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Dynamics Sure Step Methodology

Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step is a full customer lifecycle methodology for all Microsoft Dynamics® solutions, providing the Microsoft ecosystem with comprehensive implementations through delivery guidance, project management discipline alignment, and field-driven best practices. Sure Step is designed to enable the solution provider to better serve their customers by helping reduce their Microsoft Dynamics total cost of ownership. Sure Step content covers the Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM suite of solutions, including Microsoft Dynamics AX, Dynamics CRM, Microsoft Dynamics GP, Microsoft Dynamics NAV, and Microsoft Dynamics SL. The guidance, tools, templates, and best practices provided in the methodology can help increase the consistency, timeframes, quality, and success of Microsoft Dynamics engagements.

Sure Step is considered a full lifecycle methodology because it encompasses all phases of a customer engagement. Sure Step begins with a Solution Envisioning phase to help customers determine the right solution for their needs.  The Solution Envisioning phase is followed by Solution Delivery phases to implement their solution and to provide guidance for the operation and maintenance of the solution in production. For existing Microsoft Dynamics customers seeking to progress their solutions to the latest product releases, Sure Step also provides Upgrade Assessments in the Solution Envisioning phase, followed by Solution Delivery phases to upgrade their solution and then to maintain the production solution in operation.

Sure Step has six phases: Diagnostic, Analysis, Design, Development, Deployment, and Operation. The Diagnostic phase encompasses Solution Envisioning and provides guidance on product capabilities, including content on focus industries for a corresponding product. The Decision Accelerator Offering is an important part of the Diagnostic phase, designed to reduce the risks and concerns for the customers in their decision-making process for new/upgrade ERP/CRM solutions.

The Sure Step Methodology offers the project types described in the following table:


Project type



A lean approach for implementing Microsoft Dynamics solutions at a single site.


An accelerated approach for implementing Microsoft Dynamics solutions with minimal or no



A standardized approach for implementing Microsoft Dynamics solutions in complex single-site deployments or in global/multi-site organizations wherein country/site-specific unique business needs have to be factored on top of a core solution.


An iterative approach to implementing Microsoft Dynamics solutions at a single site requiring specific features and moderate-to-complex customizations. While the Standard, Rapid, Enterprise, and Upgrade project types are waterfall-based, the Agile project type uses the Sprint cycle approach to solution deployment.


An approach to upgrade an existing Microsoft Dynamics solution to a subsequent release of that solution. This begins with a Technical Upgrade to address moving existing functionality to the subsequent release. Any new functionality that is desired can be deployed by using the one of the other project types: Rapid, Standard, Agile, or Enterprise.

Sure Step also features Cross Phase Processes that span the project types. A cross-phase process is a group of related activities that span multiple implementation phases in a specific project scenario. The Sure Step Methodology also provides Optimization Offerings that feature proactive and post go-live services that are designed to assist the customer and solution provider with an additional level of due diligence in the solution delivery lifecycle.

Additionally, Sure Step provides Project Management and Organizational Change Management libraries, with content to support these key functions in a solution delivery engagement. Sure Step also includes an overview of roles typically involved in an engagement, both from consulting (solution provider) and customer perspectives.

Note: Dynamics Sure Step methodology has a strong delivery guidance and toolset for managing an entire Dynamics CRM project, positioning Dynamics CRM as the main element of the solution and the methodology. Enterprise solutions usually consist of multiple products and even diverse technologies, making it challenging to apply the entire process. Applying the templates and recommendations of Sure Step should be always considered and made part of the specific chosen ALM method to lower the risks and to make the CRM delivery process more transparent.

Dynamics Sure Step lacks the guidance regarding the tooling and automation techniques for the specific processes;

the tooling should be always selected according to the specific delivery environment and requirements of the solution.

MSF-based Solution Delivery

The Microsoft Solutions Framework (MSF) provides an adaptable framework for successfully delivering information technology solutions faster and with fewer people and less risk while enabling higher-quality results. MSF helps teams directly address the most common causes of technology project failure to improve success rates, solution quality, and business impact. Created to deal with the dynamic nature of technology projects and environments, MSF fosters the ability to adapt to continual change within the course of a project.

