Amazing Applications - build Dynamics 365, Power Apps and Power BI apps that everyone will love

The Making of MISSION CRM with CJ Brooks

March 23, 2021 Neil Benson Episode 27
Amazing Applications - build Dynamics 365, Power Apps and Power BI apps that everyone will love
The Making of MISSION CRM with CJ Brooks
Chapters
Amazing Applications - build Dynamics 365, Power Apps and Power BI apps that everyone will love
The Making of MISSION CRM with CJ Brooks
Mar 23, 2021 Episode 27
Neil Benson

Join me with CJ Brooks, a Fundraising and Engagement Architect at Mission CRM as we talk about how Mission CRM closed the doors on their consulting practice to focus on building the Mission CRM fundraising and engagement application for nonprofit organizations. 

Make sure you stick around until the end of this episode to find out how you can get access to the bonus episode with Neil Benson and CJ Brooks extended interview.

Our discussion covers:

  • How Mission CRM took a step back and pivoted to create an application.
  • How Mission CRM adapted to Microsoft's not for profit accelerator soon after the release of their not for profit products.
  • Striking the balance between agile software development and well structure dev ops.

If you'd like to hear that bonus extended interview, please make sure you subscribe to the Amazing Apps show in your podcast player and set it to download new episodes automatically.

Resources

CJ Brooks on LinkedIn
MISSION CRM on LinkedIn
MISSION website
Demo: Dynamics 365 Fundraising & Engagement

Support the show (https://buymeacoffee.com/amazingapps)

Show Notes Transcript

Join me with CJ Brooks, a Fundraising and Engagement Architect at Mission CRM as we talk about how Mission CRM closed the doors on their consulting practice to focus on building the Mission CRM fundraising and engagement application for nonprofit organizations. 

Make sure you stick around until the end of this episode to find out how you can get access to the bonus episode with Neil Benson and CJ Brooks extended interview.

Our discussion covers:

  • How Mission CRM took a step back and pivoted to create an application.
  • How Mission CRM adapted to Microsoft's not for profit accelerator soon after the release of their not for profit products.
  • Striking the balance between agile software development and well structure dev ops.

If you'd like to hear that bonus extended interview, please make sure you subscribe to the Amazing Apps show in your podcast player and set it to download new episodes automatically.

Resources

CJ Brooks on LinkedIn
MISSION CRM on LinkedIn
MISSION website
Demo: Dynamics 365 Fundraising & Engagement

Support the show (https://buymeacoffee.com/amazingapps)

 Speaker 2 

Welcome to the Amazing app show from Microsoft business applications makers who want to build amazing applications that everyone will love. 

 Speaker 2 

Hi there, I'm your host, Neil Benson. My goal on this show is to help you slash your project budgets, reduce your delivery timelines, mitigate technical risks and create amazing agile Microsoft Dynamics 365 and power platform applications. 

 Speaker 2 

You probably can't see it on this podcast episode, even if you squint at the episode artwork, but I'm wearing an amazing apps Tshirt 

 Speaker 2 

I'll be making them available through a swag store soon if you'd like to support the show, but I'll tell you what. Let's give away a Tshirt if you would like a free amazing applications T shirt. Post the podcast cover art on your LinkedIn feed and tag the two people represented in the artwork. Here's a clue. I'm the one wearing the hard hat. 

 Speaker 2 

And the other one is the original co-host. Back when we started in 2018 working at KPMG together, I don't have a T shirt shotgun, but I'll get in touch with the first person to post the cover art and tag the original co-hosts. I'll find out your color and size and get it shipped out to you. 

 Speaker 2 

Right, let's get into it. 

 Speaker 2 

This is another interview episode packed with insights on how to build amazing applications as an ISV. As an independent software vendor. 

 Speaker 2 

In the last episode we heard from Burt Wijns at Power Accelerate, and I hope you subscribed to the show and listened to the extended bonus episode with Burt because we've got another bonus extended episode for this episodes guest as well. 

 Speaker 2 

He's CJ Brooks. 

 Speaker 2 

He's the fund raising an engagement architect at Mission CRM. 

