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Sure Step Adoption Program boosts profitability and increases customer satisfaction by 20 percent

Travi@ta increases customer satisfaction by 20% and boosts profitability with Sure Step. This Microsoft partner with a Gold Customer Relationship Management competency adopted the Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step methodology for delivering Microsoft Dynamics CRM implementations and communicating with customers, collaborating with Plataan, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and Microsoft Certified Partner for Learning Solutions. With more than a year’s experience in practicing the Sure Step methodology, Travi@ta achieves outstanding customer satisfaction and generates revenue at better margins. With clear communications, careful expectation setting, and thorough documentation of agreements and project details, Travi@ta fully aligns sales and project delivery. In consequence, the number of satisfied customers has increased by almost 20 percent. Today, regular online and telephone surveys by independent research providers show that 95 percent of the company’s customers are delighted with Travi@ta and the relationship they have with the employees they interact with.

 CEO Claude Verschueren says, “The Sure Step methodology helps us ensure that our project delivery perfectly matches customer expectations. In addition, customers better understand what needs to happen at what point in software implementation projects and who is responsible for it. Following our adoption of the Sure Step methodology, all of our customers are satisfied and we can easily resolve the minor issues that still come up.”

 Travi@ta has also gained a better return on its efforts to develop and win new business. Firmly established goals and a shared understanding of software implementation parameters translate into better revenue margins. “We hardly ever provide free consulting anymore, and, in the few cases where we do, the customers do business with us instead of a competitor,” explains Verschueren.

The company continues to refine its adoption of Sure Step to refine software implementation processes and team collaboration. Recently, Travi@ta increased its Sure Step commitment to include the resources for upgrades to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011. “Sure Step is a transformational opportunity that enables our entire team to develop more productive ways of working together and with our customers,” says Verschueren. “It also accelerates the adoption of Microsoft Dynamics CRM in customer businesses and helps customers realize a higher return on their technology investment.”


Read the full story:


The smallest new feature in the New Sure Step Content release

It has been a while since I posted a new blog entry, nearly a year to be honest. But I have a valid excuse; at least I think I have.  I wrote a book on Sure Step, which is an equivalent of a few thousand blog entries. So, this must be a valid excuse. Unfortunately, you can’t read those entries on this blog but they are bundled and available as a book in the PacktPub store:

Anyway, my last blog dated from 17 December 2009 and introduced Sure Step 2010. This blog introduces the new content update on Sure Step 2010: content version For a general overview of what this version has to offer you, I refer you to the blog of Vjekoslav Babic :

I want to concentrate now on only one of the new interesting content topics, probably the smallest new feature in this Sure Step version.

Did you know that there is something like a “Customer Readiness Assessment”? This is an online “Project Readiness Assessment” for the customer stakeholders about to start a ERP or CRM implementation or as Microsoft states it: “Project readiness – both from the customer and partner perspective - is one of the key ingredients to help ensure success of any ERP or CRM implementation.  To ensure this overall readiness, we have created the Microsoft Dynamics Project Readiness Assessment. This assessment has been designed to help identify and address the most critical factors that are likely to impact the success of your ERP or CRM implementation - before they become critical issues.

This assessment represents a means for Partners to help their Customers assess their readiness to launch a successful ERP or CRM project. To make customers aware that a project is something unique requiring good readiness and a solid approach in order to be successful.

Partners can invite their customers to take this assessment before starting the implementation, that means in the Diagnostics phase when you want to discuss and agree upon your approach. They will receive an invitation code by which they can take the assessment.

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After taking the questions, they will have access to a dashboard explaining their readiness scores and telling them what they can do to improve their due diligence.

Now why do I tell you this? Well because the smallest new feature in this content release of Sure Step has a link to this customer readiness assessment

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Right on top of the Diagnostics phase, in the Tools-Templates and Links section, you can find an email template that you can use to introduce your customer or prospect to the assessment. This email will explain what the assessment is, why it is important and where to find information on it. The email content looks like this:

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It includes good links to create “project readiness awareness” like this one:

So that was the smallest new, but really valuable, new feature in this new sure step release. Next time, I will blog you on the new NAV specific content that has been made available in Sure Step. Stay tuned!.


Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step 2010 now available

Great news, the latest version of Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step was released today: Sure Step 2010. This new release includes great new features like:

Enhanced SharePoint integration provides improved collaboration and project tracking capabilities for Sales, Implementation and Optimization engagements.
You can now create a project collaboration SharePoint site straight from Sure Step itself. This collaboration site will automatically be populated with all the tools and templates from Sure Step.

Agile Project Type – The addition of this project type which will be especially suitable for implementations where the Microsoft Dynamics solution is positioned as a platform rather than as a commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) system. The Agile Project Type is organized as a sprint based delivery of deliverables (Scrum based).

Enhancements to the Diagnostic Phase including a link between Sure Step and Unleash Your Potential, an Industry Playbook to assist the Sales Roles focused on selling Microsoft Dynamics solutions catered to a specific industry/vertical, a consolidated set of Decision Accelerator Offerings, estimation tools and an enhanced ROI calculator.

New updated templates to support the latest Microsoft Dynamics release

Industry and Cross-Product Content - Positioning and deploying Microsoft Dynamics solutions in a given Industry or its related segments.  Industry Pilots for AX Process Manufacturing and CRM Public Sector including the launch of an Industry Playbook for solution selling. 

Guidance on xRM platform due-diligence and deployment.

Organizational Change Management Discipline – New guidance on managing organizational change, to address this common challenge in any ERP or CRM deployment.

Want to know more?


How can we customize Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step?

I’ve been teaching and evangelizing Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step for the past two years to Microsoft Dynamics partners.  A recurring question is “How can we customize Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step?” and mostly this question is raised even before I start teaching the content.  I can always expect this question regardless of the region where I am teaching Sure Step (Benelux, Baltic, Balkan, Scandinavia, UK …). It is a recurring and universal question.

You might think that I hate that question. The answer is no and as a matter of fact I really love that question.  It’s the perfect bridge to my key message: by implementing only a few fundamental techniques from Sure Step you could increase your chances for project success, profitability, customer and employee satisfaction significantly. So why do you want to start by customizing Sure Step?  Spending that energy and time in implementing only a few of the basic principles from Sure Step would result in much more added value for your organization than the customization effort could ever realize.

If you think about it, this question is also a bit funny. We, software implementers, are usually skeptic about all the customization requests that we receive from our customers when they implement ERP or CRM solutions. We are usually surprised why they always want to change the ERP or CRM system even before they understand the basics about their new system. And now we are acting in exactly the same wayJ. We try to do the same when we are firstly introduced to this new thing called Sure Step: change it, make it to resemble to what we have, … .

Now, this is not so strange. We want to change what we don’t understand and so do our customers. So the best thing is to learn first and understand this new thing. Now guess what? At the end of my trainings, nobody wants to change it anymore.

Let’s go back to these basic Sure Step principles that will help you increase your project success in no time. What crazy principles am I talking about? Well I’ve got a list of these but I am only going to address one in this blog (you can’t have it all and there is no such thing as a free lunch).

I want to address and get your attention for the “over planned Deployment phase”.  When I ask people how they manage projects I usually get the same type of answers:”We have a methodology, we work with phases and we have documentation”.  When I then start digging a bit deeper, I usually conclude that these phases sometimes don’t make any difference at all in terms of project quality. Why? Because sometimes people think that their project is guided by phases while in reality they are not working with phases at all. They only have one phase because they don’t respect the principles of phases and the planning of activities and deliverables within the phases is not smart at all.

One of the striking things is that the bulk load of mission critical activities and deliverables are planned in the deployment phase.  Or let me rephrase that, are postponed to the deployment phase. That means that most of the activity is going on right before the planned go-live, very late in the project lifecycle. That is not really smart.  

Why not? First of all, with so many planned activities and deliverables in one phase, it will become very difficult to manage it. You will be forced to eat the whale in one bite.  When you keep all the activity for the end, you can only identify most of the problems and issues at the end. So you will lose all your pro-active power. Remember you are near the supposed end of your project, being pro-active requires the identification of problems as early as possible. Usually around this period of time you are also running out of time of budget but corrective actions need budget and time?

