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Using a Microsoft Project Plan for Your CRM Implementation

Post Author: Joe D365 |

A CRM implementation project plan is the roadmap for leading teams through all the activities required for a successful implementation. Before you start building your Microsoft Project Plan for a CRM implementation, you must have a clear definition of the project. Remember, a project is a temporary effort that has a defined beginning and end. It may be time-bound or constrained by a set of deliverables or goals, but a project is not a set of repetitive, ongoing tasks or services. Today's blog will help you plan for a successful CRM implementation, so let's get started!

Part One: Identify the Known Parts of Your Plan

For this first part, refer to the project's planning documentation, which should include a contract, statement of work or scope plan, as well as the resource, risk, quality and financial plans to identify the following:

1. Deliverables list(s) - Refer to our blog on How to Define Scope for a Dynamics CRM Project.

  • "Need to Haves" – Critical for successful CRM implementation.
  • "Nice to Haves" – Not critical, could be added in a future CRM phase.
  • "Not Needed" – Set the boundaries – out of scope for the CRM project.

2. Existing systems to be part of the project

  • ERP, data processing, email, document storage, and current CRM system
  • CRM project team(s): solution architect(s), business analysts, DBAs, developers, and testers.
  • Business resources: stakeholders, steering committees, and end-users.
  • External resources: vendors, consultants, and Microsoft support teams.

3. Data Analysis

  • Estimates for data migration and data integration work.
  • Sample data load times.

4. Required Processes and Procedures

  • Contract approval.
  • Change request process.
  • Procurement process.
  • Accounting and financial requirements.

5. Budget Information

  • Constraints, caps, not-to-exceed amounts.
  • Hourly resource rates.
  • Software licensing fees.
  • Hardware and equipment costs.
  • Vendor fees.
  • CRM costs for software, services and support.

6. Target Dates for the CRM Implementation

  • Kick-off date.
  • Training dates.
  • Go-live targets.

Part Two: Start Building Your Plan

1. Open Microsoft Project and start a new blank project (we are using MS Project 2013 version).

PlanIt is a good idea to let Microsoft Project manage the scheduling. We recommend before adding any tasks to the project plan, confirm that Auto Scheduling is selected for new tasks.

2. Begin by adding only the high level phases for the project lifecycle. Breaking down the tasks for each phase is easier if you have a lifecycle structure to work within.

Microsoft Project Plan

Figure 1 - High Level Tasks with Auto Scheduling

3. Navigate to the Resource Sheet and enter the names of your team as well as any resource cost information you have.

Microsoft Project Plan

Figure 2 - Add Resource Information to Resource Sheet

4. Navigate back to the Gantt chart view and start adding the tasks and activities that will occur in each phase.

5. Assign resources and enter duration and work estimates for each. MS Project will automatically update the Work column based on number of resources and duration entered for each task. If you assign multiple resources to a single task, MS Project will automatically increase the Work (Effort).

Microsoft Project PlanA task with 1 day duration assigned to 1 resource; work effort updated to 8 hours. A task shared by two resources; work effort updated to 16 hours. If the two resources will share the task, click the MS prompt and select Reduce duration but keep the same amount of work. MS Project will update the duration to .5 day, 8 hours.

Microsoft Project Plan

Figure 3 - Update Work for shared tasks

6. Create dependencies between tasks by linking task numbers in the Predecessor column; without proper dependency links MS Project cannot predict the project schedule. You can create task dependencies by manually entering a task's predecessor, or by selecting two or more tasks and clicking the Link Tasks button on the Task menu. In this example we have selected Tasks 2, 4, 5 and 6 simultaneously (hold the CTRL Key) and then clicked the Link Tasks button. MS Project created dependencies between the tasks and calculated new dates for Task number 8.Microsoft Project Plan

Figure 4 - Create Task Dependencies

7. If your CRM Project's tasks are sequential, linking tasks is very straightforward. However, most CRM implementation projects have tasks that can happen in parallel, tasks that have lag or lead times between, or tasks that start or finish together. Use the following approaches to defining task dependencies.

Dependency Type Example
Task depends on another task to START and there is a lag before the second task starts. Task B planned to start after Task A.
Microsoft Project Plan
Task depends on another task to START and there is lead time before the second task starts. Task D was planned to start at the same time as Task C, however the team is able to expedite Task D by 3 days.
Microsoft Project Plan
Task must START the same time as another task. Tasks A and B must start at the same time.
Microsoft Project Plan
Task must FINISH the same time as another task. Tasks D and E must finish at the same time.
Microsoft Project Plan
Task planned to FINISH the same time as another task with a lag before the second task can start. Tasks C and D were planned to finish at the same time, however task D is going to be delayed by 3 days.
Microsoft Project Plan

Figure 5 - Dependency Types

8. Add milestones to mark significant accomplishments, points in time (toll gates), or to link multiple tasks to a major event. Milestones have "0" duration.

Microsoft Project Plan We recommend changing the Text Styles of milestone tasks so that they visually stand out in the plan. You can specify Text Styles from the Format Menu.

Microsoft Project Plan
Figure 6 - Format Milestone Tasks

9. When you have added all of the tasks and resources required for your CRM implementation project plan, don't forget to Set the Baseline (under the Project Menu). Every CRM implementation project incurs changes to resources, duration, and work efforts along the way. You can keep track of these changes by comparing current project status to the original baseline. MS Project has views and reports you can use later to analyze how your current plan compares to your original baseline.

10. It is critical to keep your project plan up to date. Before you start updating, change the Status Date. As your team(s) work through the project tasks, update % complete, and make changes to resources and duration as needed.

Tip For tasks which have not started on time, or have started sooner than planned, or tasks that are taking more time than planned to complete, we recommend using the Move Task button (under the Task Menu) to move tasks forward or backward as needed. In the example below, we have updated Task 8 to 50% complete, and moved it 1 day forward. MS Project has updated the Finish date to Monday 4/4 and all tasks dependent on task 8 have moved accordingly. The Gantt view shows a Lag in the Progress Bar.

Microsoft Project Plan
Figure 6 – Update Tasks Throughout Project

Part Three: Follow Your Roadmap

Creating a MS Project Plan for your CRM implementation can seem overwhelming, but building a simple MS Project plan to drive activities for your team(s) leads to a successful CRM implementation.

Remember, once your implementation is complete, you're going to need some training! PowerObjects offers multiple options for Dynamics CRM training and education. One of those options is our Train the Trainer certificate program. Learn more about this track by checking out a video with Gretchen Opferkew, our Director of Education!

Happy CRM'ing!

By Joe D365
Joe D365 is a Microsoft Dynamics 365 superhero who runs on pure Dynamics adrenaline. As the face of PowerObjects, Joe D365’s mission is to reveal innovative ways to use Dynamics 365 and bring the application to more businesses and organizations around the world.

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