender: Bring data from CRM into Microsoft Dynamics GP eXtender fields. Push data from eXtender fields back to CRM.
14: Populate third party GP tools: Bring data into Wennsoft, Multi Facility or any other addon solution that has SmartConnect nodes built.

So the questions remains - do we see the new FREE Microsoft tool as a competitor? No, we welcome it and believe it is core to partners being able to sell the Microsoft story. All of our partners now have a free tool to complete the marketing story together with a really powerful follow up integration/automation solution with SmartConnect that will fill in the inevitable gaps.

Most of our partners are rolling out SC on every new deal in place of Integration Manager, as an upscale GP integration tool, to allow data to be keyed into GP via Excel or as a time saving Automation tool. Therefore your GP customer should already own SmartConnect. When your customer needs to go a little beyond what the Free integration tool can do - you already have the solution at no additional cost to your customer - that's SmartConnect. Sell new GP deals based on Microsoft having a out of the box integration, and implement SmartConnect which will meet all your needs.

Of course at just $4,500, you can lead your sale with SmartConnect and knock off all the competition.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Free from eOne

It is not often that a software house offers up code for FREE. But here you have it, the Dynamics CRM next number generator is free from eOne from today. You can download this tool from http://www.eonesolutions.com.au/content.aspx?page=SmartConnect+Downloads.

What is it: The simple next number generator for CRM is something that many of our partners had developed as one of solutions for their clients. The tool allows you to define you own next number sequence for any CRM entity. You can use this tool with or without SmartConnect.

We have found that our partners need a way of generating sequential numbers for entities in CRM - for example Vendors. To integrate neatly with GP you can use the tool to generate the next number in CRM, and then use this as the key field for integrating for GP. This ensures that there is a unique identifier across both systems for this entity.

We also have partners using this tool for custom entities and generating unique numbers to track these records.

Why is it free: To help out our partners. To make working in CRM and integrating to GP easier where you need this next number functionality. We have also found that every partner/customer wants a different rule - so we are making our development project available so you can take this and customize it further to suit your specific needs.

Is the support free: Absolutely not. If you are a CRM implementer/developer you will understand this tool and how it works. Take it, use it and benefit from our efforts. If you want to call eOne and get assistance with it, you will need to purchase support from us.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

What is eXtender Enterprise? Part 4.

This is the fourth edition of the 'what is eXtender Enterprise' series.

The fourth topic we will discuss here is Navigation Lists. Navigation list provide a great way of searching and retrieving eXtender records. There is some overlap between Navigation Lists and eOne's Navigation List Builder bu there are some great features that are only available within eXtender Enterprise

What is the Feature:
Extenders navigation lists provide a really easy way to perform various types of searches, and identify and access the record you are searching for. There are 4 different types of navigation lists, each which performs a distinct function (Standard, List, Combination and Calendar). The image below shows a combination search for tenants.

Why this feature is great:
Navigation lists allow you to build very business specific functionality into an eXtender solution. It personalises the solution, and provides a great way to access data making it feel like an integral part of GP rather than just a tacked on screen.

Navigation Lists often become the screen that users begin their day on. It shows them the records to work with and form here they can go to modify the records the select. Similar functionality can be achieved by adding all the data to SmartLists, which we often do, but Navigation lists are very fast to deploy and provide a very easy to use and powerful search function.

Also the different look and feel of the same search window, together with the simple color coding function makes this a hit with customers. In the picture above you can readily identify the type of air conditioning in an apartment by the associated color. In the picture below you can see an example of a calender navigation list. This list shows all apartments expiring today, inside the Northside villas property..

How to Use it:
Building a navigation list is really straight forward. As you see in the image below there are three key components. Firstly define the form you need to search on. Second is to define the Navigation List type:
Combination: Allows for multiple search criteria
Standard: Allows for a single search across all data columns
List: Allows you to select from a list of primary records and see all related records.
Calendar: Displays a calendar, in which you can select records for a specific date.

The third step is to define the fields you would like to search on, and also the field you would like to display.

An important thing to note is that you are only able to access eXtender data in these windows. If you need to access regular GP data perhaps Smart List, Smart List Builder or navigation List Builder would be a better option.

What to do next?
Personalize you eXtender solutions with navigation lists that give end users an interface that is easy to use. Walk into a demo and not only build a new custom screen, but also a custom search on the spot. I have seen customers fall off their chairs!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

What is eXtender Enterprise? Part 3.

This is the third edition of the 'what is eXtender Enterprise' series.

The second topic we will discuss here is Linked Forms. Linked forms provide an alternate form design that supports one to many record links.

What is the Feature:
Linked forms are an alternate way to build forms that support one to many records. Linked forms work just like the customer address window in standard Dynamics GP where you have one customer with multiple addresses. Linked form let you build a screen with your own primary entity with multiple linked records just like this one below.

In this case we have a property as the main entity, with multiple linked entities being each apartment in that property.

Why this feature is great:
Linked forms provide another way of having eXtender match the requirements of your customers. Along with Windows, Extra Windows, Forms and Detail Forms you have a full set of tools with which you can build a solution.
Detail forms are the other way of defining a one to many relationship in eXtender but this does not provide the amount of data capture that may be required. In addition Linked forms allow you to define an existing GP look up field as the primary record. e.g. build additional one to many relationships for customers, items, employees etc.

How to Use it:
Building a linked form is as easy as building a window in eXtender. The only trick to define the Link to field as the primary record. i.e. If you want to store additional records against Items - then Item will be you linked to field. The ID field prompt is the linked record that will be added to the 'link to' master record

What to do next?
Add linked forms to your toolbox when building a solution. Use this as another way of making Dynamics GP do exactly what you need it to do.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

What is eXtender Enterprise? Part 2.

