Yet Another Change (or how Microsoft CRM got the better of me)

For the last three months, I’d been doing some Microsoft Dynamics CRM administrating. If you read my previous post, you’ll see that I was not enjoying things. Well, Microsoft Dynamics CRM has won the battle of wills. I have decided to move on to more (mostly) familiar ground and do some e-Commerce programming. So… what went wrong? It’s complicated, but here goes.First, let me discuss the things that I liked about my last gig.

I liked the people of the organization. They were dedicated to their mission and they took their jobs seriously. I especially liked the people on my team. They were very hard to make the best of a somewhat questionable situation. I even liked my project manager. He worked tirelessly to make sure that we had realistic requirements and goals. We always knew what we had to do and when it had to be done.

Sounds good, right? So what did I not like? Here goes…

My job was to replace the consultants who had delivered a Microsoft Dynamics CRM solution to the organization. They had been in place about 2 years learning our business and implementing a CRM solution. Since I have some (limited) experience with Microsoft CRM 3.0 and 4.0 I expected to learn the ins-and-outs of CRM 2011to a point where the maintenance of the system would be on my shoulders and the consultants would be out the door.

Well, I have managed to learn (to a good degree) how to maintain a CRM 2011 installation. I managed to learn:

  • oData queries
  • FetchXML
  • Writing C# code to create custom Plug-ins
  • Creating Windows based, CRM-aware applications
  • and I got re-acquainted with making AJAX calls from Javascript

Looks good right?

Unfortunately, the more I learned of this, the more I realized the the consulting company did not deliver a product that was ready for production. They did a good job (mostly) on what they did deliver. But a lot of what they did deliver was lacking in one area or another (buggy plug-ins, bad/inefficient SQL) and in some cases they completely “missed” the business requirements. In fact, about half of my tasks were to fix something that was delivered by the consulting company.

At this point, the consultants and I began stepping on each others’ toes. On more than one occasion, mis-communication between the consultants and us caused us to both start in the implementation of something that was broken or not delivered. I have to take some of the blame for this. On more than one occasion, I would take ownership of a “trouble ticket” to fix something only to find out that the consultants had done the same, but had not updated the “trouble ticket” to indicate that they were working on a solution. I guess I should have “announced” that I was working on something.

What shocked me even more, though, was when I found out that this same consulting company had been hired to design and implement a very large Time and Accounting project that would eventually tie into the CRM installation. That new project team has been on-site for over two months (at a cost of over $1000/hour for the team) and have succeeded in missing almost every deadline imposed. I fail to understand how they were hired on for the second project. I guess our department manager must know something that I do not.

Which brings me to our department manager. He is a unique individual on whom I have failed to get a “reading.” He has a lot of meetings to attend. He likes to remind everyone who will listen that he has a lot of meetings to attend. The result of this is that he has very little time for the department he manages. This is not always a bad thing. But it prevented me from getting “on-board” with him as my leader. He is also very proud of how our CRM installation will look on his resume (his words, not mine). I guess he hasn’t had to use our CRM for day-to-day business. If he did, he would see that his “cutting edge” design has produced an installation that is slow, unreliable and fails (by design) to provide the features he sought to implement in the first place (e.g. two virtual servers on the same physical device, which are designed for “fail-over” in case of something like a power-outage). He will insist that we only work on “open tickets”, yet none of his “emergency items” are ever entered into the trouble-ticket system. So when I work on his items I get reminded that I’m only supposed to work on open trouble tickets. What’s the male equivalent of “prima-donna”?

As I mentioned in a previous post, as bad as I think I have it (not that bad actually) our DBA has it much worse. The Scribe tool that we use to transfer data from an outside source into the CRM on a semi-monthly basis is nothing short of “reilably unreliable.” The Scribe package that was designed by our consultants has yet to function properly. Yet we are tied to this horrible POS with no relief in sight.

Previously someone suggested that we should have gotten different consultants. But if you call Microsoft and ask about consultants our consultants come up first. In fact, they wrote the book on CRM. Literally. Kickbacks, anyone?

So, to cut though all the rambling: I liked the people on my team and the people of the organization. I did not like the consultants that implemented our CRM and I did not like the department head. In short, I did not have confidence in my leadership and the product they chose to implement. As someone once told me, “if you work for someone, then WORK for them.” Since I can not support my leadership, it is time to move on. So, I have.

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