MSF is called a framework instead of a methodology for specific reasons. As opposed to a prescriptive methodology, MSF provides a flexible and scalable framework that can be adapted to meet the needs of any project (regardless of size or complexity) to plan, build, and deploy business-driven technology solutions. The MSF philosophy holds that there is no single structure or process that optimally applies to the requirements and environments for all projects. It recognizes that, nonetheless, the need for guidance exists. As a framework, MSF provides this guidance without imposing so much prescriptive detail that its use is limited to a narrow range of project scenarios.

MSF components can be applied individually or collectively to improve success rates for projects such as:

§             Software development projects, including mobile, web and e-commerce applications, web services, mainframe, and n-tier

§             Infrastructure deployment projects, including desktop deployments, operating system upgrades, enterprise messaging deployments, and configuration and operations management systems deployments

§             Packaged application integration projects, including personal productivity suites, enterprise resource planning (ERP), and enterprise project management solutions

§             Any complex combination of the above

MSF guidance for these different project types focuses on managing the “people and process” as well as the technology elements that most projects encounter. Because the needs and practices of technology teams are constantly evolving, the materials gathered into MSF are continually changing and expanding to keep pace.

As a framework, MSF contains multiple components that can be used individually or adopted as an integrated whole. Collectively, they create a solid yet flexible approach to the successful execution of technology projects. These components are described in the following table.


MSF component


MSF foundational principles

The core principles upon which the framework is based. They express values and standards that are common to all elements of the framework.

MSF models

Schematic descriptions or “mental maps” of the organization of project teams and processes (Team Model and Process Model—two of the major defining components of the framework).

MSF disciplines

Areas of practice using a specific set of methods, terms, and approaches (Project Management, Risk Management, and Readiness Management: the other major defining components of the framework).

MSF key concepts

Ideas that support MSF principles and disciplines and are displayed through specific proven practices.

MSF proven practices

Practices that have been proven effective in technology projects under a variety of real-world conditions.

MSF recommendations

Optional but suggested practices and guidelines in the application of the models and discipline.

The MSF Process Model combines concepts from the traditional waterfall and spiral models to capitalize on the strengths of each model. The Process Model combines the benefits of milestone-based planning from the waterfall model with the incrementally iterating project deliverables from the spiral model.

The Process Model phases and activities appear in the following list:

§             Envision: Describe the solution concept and define the project team necessary to deliver it.

§             Plan: Assemble detailed plans and designs necessary to deliver the solution.

§             Build: Construct a solution that includes all aspects of the project needs.

§             Stabilize: Polish and verify that the solution meets customer and user needs and expectations.

§             Deploy: Deploy and integrate the solution to its intended production environments.

The MSF Process Model is depicted in the following graphic:

Iterative Solution Development


Iterative Solution Development (ISD) is a methodology used to reduce solution delivery risk and highlight Microsoft’s deep experience building custom application-development solutions. ISD enables on-going productive customer feedback, a single system of record for improved traceability, and consistent guidance on tools and application development recommended practices.

§             ISD is recommended for extremely complex, custom-development solutions.

§             ISD is the Microsoft Services Solution Delivery (SSD) approach for envisioning, planning, stabilizing, and deploying complex custom application development solutions.

§             ISD is derived from Services Delivery Methodology (SDM), which is based on Microsoft Solution Framework (MSF) and sourced from the World Wide Solution Development Centers. ISD is used when Microsoft is the prime contractor for large, complex, and custom application development engagements.

§             ISD leverages five core pillars to ensure delivery: a team model, a mentoring model, a process model, a governance model, and guidance focused on management of the development environment (built on TFS).

ISD Phases

§             The ISD Discovery Phase provides detailed guidance on all technical and business pre-sales activities required to win large, complex, and custom application development Tier 1 deals.

§             The ISD Sketch Phase provides detailed guidance on all of the activities required to successfully deliver a solid statement of work (SOW) for the Build, Stabilize, and Deploy phases. The ISD Sketch Phase is designed to be used on large, complex, and custom application development Tier 1 engagements.

§             The ISD Build & Stabilize Phase is the process of constructing the solution for the customer. This is the main Delivery Management phase. The iteration plan developed during Sketch is executed delivering working features and capabilities for each Release. It is built on the ISD team model and leverages TFS tooling and automation, covering development and test processes, source and version control policies, and testing and QA methods to ensure the ISD goal of high quality solution.