Good deployments need active customer involvement as well. If you keep most of the significant customer activity for the deployment phase itself, it will be very difficult for the customer to get all this activity planned. Remember, their resources also have a business to run.

So over planning your deployment phases is asking for problems, you should be spreading your activities and deliverables much more over your complete project lifecycle. How can you do that? What do you need to plan when, in which phase?

Well, Sure Step can give you these answers instantly and we (Plataan) can help you to see and understand this instant value whenever you wantJ.  Follow a Sure Step training, it is an excellent investing and the ROI is proven (by myselfJ)

And please, do keep asking how you can customize sure step! I love it.


Sure Step V2


On 04/07/2008 the second version of the Sure Step Methodology was released by Microsoft and presented during WPC 08 (Microsoft World Partner Conference) in Houston. What is Sure Step ? We have adressed this already in prior posts (see category Project Management), in essence it is an implementation methodology based on the project management principles of PMI/PMBOK.

On the partnersource Sure Step landing page, you will find this:

"an implementation methodology including an enhanced set of best practices and extendable templates that support collaboration with other partners, provide you more project predictability, and improve your customers’ satisfaction with their Microsoft Dynamics ERP or CRM solutions."

Effective project management is a necessity in every software implementation project. Project management is much more than creating documents. Microsoft is really convinced about the importance of project management and did a great investment in Sure Step in general and the second version specifically.

Partnesource: New in this release

During the year since Sure Step was first released, many Microsoft Dynamics partners have used it to improve their efficiency and new customer relationships. To date, more than 1,300 Microsoft Dynamics service and consulting professionals have been trained on Sure Step. Now, Microsoft is adding even more value to Sure Step in this latest release through many improvements to help you drive increased efficiency, productivity, and profitability.

  • New templates and sample documents—364 in total, with sample customer deliverables defined, can be used as a reference guide to help you ramp new consultants and build project documents for customers
  • Enhanced project types—5 in total, including streamlined activities and documentation for:
  • Rapid deployments with fewer than 20 implementation steps to get your customers up and running quickly on their Microsoft Dynamics solutions
  • Multi-site implementation rollouts for large, multi–geography deployments, allowing you to fully implement Microsoft Dynamics at one site and then quickly deploy at all additional sites
  • New Sure Step Client helps make your projects easier to manage by providing you a new project workspace where you can customize and maintain multiple projects for multiple customers, with convenient views of all project deliverables and documentation

Ssm_client The new Sure Step Client is a fabulous improvement. You can now create your own project workspace and decide yourself which sure step documents and templates to use. You can also very easily add your own templates. Customization is no issue. For each document and template you can ask sure step guidance very easily. If someone on the project team wants to know about the purpose and details in this template, they are refered instantly to the corresponding content page of sure  step.

As from the early moments in the project lifecycle there is a systematic and very consistent build up untill the end of the project lifecycle.This guided by templates and tools. Early specs and gap fit situation will steer and drive analysis and design in a great way. It takes some time to understand and to see the complete picture but once you are never want to go back from where you came. Sure Step V2 is that good that it becomes addictive:-)

Sure Step is the fastest starting point for any partner who wants to deliver quality implementations and improve his customer satisfaction rates. This is the moment to step onboard!

Dsc00147Plataan had the great opportunity and pleasure to develop the new official Microsoft courseware for Sure Step. This for AX, NAV and CRM tracks. We managed our own project with sure step guidance and templates and managed to deliver in time, on budget and with great quality.

We also delivered the TTT tracks (train-the-trainer) for Microsoft in Redmond. Many North American trainers and Microsoft staff attended the sessions. Everybody was pleased with both the courseware material and with Sure Step V2.

We will now deliver the Sure Step TTT EMEA session in Amsterdam. If you have any questions related to Sure Step, feel free to address them to me. I will try to help you out as much as I can, to get you on the Sure Step.

Also, check out our special training offer on Sure Step and Project Management:

2008072866693_3    Vincent Bellefroid

   Skype : vincent Bellefroid


Conduct key user training early on

Keyusertraining Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step Methodology plans "key user training" as of the start of the Analysis phase.

It should primarily focus on educating the customer resources in the capabilities of the application so they can participate in business process analysis, gap/fit discussions, application configuration, and customization design. It will help both the implementing organization and the customer to develop a common language and mutual understanding.