 Speaker 2 

And as you'll find out in this episode, he likes to pretend he's from Canada just as much as I like to pretend that I'm from Australia. 

 Speaker 2 

CJ reveals how Mission CRM, close the doors on their consulting practice to focus on building the Mission CRM fundraising and engagement application for nonprofit organizations. 

 Speaker 2 

I picture the gates to their office locked like the gates to Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. No one has come in or out for years, but you can smell the wonderful aroma of chocolate being made inside. I hope you enjoy it. You'll find show notes for this episode at customery.com Slash 027. That's the word customer with the word y on the end dot com slash 027. 

 Speaker 2 

Remember to subscribe to the Amazing Applications Podcast on your favorite podcast player so that you get access to the special Extended interview episode. 

 Speaker 2 

In that one CJ and I try to solve the Elon Musk problem in data verse. 

 Speaker 2 

We discussed the art of simplicity in application design, how Mission CRM chose its licensing model and how they imagine their road map for future investments. 

 Speaker 2 

CJ Brooks, welcome to the Amazing Applications podcast. 

 Speaker 2 

It's great to have you on the show. 

 Speaker 1 

Thank you for having me there. 

 Speaker 1 

Neil its something I've been looking forward to for quite some time. 

 Speaker 2 

What we'd love to do to get to know you a little bit better. 

 Speaker 2 

I normally start with three kind of easy questions just so we can understand your background and what you up to. 

 Speaker 2 

So can you tell us first of all what you had for breakfast this? 

 Speaker 2 

Morning. 

 Speaker 1 

Well, for breakfast I had this morning very exciting. 

 Speaker 1 

I had yesterday's burger, which went uneaten last night actually. 

 Speaker 1 

So yeah, very healthy breakfast indeed. 

 Speaker 2 

Sounds like the type of thing I would eat when I was a single young man living, you know, in a dorm room somewhere. 

 Speaker 1 

There's nothing better than leftover pizza, last night's Curry, or sometimes a burger for breakfast. 

 Speaker 1 

I really don't know why. 

 Speaker 1 

If it's so great for dinner, why would it not be great for breakfast as well, right? 

 Speaker 1 

So? 

 Speaker 2 

I've started whenever I make pizzas for the family, the last pizza together, I made eight pizzas on  Saturday night the last pizza I slightly undercooked in the pizza oven, 'cause I knew that nobody could finish it and we'd have to reheat it the next day and it cooks a little bit more on Sunday. 

 Speaker 2 

So on Monday. 

 Speaker 2 

So yeah, I I strategically cooked leftovers next day. 

 Speaker 1 

There you go. 

 Speaker 2 

Yeah and kids then, yeah, that's right. 

 Speaker 1 

Like a bakers dozen, right? 

 Speaker 1 

So yeah. 

 Speaker 2 

What was your? 

 Speaker 2 

What was your first job either coming out of school or University love to find out how you got started? 

 Speaker 1 

Yeah, so my first job actually. For full time employment was network engineer. I was traveling around the UK at the time implementing on behalf of a Genesis which is like in New Zealand voiceover IP company literally plugging servers in. Plugging cabling, doing the CAT5 joining and all those things and stuff. So my my actual background is like electrical engineer so. 

 Speaker 2 

Oh cool. 

 Speaker 2 

Good stuff and what's your role today? 

 Speaker 1 

Today I am product manager of Mission CRM and I'm in charge of creating our application. 

 Speaker 1 

The Mission CRM application on top of fund raising engagement and also one of the Co creators of fund raising engagement along with Mission CRM with Microsoft as well. 

 Speaker 2 

Good stuff, I'd love to get into that story a little bit more and how you built the application, but tell me you're based in Canada. 

 Speaker 2 

Your accent sounds as much Canadian as my accent sounds Australian. 

 Speaker 2 

What's going on there? 

 Speaker 1 

Yeah, so originally from the UK. 

 Speaker 1 

I moved to Canada about 10 years ago. 

 Speaker 1 

At this point in time and and my actual background was born and raised around in the northwest, but traveled quite a bit as well. 

