My previous post Test Driving a New Course introduced Managing Customer Engagement with Microsoft Dynamics 365 from Microsoft Learning. Here I discuss my journey traversing the remainder of the course.

Managing Customer Engagement focused on the capabilities of the Sales and Customer Service modules of Dynamics 365 and briefly discussed Field Service, particularly in the context of sales and relationship management. More technical aspects such as configuration and BI were touched on almost in passing. It would be unfair, however, to criticise the lack of breadth and depth of this offering from MS Learning.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 is a behemoth of an application born of increasing functionality of 365 on cloud-based platform, cross-usability with and throughout the entire Office Suite, the addition of modules, and seamless integration of third-party plugins. This stew of many ingredients has produced an impressively flexible and powerful product capable of delivering much more than a simple customer relationship management system.

Managing Customer Engagement makes for a solid introduction to the sales aspect of Dynamics 365, and time is taken to step back and remind students that technology forms part of, and indeed supports, the customer relationship. The digital transformation faced by most companies is also explored – that Dynamics 365 can make best use of increased personal digital connectivity and social media is demonstrated very well.

Standout Course Topics

Connectivity and Social Media

The introduction to managing leads / opportunities / accounts in Dynamics 365 is very good — especially in the context of harnessing the wealth of information floating around on the interweb and threaded through social media. A vast amount of data about individuals and companies is available publicly and can be used (leveraged) to direct research into potential customers with a view to then targeting them as customers, or even ‘pre-approving’ them for a contract.

However, to make sense of this huge information avalanche it must be filtered, and in a  usable way … 365 can do this. Filtering/pulling out company employee details, news about the company and published by the company, its competitors, financial and other information, social media threads, social media (LinkedIn) profile data…

365_3rdPartyPlugins_SocMedEtc

Unfortunately this functionality is not native to 365 but powered by third party plug-ins, widgets or solutions. It is interesting to note that LinkedIn is now part of the MS portfolio, so is not strictly 3rd party; one would expect the APIs to perform seamlessly.

A feature available to LinkedIn Sales Navigator account holders that was especially interesting was PointDrive: share custom (sales) presentations with your connections, and from within 365 see how your connections have shared it, who has viewed it, and when. A slick and semi-automated lead generator….

Field Service

Business process flows are used throughout Dynamics 365 not only to improve and simplify data entry, but also to manage day-to-day admin processes. Escalating a support case to a work order — sending a field service agent out to a customer — is pretty easy within Dynamics 365.

Not only is all the information regarding the support issue carried through to the Field Service module, but all relevant information about the customer: contact details, service level requirements, previous related support issues, etc informs the underlying work order details  and is immediately available to the field service despatcher/manager. This wealth of granular but relevant information is used in tandem with the information on availability of qualified technicians or field engineers — all on a single screen. In this way, the field service dispatcher/manager can prioritise work orders, and may even be able to send the customer’s favoured engineer — useful if the issue is recurrent.

365_FieldService

Resource scheduling — informed by the customer’s SLA, the current support issue, the location, engineer qualifications and availability — is very powerful. Work orders can be added to a field service agent’s schedule in a number of ways: through the menu system or dragging and dropping from the grid of unscheduled work orders, or even from the map on the left hand side of the screen.

For the visual manager, real-time GPS tracking of your field service agents, customer location and other information held within the CRM are brought together using an API to Bing Maps (naturally), making resource management and routing much simpler. Each field service agent’s projected route is displayed on the map, plus pins for work orders — fulfilled, scheduled and required — is easy to navigate and manage.

365_FieldService-2

It must be noted that effective use of the filtering tools becomes essential to make sense of this potentially overwhelming explosion of data.
Connected Field Service

Also of real benefit is the use of ‘smart’ technology: equipment or machinery that is wired into the cloud and therefore can have diagnostics run remotely and automatically through Dynamics 365. This application of the Internet of Things (IoT) means that a level of service can be offered that is truly informed. Examples include: minor issues can be corrected remotely without disruption to your customer’s operations, customers are alerted that a service call is required in good time prior to equipment failure, on-site support engineers can assess equipment usage — and if an upgrade is required — create an opportunity directly in Dynamics 365. Connected indeed.

Critique

Now for the less evangelistic assessment of the course. The later modules of Managing Customer Engagement with Microsoft Dynamics 365 from Microsoft Learning are slightly better presented than the overview, and either the typos have been reduced, or I became inured to them — but there are still far too many levers!

The numerous case studies are simply an exercise in MS marketing and the lab work was clearly cobbled together at the last minute from other course materials — but at least offered valuable directed, hands-on experience.

The assessments were not particularly challenging for any student who has been paying attention, however I feel it would be tricky to achieve much greater than 90% without a full buy-in to the MS mentality — occasionally the questions were a little ambiguous and badly written.

Of greatest concern was the two assessment questions I had identified as being wrongly marked — there may have been others I’d missed. A clear, concise and evidence-based post on the support forum did clear this up and marks were corrected, however it is worrying that this was not picked up by the course developers at — or prior to — final checks, especially as one of the questions was weighted at a statistically significant 3.3% of the entire course pass mark. Again, my sympathies go out to non-fluent English speaking course candidates.

365_AssessmentError

Conclusion

Course Certificate

In closing, overall this course was certainly a worthwhile endeavour, not least in the context of directed learning of an area of the system I am personally less drawn towards (I prefer mucking about with config than sales); however it is disappointing that more effort was not made in checking this course prior to publication for errors.

I look forward to seeing more of this sort of offering from Microsoft, and in the meantime will be playing with project management within Dynamics.

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