This is the second edition of the 'what is eXtender Enteprise' series.

The second topic we will discuss here is eXtender Logic. This is a direct follow on from the previous post regarding Logic Routines. Extender logic allows you to add you business rules, and process flows to the eXtender windows, forms and detail forms that you build.

What is the Feature:
eXtender logic is the ability to add function, process as well as complex coding behind the screens you build with eXtender. This means that eXtender is way more than just 'dumb data capture' and you can build the exact functionality you need behind the screens you build.

There are two main types of Logic. The first is what I call consultant logic - which is the ability to enable fields, disable fields, set field values without writing any code. The second is what I call developer logic - which require the skills of you resident dex developer. Your developer is able to write any amount of sanscript code that can be executed on any number of eXtender events - opening, closing, posting. printing or field entry. exit or change of any field on the screen.

Why this feature is great:
The best part about Logic is that it gives you a really fast method of deploying complex solutions. It also helps to split the tasks between consultants and developers in a new way - meaning the developers can simply do the development without having to worry about screen layout and design. A consultant can gather the requirements, build the screens and get sign off, then call in the developer and say 'when the click here and field 4 equals 'Chicago' then I need GP to do ....'

Consultants are able to build all the screens required (in short time) during the scoping phase. By the time you have sign off on the scope, 80% of the solution has been built. The developer can then add the business rules and functionality required behind the window.

How to Use it:
Consultants: Adding consultant level logic is very simple. Simply open the design mode for the window, form, detail form or linked form that you need to add logic for. Select the logic button at the bottom of the screen. In this example we had built an eXtender linked form as in this image that needed some process automation. The required business logic was as follows: If the rent amount was greater than $300, then the lease term should automatically be set to 3yrs from today's date. So rather than heading of to the dev team, the consultant can make this work by themselves.

Opening the logic screen we can see that logic has been added to the field change event of the start date field. There are a number of functions that can be called as part of a task: Disable fields (grey them out), enable fields (make disabled fields editable), set value (as in this example), clear value as well as run a GP macro. In the images below we have set eXtender to set the value of the End Date field as the current data + 3 yrs. As you can see there is no programming involved.

In addition we have set a condition on this logic executing - to only where the rent is greater than $300.

As a developer you have the ability to execute simple of complex dex code from the eXtender window. The example below is very simple but provides really important functionality. On the tenant management form we needed the ability to enter all the vehicles that are driven by the current tenants. So from the regular eXtender form we needed to be able to open an eXtender detail form, and pass through the same record ID as on the tenant form. This simple one line of code does the trick.

What to do next?
Get both you developer and consultant along to eXtender training. Blow your competitors away and inspire your customers by how quickly you can deliver there really powerful solutions. Use this functionality to generate more services revenue for you consulting team as you customers now expect much more from their GP environment once they get to know how much it can do for them.

Extender Changes in SP4

Most of you now know that Microsoft Dynamics GP Extender got way better with the release of GP10 SP4. This is the link to some key information in partner source about this release. https://mbs.microsoft.com/partnersource/newsevents/news/mdgpfunctionalityextender.htm?printpage=false&stext=extender

Despite all the information available, there seems to be some confusion amongst partners as to what these changes are, and what they mean for customers and partners.

What are the primary enhancements ? GP eXtender has gotten bigger and better. You now have the ability to build stand alone forms, details forms and to create menus.

What does that mean? This means that in 10 minutes or less, you are able to build a brand new screen or screens for GP and add them to custom GP menus. A complete independent forms builder right inside GP. Build any screen you like to capture the data you like.

How is that different to what we could do before? Up until SP4 you could only create extra fields. i.e. Extra fields for customers, items, sales orders, projects etc. You can still do this but in addition you can build your own concept screens into GP. If your customer needs a GP screen that tracks Patients, you build a screen just for that. If your customer needs to build a screen to track pets and their owners, favorite hairstylists or contract expiry dates, you can do it quickly, efficiently and totally integrated with GP.

So when should I sell GP Extender? GP Extender should be owned by every Dynamics GP customer. I am yet to meet a customer that does not need eXtender for one reason or another. If 80% of your customers do not own Extender - then you are not telling them about it. It is a really easy sell. If you want to discuss the sales process call us at eOne or watch the video on how to sell GP eXtender herehttps://mbs.microsoft.com/partnersource/newsevents/news/mdgpfunctionalityextender.htm?printpage=false&stext=extender

Why has the price gone up? Because the functionality has gotten so much better.

What about my existing customers? All existing GP Extender customers receive this functionality at no charge, when they upgrade to SP4.

So does that mean there is no need for eXtender enterprise anymore? NO, NO, NO. Extender enterprise is alive and well. Where you need to add business process, work flow and other functionality behind a screen you build - then turn to eXtender Enterprise. See the many other blog entries that talk about eXtender Enterprise.

So I have entered some data into a custom screen but then I want to use this data to create an invoice, create a customer, a service call or any other GP record? This is where you need SmartConnect together with eXtender. SmartConnect can read the eXtender data and create anything you can dream up in GP. This is amazing functionality that no other ERP can achieve.

It seems there are things in eXtender we need to learn, how do I get training? Right now eOne is providing online and classroom training. Contact Abbey.Heesch@eonesolutions.net for details. Also watch for Microsoft's roadshow of eXtender training, to be announced shortly.