 Speaker 1 

So lived in London, living in Switzerland and Zurich for a bit. 

 Speaker 1 

Went to school there for some time and then. 

 Speaker 1 

Back to London again and then ended up in in Canada and Canada  has treated me phenomenally well. 

 Speaker 1 

So happy to find a home here. 

 Speaker 2 

Yeah, good stuff. 

 Speaker 2 

I say the same thing about Australia. 

 Speaker 2 

I'm really lucky to be here too. 

 Speaker 2 

Whenever I think about the cold weather and the warm beer back in the UK. 

 Speaker 1 

We we have flip flopping of weather as is. 

 Speaker 1 

I always tell my friends back in the in the UK. 

 Speaker 1 

You know I can't tell you what it feels like to live in a country where it's plus 40 in the summer and minus 40 Celsius in the winter like that ranges is mind boggling, you know, but it's something that we see like every single time here so. 

 Speaker 2 

The weather here in Queensland varies my .30 degrees in the winter to about 34 degrees in the summer. 

 Speaker 1 

OK, yeah. 

 Speaker 2 

Pretty consistent. 

 Speaker 1 

Pretty consistent, yeah, I say so. 

 Speaker 2 

Mission CRM tell me a little about the company and what it does, what we'd love to find out is about the application you built as well, but tell us a little bit about Mission CRM to begin with. 

 Speaker 1 

Yeah, well Mission CRM’s genesis I, I guess really was around our background of implementing custom solutions over and over again. 

 Speaker 1 

You know for various different clients own dynamics on the background of dynamics to the point where we actually started to do some implementations for some nonprofits. 

 Speaker 1 

And you know at at the time this is like, you know, five years ago you know we were saying to ourselves like why isn't there like a turnkey application that uses this phenomenal platform dynamics but retailors it for nonprofits needs for fund raising. 

 Speaker 1 

You know there's a huge market out there occupied really successfully by a lot of other vendors, and it just seemed like there was a bit of a lost opportunity. 

 Speaker 1 

So we set out to do incredible amount investigation into what really was going on in the place and and there are absolutely people in dynamics that do this. We saw a gap in like that plug and Play App Store enabled application so that led us on a journey to create the Mission CRM system as we see it today and it also allowed us to partner with Microsoft and building fund raising and engagement which is which is a fund raising based solution built specifically for dynamics as an application that turns dynamics into a fund raising solution. And you know, on the back of that we've also extended that application to add additional features as well. And this really all came about from, you know, many vendors like Salesforce in their application world were having an incredible amount of success in their .org solutions as well, and we also saw that you know other organizations like Blackbaud are having tremendous success with their fund raising solutions, but there is no real consistent like mass market dynamics approach. 

 Speaker 1 

Where is the cloud first approach where we could kind of leverage everything that was happening in dynamics as it was occurring? 

 Speaker 1 

And of course, to give, what are very, very different needs to the nonprofit. 

 Speaker 1 

One of the interesting things about nonprofits is they have the least amount of operational money to spend, but they have some of the most stringent compliance rules in the world. 

 Speaker 1 

So all these things that they are so fitting for technology in automation and workflow processing. 

 Speaker 1 

It just seemed like such a great fit to have that powerful dynamics 365 customer engagement application. Behind the scenes, you know providing all the back processing for things like you know, online donations, event management, receipting all these things that are real headache for nonprofits. 

 Speaker 1 

Now, like a real Microsoft offering. 

 Speaker 1 

So that was really why we kind of drove ourselves to create the system in the first place. 

 Speaker 2 

It's a very difficult decision for if I look back at Mission CRM four or five years ago you were a systems integrator building deploying custom applications for your clients. To take a step back and say we want to build some repeatable, reusable intellectual property, you've either got to find a consultant or two who is on the bench and build this application in your spare time, or pull people away from consulting work to go and develop a product, and that requires you know either a lot of patience or a lot of investment. 

 Speaker 2 

If you manage to raise a little money, how did you manage to approach that problem? 

 Speaker 2 

'cause a lot of our SIs seem to stumble at that, and these things are are built on people spare time and they never really get kind of a professional development approach and they fall by the wayside. 

