Data Migration from CRM 4.0 to MS Dynamics CRM 2011 online

This is my second post for data migration from CRM 4.0 to CRM 2011. I think i mentioned in the last webcast that was shared as part of my post that we use our integration framework at the backend of our migration utility which allows us to take data from disparate solutions and feed it to MS Dynamics CRM 2011 on-premises and online. Although this webcast and the last one focused on migration from CRM 4.0 to CRM 2011 but the migration utility can be used for Goldmine and SalesForce as well. We are targeting CRM 4.0 to CRM 2011 just based on the demand and I will be preparing the next webcast for Goldmine. Anyways in this webcast we take data from CRM 4.0 to CRM 2011 online.

I think this webcast addresses the core issue for many who were just stuck with CRM 4.0 because they wanted to migrate to CRM 2011 online and the migration was not obvious. I would like to mention here that no matter what you have on your CRM 4.0 on-premises version you should be able to transition to Cloud provided you are working with intelligent consultants. There is always a work-around for some restrictions with the online solutions and Solution Experts should be able to share the solution with all the pros and cons.

The migration utility works perfectly for basic sales entities. We are still looking into reports to some how find a way to automate report migration from CRM 4.0 to CRM 2011 online but as it is reports require lots of manual work as one needs to change each report.

Enjoy this video and contact me if you have any questions. Hang in there for more videos on data migration from different solutions to CRM 2011 online.


Cloud and the offshore model

In my last post regarding Cloud computing I promised that i will be writing more on the Cloud. I work for a company with an offshore office so I would like to look at cloud computing from the this perspective. What effect would cloud computing have on companies that have offshore model and how do such companies need to change to adapt to Cloud environment.

Cloud computing is nothing new for resources who have worked in the offshore model. In one of my recent engagement as CRM project manager we worked by setting up VMs for my developers. One night one of my developers called me to check why they were not able to connect to one of the machines. I explained that the machines they connected to were not physically present in the office because they were in remote data center. It is something that we have been doing for years to enable our offshore teams to work from remote locations. Offshore resources work by connecting to remote machines.  These remote machines for them are somewhere in the “CLOUD”. When the offshore model was in its infancy and the VMs were not available we would setup separate machines but subsequently with VMs it became easier as hardware cost also reduced for this model. So the business model was simple “services at reduced cost”. Of course this only covers one aspect of Cloud computing and the more compelling selling pitch of increased computational power was never addressed by the early pioneers of the offshore model. I think it was mostly because most of the businesses would not buy the idea of having their mission critical data in offshore locations. Time has changed and who knows maybe a Cloud offering at reduced cost with data centers in Ireland, China or Pakistan would be a good business plan. Anyways so although companies with offshore model need to reorient themselves to take advantage of cloud computational power yet they have loads of experience working on remote machines and are familiar with the problems Cloud environment has to offer.

Offshore developers have a lot to offer as they have worked with remote machines, VPN setups, integration between offshore and on campus applications, Firewalls, security issues and workarounds, authentication on remote servers and Data migrations. I was recently in a conference where one of the presenters described the authentication and impersonation requirements for an application to talk to another application on windows azure platform. Although the methodology described was new but the problem was an old one. So as far as technical know how is concerned Cloud is something that offshore model would embrace.

As far as the business side is concerned I already mentioned in my last blog that the cost on services need to be reduced. One way of doing that could be by developing IP and the other is of course to reduce cost on resources and increase IRR. Offshore model inherently offers great IRR per resource but offshore teams don’t necessarily do a great job building products and reusable services. So when i look at cloud i feel it’s a new opportunity for companies that outsource work load as with Cloud the outsourcing model would be more acceptable. However it’s also a matter of companies, with offshore business models, stepping up and making a case of partnering with other businesses so that they could sell their expertise. In order to do this they need to train their resources to take advantage of Cloud infrastructure and build applications that leverage the computational power available. 

Overall i feel its exciting times to be in the IT business and more so for companies with offshore model. In fact I feel that with Cloud every business model is an offshore model.

Cloud – What the hype is all about

So you must have heard about the Cloud by now. You must have heard about it as a new happening phenomenon that is going to change the IT world. I would agree that it is going to have a significant impact on the existing business models in the IT industry. However it would only change our lives for good if we adapt to it quickly. Those who fear change and resist it at times tend to lose their edge because they fail to adapt to the ever changing world.

There are so many examples of companies from 8Os that do not exist anymore. Those that exist and have thrived changed as the world and specially the consumer was changing. Studies by Gartner and Forrester suggest the same about Cloud. These studies are available for review incase some of you want to get some stats on the Cloud future. The way i look at it is alot simpler than the complex studies conducted by these research organizations. As far as i am concerned its the consumer expectation that governs how the businesses run. IT consumers have started to question their IT spendings and they are tired of spending more on IT than on operations. At the end of the day the goal of every business is to make profit and continuous cost of IT infrastructure and services is something that never flies with CFOs. Does it mean that businesses are not going to spend on IT? Answer is obviously NO. Its just that businesses would consider other options. It does not mean that IT service providers are going to go out of business it just implies that they need to change to meet consumer expectations of spending less on IT and more on operations.

Lets pause for a second and look back to see how other industries evolved over time. Power industry went through the same evolution cycle. Factories used to own their power grids that supplied electricity for their needs. Subsequently power generation was centralized and now you have subscription based electricity model where you pay every month just for as much as you use. Similarly the mobile manufacturers changed their business model to subscription based model as it was not economical to sell their cell phones directly considering the manufacturing cost. IT industry is no different and the time has come to change. Businesses want to pay for the platform, infrastructure and services only when they use these services. According to one estimate we only use around 30% of the computational power we have although we spend alot on purchasing and maintaining the harware resources. There is enough evidence to suggest that Cloud is the future and i believe that we should prepare ourselves for this change.

Lets elaborate a little on what exactly do i mean when i say that we need to change to adapt to Cloud computing. It’s not that we only need to start training ourselves on Cloud platforms and start building applications for cloud but its also about understanding this change from the business perspective. It means that once our applications our up and running the returns our not going to be very high initially and its only the continuity with our customers that would reap us reward in the long term. It means that the cost for services has to be reduced to be profitable in IT. It means that the quality of applications we develop must improve to leverage the computational power of the Cloud. It means that IT companies must change the way they manage their clients so that they ensure client satisfaction over longer period of time. It means that IT companies need to streamline their processes to increase IRR per employee. It means the IT resources need to manage their time more efficiently. It is quite clear that the change is manifold and It would take sometime to devise methodologies for different business models that would work best with Cloud. However we need to start now to have an edge over our competitors. Every resource, irrespective of the role in industry need to start thinking  from the perspective of Cloud because it indeed offers lots of opportunities.  

In the end i just want to state that Cloud computing is nothing new atleaast for some of us (more on this in my next blog). It does not mean that we need to stop focusing on the on-premises  model. Its just that Cloud computing offers opportunities and only those that would recognize this would benefit from it.