In the second of our two-part Microsoft Power Virtual Agents series, we examine the difference between Chatbots and Intelligent Chatbots, and how AI can elevate chatbot capabilities and improve user experience.
PowerObjects has been working with Amigos since they were using CRM 4.0. The partnership began when the two companies met at one of PowerObjects’ PowerUp conferences; shortly thereafter, Amigos was upgrading to Dynamics 2013 with the help of PowerObjects. From the beginning, Amigos enrolled in PowerSuccess, PowerObjects’ service-as-a-subscription support program that gives them a dedicated systems engineer who knows their system inside and out. They later upgraded to 2015, an incredibly smooth process due to the ongoing close partnership with their dedicated PowerSuccess engineer. In the ensuing years, a directive from their CEO pushed Amigos to move all of their operations to the Cloud, and in 2019 they made the decision to migrate to the latest online version of Dynamics 365 with the help of PowerObjects.
After a successful migration, Amigos began enjoying better performance and greater productivity, along with the ability to easily customize the solution based on individual users’ needs. They continue to subscribe to PowerSuccess and are taking advantage of several PowerPack add-ons, as well, including PowerEmail, PowerMailChimp, PowerMerge, and PowerOneView. These productivity and marketing automation tools – designed by PowerObjects to extend the capabilities of Dynamics 365 – are free to PowerSuccess customers.
Many organizations contemplating a move from an on-premises instance of Dynamics 365 to the online version find it intimidating – even more so for smaller businesses who rely on outsourcing for their IT functions. The idea of moving a CRM instance – the technology infrastructure of an entire operation – from on-site servers to the “invisible” cloud can be truly frightening. But that simply is not the case for PowerObjects’ PowerSuccess customers, who know their dedicated support engineers will guide them every step of the way. That’s because the key to a truly successful migration is a project manager who knows the intricacies of that CRM instance – all the customizations and business-specific nuances, each workaround and extension, every nook and cranny. And when an organization has been working with the same single point of contact for several years, that’s exactly what they get. Just ask Amigos.
“It was very easy,” says Christopher Brown, Engagement and Emerging Technologies Analyst and CRM Admin, Amigos Library Services. “Before, we had upgraded from on-prem to on-prem, and that wasn't too big of a change. But for this online migration, there was a concern in my head, like, ‘hey, this is a completely different environment that we're moving our data into, and working with it is a little bit different.’ But it was really easy, and we haven't had a single problem.”
Even when there were small hiccups, PowerObjects made sure they didn’t cause any problems. For example, Amigos decided at the last moment to delay the migration until the beginning of their fiscal year for reporting purposes. “Even then,” says Brown, “It was very smooth. I always knew exactly what was happening and when. And we had enough communication on a weekly basis to know what's happening next, what I needed to do, and what PowerObjects was doing. So, it was really great.”
It has been Microsoft’s plan for a couple of years to deprecate the Dynamics 365 classic web interface and replace it with the new Unified Client Interface (UCI). In fact, by the end of 2020, all Dynamics 365 users will be forced to make the transition. And while the online migration was already a significant undertaking for Amigos, PowerObjects convinced them to simultaneously make the transition to the UCI – even though it wasn’t required for another year and a half.
Amigos is thrilled they agreed to it, and not just because it means they can avoid another significant project later this year. No, the real reason is that the new UCI is simply a huge upgrade from the classic version. As Brown says, “The interface is way better than what we had before. We had the old tiles still – remember those? With the UCI, it's so much easier to customize – I was able to customize it for staff to specifically bring out what they needed to see and take away what they weren't using. So, that's the biggest takeaway, just that that interface is so much better.”
Amigos has subscribed to PowerSuccess since they first partnered with PowerObjects in 2013. PowerSuccess is a service-as-a-subscription support program that provides subscribers with a dedicated support engineer, a single point of contact who knows the intricacies of their system inside and out after working with them for several years. Brown’s excellent working relationship with the PowerObjects support engineer dedicated to Amigos played a significant role in the smooth, efficient, and problem-free migration and UCI transition. But the partnership transcends just one-time projects.
“What's really great about having one engineer is just having that relationship,” says Brown. “Them learning over time what we do and how we do it makes it a lot easier when we have something that we need to fix, or we have questions about implementing something.” It’s all about gaining a level of comfort with the support engineer. “I can ask anything, and he’s never like, ‘oh, that's a dumb question.’ Instead, it's like, ‘great question, here's the answer.’ I appreciate that so much,” adds Brown.
Importantly, PowerObjects’ dedicated support engineers don’t get to know only their clients’ systems – they get to know their businesses well. It’s not unusual, in fact, for support engineers to proactively suggest a Dynamics 365-related process improvement to a client based on their knowledge of the business, as well as its goals and objectives. “Our PowerSuccess engineer is like an extension of me,” says Brown. “Together, we help the staff in our organization because we can each make suggestions to help them do their jobs better or to take care of more customers – that sort of thing.”
An additional benefit of the PowerSuccess program is that subscribers enjoy free and unlimited access to the full suite of PowerPack add-ons. PowerObjects designed and built these 25 tools to extend the capabilities of Dynamics 365, especially with respect to automating marketing functions and increasing user productivity. Amigos uses, among others, PowerEmail, PowerMailChimp, PowerMerge, and PowerOneView.
“PowerEmail is something that our staff really likes,” says Brown. “With doing a lot of sales and renewals via email, sometimes it's hard to tell if people actually get it or not. Of course, you run into spam filters and that sort of thing. So, our staff appreciates that feature where you can say, ‘oh yeah, they did open it here, and they did get it so I know that they're still there.’ It helps them when they need to follow up and things like that.”
PowerMailChimp is another tool the Marketing staff at Amigos truly appreciates. “Not having to manually sync our lists all the time is a blessing. It always just keeps up to date, and if they unsubscribe, it just takes care of all of that for us. Scheduling it and all of that in the system is really nice, too.”
From a productivity standpoint, Brown relies on PowerMerge when cleaning up duplicate records and PowerOneView when trying to look at all related records in one place. Brown adds, “The biggest thing is being able to preview items without actually opening them.”
Now that they are in the cloud and using the new UCI, Amigos is turning their attention to what more they can gain from the Microsoft technology stack and their partnership with PowerObjects. Of course, they will continue their PowerSuccess relationship and have no plans to stop using the PowerPack add-ons – but there’s more potential they want to tap into as they look to the future.
For one thing, they would like to get their accounting operation integrated with Dynamics 365. While there are powerful options within the Microsoft stack for accounting and Finance & Operations, Amigos will – for now – continue using their existing accounting software. But that doesn’t mean full integration isn’t doable, especially considering the capabilities of the Power Platform. Power Apps and Power Automate, for example, offer low-code connections to more than 350 unique apps and services.
And speaking of Power Platform, during the online migration process, Amigos purchased several Power BI licenses, and they are looking forward to unleashing the potential this tool offers. “I'm very interested in learning more about Power BI and how to utilize that to visualize our data and build really nice-looking reports,” says Brown. “Over the years, we've collected a lot of data, but we haven't spent a lot of time on using that data. I'm really excited about bringing that out more to our staff and hopefully being able to make business decisions based on that data.”
It appears the partnership the relationship between Amigos and PowerObjects still has plenty of room for growth. “Y'all are so great and responsive, it's a pleasure,” adds Brown. “When we have a problem and have to reach out to PowerObjects, we’re always like, ‘Hey, that's a good thing, right?’ And I've never had to wait very long for an answer.”
The migration process was very easy, very seamless. Anytime I had questions, PowerObjects was available and we'd hop on a call or just answer by email if they were easy questions. They were so flexible.