 Speaker 1 

You know that's a really interesting observation, because what what I've you know, like we we've opened in the dynamic space for so long now you will see a lot of SIs that you know, product heist a project but but that's very different than building a product from the very get go. 

 Speaker 1 

You know, that's trying to find a use for something existing, and so you have. 

 Speaker 1 

The legacy decisions in in that SI product that then becomes product ..., right? So yeah, it's it's a huge decision. I mean the the reality is that from my perspective, like the writing was on the wall, you know Microsoft were either going to back people that found niche verticals where they could build an ISV community or they were just going to go back to biggest where they could find as far as SIs. 

 Speaker 1 

And so I didn't want to be that, you know, collateral along that journey. 

 Speaker 1 

So I think I think every SI is probably asking themselves right now. 

 Speaker 1 

And when you go this like low code adoption and the power platform that we've seen like such change, like like I've been doing this since like 2002, when, like version 1.1 1.2 came out in the in the UK. 

 Speaker 1 

I think there's been more change in the last three years then the 10 that preceded it like it's it's phenomenon and each each application iteration empowers the client and customers so much more whereby we're now seeing that you know there's very little that differentiates SI number one to SI number two. So for us it was. It was strategic decision, really painful. 

 Speaker 1 

Like I'll never forget like we were, we were offered a phenomenal consulting role for really high profile client and it would have been incredible amount of revenue and our president at the time just said like no because if we do this we're never going to get out of always building custom solutions. 

Speaker 2 

Wow. 

 Speaker 1 

And always competing with everyone else around us. 

 Speaker 1 

So so it was decision. 

 Speaker 1 

It was like we step back. 

 Speaker 1 

We took the 18 members that we had at the time we’re a bit more than that now of course, but yeah, and then had to be able to plug holes for about two years and just work really, really hard to get that first product out there in that first release. 

 Speaker 1 

And we were really lucky we had. 

 Speaker 1 

We have found some some customers that were willing to take some risks too. 

 Speaker 1 

I mean. 

 Speaker 1 

Imagine a big non profit taking a gamble from really established players at the time to effectively a startup with no track record in fund raising systems. 

 Speaker 1 

And so, along with those partners that were, you know, like looking for change in the market, we got some really build an improve our first system with those partners and and you know, we have to give a big shout out to like organizations like right to play who who really saw what, could happen on that platform and how it could really change. 

 Speaker 1 

And adopt how their funds were used internally for their administration, and they really helped build the product that it is today is as well. 

 Speaker 1 

In fact, there's a great case study on right to play awesome movie do a phenomenal amount of great work. 

 Speaker 1 

But yeah, so. 

 Speaker 1 

Two things to making that decision and quite frankly luck in finding a client that was ready to be that poster child and to go on that journey with you. 

 Speaker 2 

So. 

 Speaker 2 

So Mission CRM was turning away consulting work, unless it was in the not for profit sector and it was in the not for profit sector had to remind the client that they need to be brave enough because you're building a product with their input with their help and they're going to effectively be a beta client for this new platform that you were building. 

 Speaker 2 

It's a couple of brave leaps, well done. 

 Speaker 1 

That's it, yeah, right. 

 Speaker 1 

Brave leaps and luck right. 

 Speaker 1 

As they say. 

 Speaker 1 

But you know it was really also about that strategy. 

And you know, I never forget the turning point because we had this idea for a long time and it was always, you know, that consulting was coming in the way and it was. 

 Speaker 1 

It was never the priority and so I think it was really like Christina, our President, who said like unless we just stop it. 

 Speaker 1 

Stop doing that consulting work today. 

 Speaker 1 

We're never going to get this product off the ground to where it needs to be so. 

 Speaker 1 

You know it takes a lot of guts and she made like a phenomenal decision. 

 Speaker 1 

An obviously we’re reaping the rewards of that now so. 

 Speaker 2 

Tell me about those initial projects were you're building the product and licensing it to those early customers, or was it more of a consulting engagement with those early customers where you're building an application to suit their specific purpose? 

 Speaker 1 

Oh no, we built the product first of all. 