During training I had a lot of interesting discussions regarding this "key user training". Some students confirm the great benefit of key user training early in the process others disagree.

I found a real good blogitem about this subject on the blog of Vjeko. The article is called "Standard enemy" and illustrates another great advantage of "key user training" early in the process. You can read it here. Enjoy.


Workbreakdownstructure in Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step Methodology

A good technique to master and manage your project scope is the use of a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).

What is a WBS?

Wikipedia definition:
A work breakdown structure or WBS is a fundamental project management tool. A common technique for defining and organizing the total scope of a project, is to use a hierarchical tree structure. The first two levels of the WBS (the root node and Level 2) define a set of planned outcomes that collectively and exclusively represent 100% of the project scope. At each subsequent level, the children of a parent node collectively and exclusively represent 100% of the scope of their parent node. More generally, outside of it's original mil standard and PERT/CPM context, a WBS is a mapping from one level of system specification to another, for example a requirements cross reference matrix mapping functional requirements to high level or low level design documents. A well-designed WBS describes planned outcomes instead of planned actions

In Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step Methodology WBS structures are included. The planning tools (MS Projects) are also based on the available WBS structures. The only thing not there is a nice visualization of the tree structure. On the web I found a nice tool called WBS Chartpro. You can use this tool to create WBS structures but also it can create a WBS automatically based on a MS Project file.

WBS Chart Pro can be used to generate WBS charts directly from existing Microsoft Project plans. WBS Chart Pro uses the Outline created in Microsoft Project to generate a hierarchical view of the data. A WBS toolbar button can be installed into Microsoft Project for easy transfer of data. As you organize and change your project in Microsoft Project, a WBS chart of that data is only a button away.


Vintage broadcast about Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step methodology


By surfing the web I did found a radio broadcast about Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step Methodology.

In this episode a conversation with Nathan Warner and Christine Bell is recorded. This conversation is about the V1 version of Sure Step. So about the version released last year.

It is a partnercast available at click here.

If you play it, you will be captured by a vintage feeling that refers to past radio history. If the word Telefunken means anything to you, yo will know what I mean.

The combination of a radio broadcast of which the quality and feeling refers to the early days of radio and information about the latest Microsoft implementation methodology is kind of funny and cool at the same time. If you really listen well you can also pick up some interesting information.

What you also need to know is that the V2 version of Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step Methodology is on its way. The dev teams in Redmond are working on it and the Plataan team in Hasselt/Limburg/Belgium is also working on the official courseware for this version in parallel track with the Redmond dev team. How cool is that?


New Sure Step Methodology version 1.1 released


An updated version of Sure Step Methodology was released on January 21st.
What's new?

  • A set of new templates targeted at Microsoft Dynamics GP
  • Translations of the customer facing templates in the following languages:
    • German
    • Spanish
    • French
  • New editor functionality
    • Support for localized versions of Microsoft® Office Visio® 2003 or Microsoft® Office Visio® 2007
    • Template update feature

      this will allow updates to any existing content site with new and/or translated template versions

List of translated Templates in V1.1

The following table shows the templates that have been translated into German, Spanish and French.


Original Filename:

Project Charter


Statement of Work (SOW)


Project Plan Sample




Gap/Fit Analysis


Communication Plan


Kick-off Presentation


Issue List


Scope Change Request Log


Scope Change Request Form


Functional Requirements Document



Sure Step Essentials

Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step is a methodology and a tool for project managers implementing Microsoft Dynamics products.

Project Management? Lots of people think that Project Management is working with a phased based approach and writing documents. Other people know it is more than this but do not seem to get any further then defining phases and writing and delivering a number of documents.
Others confuse project managers with document and backffice administrators.

Project Management is quality and your quality can be only as good as your company culture allows it to be.

A project is: a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product service or product
Temporary and unique: this means lot's of uncertainty and means risks.

That's why we need project management! To manage these risks, to be pro-active, to achieve the project goals.

Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to meet project requierements(source PMBOK/ PMI).

Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step is delivering this: knowledge, skills, tools and techniques.
So we are happy to use this.


