You move into a new CRM system and you found a cute new feature. You love that feature–it is your favorite feature, and you adopt it.
I call these features “pet” features–features that are viewed as significantly more important than anything else in the application. Some examples I’ve seen in real-world deployment pets include Connections, dialogs, certain Outlook client features, offline access, and goals.
The reason that pet CRM features are dangerous is that they can cloud your vision, hold you back from implementing new and better features, and give you angst if your pet does not perform at 100% of your expectations.
So let’s say connections is your pet. You love connections, and every problem you see you answer with connections. The problem is, connections should not be used for every relationship scenario, connections have limitations, and there are some newer better options. If the connections feature is your pet, when it fails you (and it will), your world will be shattered, and your faith in Dynamics as a platform may be shaken.
How do I identify my pets?
- If this feature doesn’t work or has limitations, does my workflow stop? If your business process is so dependent on one specific feature that it can’t be done in any other way, it may be a pet.
- Which features, when they don’t work, raise your blood pressure the most? These may be your pets.
- Which features are you resistant to replace, even if there is a better way? These features may be pets.
Tips for keeping your pets in line
- Maintain a realistic outlook. No feature is perfect; no feature is the solution for every problem. Test and validate the fit of the feature, including user experience, administration process, and performance.
- Get involved in the Dynamics Community. Meet users from other companies and industries. This will give you exposure to the broader world of CRM, and how other people are using CRM. Whenever there is something in CRM that doesn’t work exactly the way that users want it to, it is common to hear “I can’t believe we’re the only ones who are doing this.” Realize that just because a specific feature doesn’t work in exactly the way you are trying to use it, that doesn’t make it bad. Sometimes the “by design” behavior is there because the majority of client feedback that Microsoft receives asks for it to be done in a different way than how you want to do it. Have you voiced your opinion on ideas.dynamics.com? Have you opened a support ticket with Microsoft or called your partner about it? If you don’t make your voice heard, you can’t complain about it.
- Fully regression test system updates. Ensure that features used by users, including your favorite pet features, work correctly before deploying the update to production. If you find that the update impacts the performance of one of your pet features, identify if there are usable workarounds or newer approaches that might work better than your pet.
- Re-evaluate old pets. Features like connections, goals, dialogs, Outlook client, and legacy service entities, while still functional, are no longer in the mainstream of the Dynamics product roadmap. This means that these features typically do not receive the same level of testing in new releases, and are in maintenance mode. These features do not work on mobile or with the new Unified UI, so holding on to these pets may prevent you from fully benefiting from the latest product enhancements.
- Don’t be afraid to replace your pet if a newer better feature comes along. Sure, you and the CRM 4.0 Announcements entity had a great time, but he’s now gone to live in a farm in the country.