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.
Cloudhouse is a London-based global technology company with employees located across three continents. They specialise in containerisation technology that helps businesses migrate legacy and line-of-business applications from older, unsupported, insecure operating systems to the latest secure and compliant desktop, server and cloud-based platforms. Key strategic partners of Cloudhouse include Citrix and Microsoft.
Started in 2010, Cloudhouse was using a basic implementation of Salesforce for many years. But as the company outgrew its current system, transitioning to Dynamics 365 was the logical choice given their very strong relationship and alliance with Microsoft. The only downside was a decided lack of post-implementation inhouse expertise related to Microsoft’s CRM solution. PowerSuccess, PowerObjects’ service-as-a-subscription programme, alleviated any concerns about ongoing support.
Cloudhouse began operating in 2010 with a very basic, out-of-the-box implementation of Salesforce. By 2018, the company’s growth had demanded a more robust CRM solution, and given Cloudhouse’s strong strategic alliance with Microsoft, Dynamics 365 for Sales was the logical solution upgrade. Their challenge was to find the right company to engage with for the system implementation. They asked PowerObjects to participate in the solution discovery process. PowerObjects’ sales approach proved to be a significant differentiator.
Other partners seemed more interested in telling the Cloudhouse team what they needed without really making any effort to find out the nuances of their operations and business model. “It was frustrating, “ says Jon Shortland, Director of Channels and Alliances at Cloudhouse. “They didn’t seem to grasp that Cloudhouse is a specialised technology company, too. We’re not experts on Dynamics 365, but we are technology experts. I don’t think they took the time to understand even that fundamental premise.”
Cloudhouse was won over by PowerObjects’ approach. As Shortland says, “PowerObjects was able to see Cloudhouse for who we are in terms of having a certain level of technical expertise, broadly, but then also identify what we required, very specifically, to address what is a quite complex technical sales cycle. They imagined how to overlay our business processes and sales processes to fit in with Dynamics 365’s out-of-the-box and customisable functionality.” A deal was cemented shortly thereafter, and the two teams went to work together.
One of the most dramatic improvements Cloudhouse has seen since implementing Dynamics 365 for Sales is around sales governance. Formerly, they lacked the necessary data insight into the sales pipeline to effectively track and hold the sales team accountable. Now everything is at their fingertips. With the implementation being used across all of the sales and channel teams, as well as management, they have a newfound rigor around tracking every opportunity, customer engagement and partner engagement. “Governance is so important,” says Shortland. “Particularly with regard to our global reach and some of the global opportunities we have and making sure that they're tracked to fruition.”
And speaking of tracking opportunities, the enhanced mobile capabilities enabled by Dynamics 365 for Sales have drastically increased the efficiency of the sales team: entering information related to interactions with opportunities, customers and partners is now entered in real-time in the field – and fed directly into Dynamics 365. “Having that new functionality has been transformational,” says Shortland. “Being out on the road a lot of the time and with multiple customer calls and meetings, having the mobile ability to update Dynamics 365 with our opportunities is really important and just saves a ton of time.”
To fit the Cloudhouse sales methodology, several significant tweaks and customisations to the out-of-the-box solution were required. As such, they found PowerObjects’ train-the-trainer programme to be instrumental in user adoption and the overall success of the implementation. “Having PowerObjects provide a deeper insight into how our system works, really gave the sales teams the confidence to begin exploring and using the tool. Without user adoption, it fails – it’s that simple. But PowerObjects ensured that wouldn’t be the case.”
Going into the project, Cloudhouse knew the ultimate success of the implementation was dependent on getting consistent post-implementation support. More than just the basic ongoing support that all technology solutions require, Cloudhouse recognised the likely need to continually customise, enhance and expand as the company evolves. So, while PowerObjects’ approach to the sales process was an important part of being selected as Cloudhouse’s partner of choice, it may have been the availability of the PowerSuccess support programme that sealed the deal.
PowerSuccess is a service-as-a-subscription support model that is ideal for companies the size of Cloudhouse. For a flat monthly fee, a dedicated PowerSuccess Engineer now acts as their single point of contact for all their Dynamics 365 needs. Cloudhouse’s dedicated engineer is backed by a Product Team of four additional system engineers, so they have complete confidence their system is well maintained and will be continually enhanced as needed. Shortland puts it this way: “With very little inhouse technical expertise around Dynamics 365, I think the PowerSuccess service was a no-brainer. Just to make sure that, as far as the implementation and all of the functionality we put in, we were able to tweak and refine all of those elements, thereby ensuring that our users kept Dynamics 365 at the heart of what they do on a daily basis.”
The collaborative partnership that is PowerSuccess is so much more, however, than just outsourced customisation. The essence of the support programme is the inherent knowledge transfer that comes from partnering with real experts on an ongoing basis. “One of the key benefits of PowerSuccess for us is just the ever-growing confidence we’re getting from working with our dedicated support engineer,” says Shortland. “Partnering with him on a weekly basis continually strengthens our own knowledge base and ensures that we’re following best practices in any work we do inside of the system.”
Of course, an effective PowerSuccess partnership is reliant on the dedicated support engineer and the business he’s supporting being tightly aligned throughout the relationship. In many ways, the engineer is a true extension of the team he's supporting - he just happens to be sitting at a desk in Egham. That is certainly the case here. “Our PowerSuccess engineer has a weekly call with our system administrator, and they work through specific issues and additional projects that we're trying to implement,” reports Shortland. “It’s really effective teamwork. Our admin tells me that he's learned a huge amount from our engineer, who is very approachable, always available and incredibly easy to work with.”
Asked if he would recommend PowerObjects based on this implementation experience and the ongoing partnership with the PowerSuccess programme, Shortland said, “Absolutely. I think the ease of doing business with PowerObjects really sets them apart from other partners. Obviously, projects like this don’t always run smoothly, but with all the bumps we've come across, PowerObjects has been open, honest, contactable and responsive. It’s been great.”
As for the future, Cloudhouse hopes to continue aggressively growing their Microsoft Dynamics 365-related footprint through the additions of a partner portal and marketing modules. “I think ultimately Cloudhouse is looking to increase our sales and our pipeline, and that is driven by a robust sales and partner methodology, which is underpinned by Dynamics 365,” says Shortland.
From the sounds of it, Cloudhouse’s future is bright.
With very little technical expertise around Dynamics 365, I think the PowerSuccess service was a no-brainer. Just to make sure that, as far as the implementation and all of the functionality we put in, we were able to tweak and refine all of those elements, thereby ensuring that our users kept Dynamics 365 at the heart of what they do on a daily basis.