Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step- Practice and Opinion

Last week I was in Atlanta co-training a new course called “Project Managing Microsoft Dynamics Implementations with Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step” (Course 80053A). It was partnered with a one day class developed by Kristi Honey and Scott Mertes called “Project Management Skills Essentials for Microsoft Dynamics”.

The first day of the class focuses on the soft skills that are essential in each phase of an implementation. As I am sure many of you can appreciate, there were a ton of fabulous conversations during class, on breaks, after class. I attended the first day, and really enjoyed the opportunity to hear a variety of perspectives on project management related to Dynamics implementations. I think that project managers are often a lonely bunch, and a class like this is exactly what many will need to gain the confidence and focus to take their skills and processes to the next level. Usually I am exhausted after a day in class, but I will admit that this class left me energized with new ideas that I want to share with our internal project manager. I actually sent my boss an email before lunch that day saying that our project manager MUST attend the class!
But what I really wanted to write about is the two-day class that focused on Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step. First, what is Sure Step? Sure Step is a toolkit that folllows a methodology that Microsoft developed for Dynamics implementations. It contains a variety of templates focused on CRM, AX, GP, SL, and NAV implementations. Currently, there is a bit more available for CRM and AX, but more templates are forthcoming and there are already a variety of generic templates that can be adapted for each product.

To download Sure Step, you must be on a partner service plan with access to PartnerSource:

One of the things that I found most beneficial about the class is that it follows a case study model. So instead of focusing on learning Sure Step in a vacuum, it presents a very practical way to understand the methodology and see how it can be applied to your organization. In the past, I know that a common issue for many partners was exactly how to begin to use Sure Step. Where to begin? Because Sure Step is scalable to the largest of implementations, partners with smaller implementations can feel overwhelmed by the formality of the phases and abundance of documentation. But all of those options and approaches are just different suggestions of how you might approach an implementation. A great takeway from the class, which I think many of the students last week would agree with, is that Sure Step is a toolkit that can be adapted to a variety of implementation sizes by picking, choosing, and adapting it to your needs.

From the case study, students work with documents like a Fit/Gap Analysis and Solution Blueprint, Functional Requirements Document, and a Statement of Work. Students see how all of the documents tie together, and how you might take one or two or all of them and apply them practically to an implementation. We had many side discussions in class concerning how Sure Step might scale up or down: for a smaller implementation you might work with one simple document that evolves to represent the requirements while a larger implementation may call for a full cycle of deliverables with a formal approval process and tollgate reviews.

So, where to begin? Well, for those organizations lacking a formal project management approach- Sure Step can provide an understanding of the formal phases and their purposes, including the customer and partner roles who participate and the associated deliverables. For others who already have a formal methodology in place, Sure Step can serve to reinforce what you are doing and fill in any gaps. And for those that are somewhere in the middle, the templates available in Sure Step can be used standalone to begin (or further) the development of your own processes.

Sure Step provides project paths for Standard, Enterprise, Rapid, and Upgrade projects, giving you different approaches based on the scale of the project. Additionally, in the Diagnostic Phase, Sure Step provides a guidebook for a series of Decision Accelerators that can assist customers with the decision to purchase, and provide the desired due diligence for the customer to feel comfortable with the decision. Partners can pick and choose from these, using the ones that are appropriate for the case at hand and best address the customer’s concerns.

I am writing this on a plane to Portland, Oregon. With my project plan for an upgrade in my bag. A little documentation and formal process never hurts :) Which makes me think that a future blog topic might be “Why even have a methodology?” For those of you that know me personally, you know I could talk on that for days!

Please share any questions, comments, or perspectives on Sure Step. I would also love to hear of successes (or failures) deploying Sure Step in your organization.

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