If you want to have ultimate result, you need to understand the Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step Methodology. If you limit yourself to the definition of phases and some document deliverables, you will not be sure stepping!

People would also like to turn project management into a fill-in-the-blank process.
‘Just give me some forms to fill out that will walk me through the entire planning, scheduling, and controlling thing,’ they say.
Unfortunately, it just won’t work.

It’s like the belief that scheduling software will make you an instant project manager.It won’t. 
Unless you understand the principles behind scheduling, the software will only help you document your failures with great precision. 
The software is a tool.” 

- James P. Lewis

Yes, Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step defines phases.
Yes, Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step defines document deliverables.

But Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step defines much more, let's have a look at some essential parts out of the methodology:


Breakdown_3 How do you define your scope best? Break your scope up in small manageable components.

For this, use the Work Breakdown Structure technique.
Info by Microsoft about WBS

Info by Hyperhot about WBS

The psychologists say our brains can normally comprehend around 7-9 items simultaneously.  A project with thousands or even dozens of tasks goes way over our ability to grasp all at once.  The solution is to divide and conquer. The WBS helps break thousands of tasks into chunks that we can understand and assimilate.  Preparing and understanding a WBS for your project is a big step towards managing and mastering its inherent complexity. 

Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step is aligned with other project management methodologies (PMI, Prince2, ..) in advising the WBS technique. Under Project Management/ Disciplines/ Scope Management you will find "create work breakdown structure":

Surestep_scope_mgmtIn the HTML section for this activity you will find Sure Step explaining the essentials of the WBS technique and also in tools and templates you will find predefined WBS'es for your projects. Off course, you will need to make a WBS for your particular project content as well.

Essential for a WBS: think in terms of Deliverables!

The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is a deliverable oriented hierarchical decomposition of the work to be executed by the project team. The lowest level components of the WBS are tasks, sometimes called work packages. Do not start or limit yourself with defining"tasks".

The WBS will be as of then an important instrument for your project. It creates a universal project language for all project stakeholders and will be the basis for many other things!

Benefits_of_wbsThe WBS will be input for:

Project Schedule
Project control

2. Use Estimating techniques
Estimating techniques can be "top-down" or "bottom-up".
Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step says:

"Estimation techniques include the use of consulting experts, estimates from similar projects, bottom up or parametric estimating. Parametric estimating uses the advantage of similar and repeatable work to estimate it once and calculate the frequency of it. The estimation process for a project is a summary of different estimation approaches. For example, time for project management is often estimated in relation to project indicators, but development estimates are mostly established using a bottom up approach. A top down approach (given budget or timeline) needs the flexibility to adjust the scope for a successful project execution. Iterative estimating helps to adjust the scope in accordance to the constraints."

Use your WBS for the bottom up estimating.

Question yourself: what are our company estimating techniques? Do we use this in a consistent, structural way? Do we use a combination of techniques? If not, then how accurate can/will your estimates be?

3. Develop a project schedule by using PDM and CPM
Precedence Diagramming Method
CPM?: Critical Path Methodology
Sure Step is advising both techniques for the development of your project schedule:

"Develop the project schedule including activities and milestones logically sequenced with precedence relationships as well as leads and lags"



4. Prepare project tracking and reporting
Sure Step recommends "Earned Value Techniques":

Diverting from the defined project baseline should be identified as soon as possible. Depending on the complexity of the project or the project team, it is necessary to make use of methods to measure the project performance. The earned value concept (EV) is a commonly used method that integrates project scope, cost and schedule to help the project management get an overview of how the project keeps the defined baseline and what causes variances to it.

Planned value (PV)

Amount spent on a task between the task's start date and the status date.

Example: Total planned budget for a 4-month task is $400 and it starts in April. If the status date is set to June, the PV is $200.

Actual cost (AC)

Amount spent while performing work on a task during a given period.

Example: If the 4-month task actually incurs a total cost of $125 during the first 2 months, the AC is $250 (but the PV is still $200!!)

Earned value (EV)

Amount that should have been spent for a given percentage of work performed on a task.

Example: If the 4-month task has 25% of the work completed after 2 months, the earned value is $100 (but the PV is still $200!!)

Essential is that your EV followup is aligned with your breaking up of the scope.

Do you master these basic techniques?

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