§             The ISD Deploy Phase provides detailed guidance on all the activities required to successfully release custom application development solutions into production. The ISD Release Phase is designed to be used on large, complex, and custom application development Tier 1 engagements.

§             The ISD Support Phase provides detailed guidance on all the activities required to successfully support custom application development solutions once they have been deployed into production. The ISD Support Phase is designed to be used on large, complex, and custom application development Tier 1 engagements.


CRM as a Business Strategy

Looking at your Customer Relationship Management systems (CRM’s) as a piece of software? Think again. While CRM’s are getting better, easier and cheaper to use, this year more companies are positioning their CRM’s as a marketing channel to map the true value of their clients to aid their competitive edge.

For those unfamiliar with CRMs, it’s time to familiarise yourselves or be left behind. A CRM is a strategy to manage your company’s interactions with your customers, clients and your prospects. Long gone is the old trustworthy little black book. Today, CRMs use technology to streamline and automate information, enhancing your business processes. CRMs allow you to measure and record your interactions and keep your sales, marketing and business development system streamlined and efficient.

Not too long ago, surveys reported 70-75% of all CRM initiatives failed. That was yesterday. This is today.

Smart companies will position CRM as a strategy and corporate asset from the outset. This dynamic communication system will be your corporate memory and tactical delivery channel for targeted campaigns and will be used by everyone across the organisation, not just by the sales team. Positioned and used correctly with all this valuable information tracked and mapped, your CRM can be valued as part of your asset register and eventually sold for premium.

How do you create the strategy/vision, manage expectations, organise around the customer and implement CRM best practice? And what are the latest trends in CRM?

  1. Branding is more important than ever. Brands are increasingly becoming a surrogate for value, making brand more critical as generic features continue to propagate in the brand landscape.
  2. Value is the new black: Consumer spending, even on sale items, will continue to be replaced by a reason-to-buy at all. The era of “because I said so” is over. This will more than likely challenge most companies.
  3. The rise of the Datarati. Google’s Chief Economist, Hal Varian once said that “Datarati are companies that have the edge in consumer data insight…Data is ubiquitous and cheap, analytical ability is scarce… The sexiest job in the next ten years will be statistician.” How true. There has been and will continue to be an increased focus on data analysis as companies continue to invest in measuring social media, understanding customer value and modeling customer behavior. If you don’t use your data to talk to your customers, others will. The investment in data aggregation and the hiring of “sexy” statisticians is a major trend in 2011 and will be for years to come.
  4.  Customer Experience: Customers have more choices than ever, and are more frugal. This affords them the luxury to demand more. This is the year that the CRM Marketer will be charged with offering a consistent experience across all company touch points and developing the infrastructure to allow knowledge sharing and smart communication. Smart marketers will identify and capitalise on unmet expectations. Companies that understand where the strongest expectations exist will be the companies that survive and prosper. The customer’s mobile and online experiences will begin to evolve and rival the customer’s offline experience – attentive assistants and all.
  5.  Personalisation and customisation: In order to be effective in 2011 and beyond, companies will seek to increase customer knowledge and use this insight to talk, engage and interact with their customers more often and more meaningfully in new and innovative ways (including dynamic content, blogs to other social networking). 2011 onwards will be up close and personal, like it or not.
So what is CRM Best Practice?

  •     CRM is about putting your customer at the centre or heart of your business
  •     CRM is about building better relationships with your customers
  •     CRM can give you a 360-degree view of the customer which enables you to improve the quality and satisfaction of each customer interaction and maximize the profitability of your customer relationships… a win/win for both you and your customers
  •     CRM can be practiced across all levels within a business from the ‘C’ Suite to customer service, product development, procurement, distribution, marketing, and of course sales.

  •     Do your senior managers, sales people and your broader business know why you have a CRM?
  •     If so, do they know how to use it and why it will benefit them to do so?
  •     Do they know what information needs to be captured and how it will be used?
  •     Do they know how it will help them grow, develop and retain viable clients?
  •     Does your CRM strategy and subsequent software make life easier for your sales people to make sales or not?
  •     Does your CRM strategy and subsequent software support everyone in your business to make life easier for your clients and each other?
Your CRM needs to be a business strategy and a way of life not just a piece of software.