 Speaker 1 

So we at the time that we went out to look for customers for our product we were well in like a year and a half and delivery and we're like version two at that point in time. 

 Speaker 1 

So we had like a lot of confidence and I think that's really what allowed us to get those initial customers because they could see you know, without having to be talked through or. 

 Speaker 1 

Vision what their life would be like. 

 Speaker 1 

They could actually see a physical. 

 Speaker 1 

Product in front of them that they could interact with that there was benchmark that was actually tested at that point in time and so they came onto it knowing that it would still be a journey they would be able to put their input into it, and in fact they really kind of are our steering committee at this point in time. 

 Speaker 1 

But no, we went to them with the product and. 

 Speaker 1 

And again, that's why I think makes the big difference. 

 Speaker 1 

Like is if I did it any different way, it would really be. 

 Speaker 1 

I'm trying to resell right to plays or whoever it might be the product and and and that isn't the case 'cause you're never going to be a product and product so different than taking a solution and productizing it. 

 Speaker 2 

I've had a lot of customers very strict on intellectual property rights. 

 Speaker 2 

You know they want to own all the IP and it's theirs, and none of it can be reused by us. 

 Speaker 1 

Yeah. 

 Speaker 2 

But I do remember our client. 

 Speaker 2 

We were building an application in the community service sector, so this is providing Community care at home. 

 Speaker 2 

He was insistent like I want you to build a product. 

 Speaker 2 

I don't want to own any of this intellectual property. 

 Speaker 2 

I want you to take this thing. 

 Speaker 2 

Go out and find other customers. 

 Speaker 2 

I want you to. 

 Speaker 2 

We want to be the first customer in a little steering group. 

 Speaker 2 

That's going to help guide the future development of this thing. 

 Speaker 2 

But yeah, that was really refreshing message to hear. 

 Speaker 2 

Not many clients are willing to go there, so you've obviously found a few along the way. 

 Speaker 1 

Yeah, no, we we, we did. 

 Speaker 1 

We did. 

 Speaker 1 

We know it's interesting. 

 Speaker 1 

Is that actually in the nonprofit space? 

 Speaker 1 

There's quite a few stories like that as well. 

 Speaker 1 

There Neil. 

 Speaker 1 

I mean, flux is a great example. 

 Speaker 1 

Yjey’re a Microsoft partner. 

 Speaker 1 

They build a grant solution and actually it was. 

 Speaker 1 

I think the Ford Foundation. 

 Speaker 1 

They basically said that we need we need a foundation product that can do grants management. 

 Speaker 1 

There's nothing that’s modern on the market right now we build as a product and effectively go sell this product as they go ahead and support it will be your product, but you know we want to be the first product customer so there's a few of those great stories out there and I. 

 Speaker 1 

That's a great example of a client or a potential customer. 

 Speaker 1 

Also understanding what it means to own a product, an an understanding that they will never have that ability, like it's hard to own a product. 

 Speaker 1 

You know there is always competition. 

 Speaker 1 

There are always improvements. 

 Speaker 1 

There are always support and infrastructure and things like that as you grow. 

 Speaker 1 

There are always in your mind when you build that new application or that new feature into the system as well and these are things that it is good that clients like know their limits right and that's why we really I think had a lot of successes with the Mission CRM system after we first built it as well is because we could. 

 Speaker 1 

We could prove that we had the consulting capability at the beginning so we knew how to support it. 

 Speaker 1 

Is equally as just, you know, creating a new product. 

 Speaker 1 

We had to have those services to help them utilize it afterwards and that was one of the great things about our revenue streams. 

 Speaker 1 

Is that it soon became product an application, so our IP or something and then it would become like the managed services and then all of a sudden you start to create your own like ecosystem of services that you can often provide all supporting one another in there and so that's where we're kind of growing into now. 

 Speaker 1 

And it originally. 

 Speaker 1 

It was just to build a product, sell the product, supports it in and you didn't realize how much we would actually create our own ecosystem of potential revenue streams as well, just from making that switch to be an ISV. 

 Speaker 2 

At some point during the development of the Mission CRM application, Microsoft has released their not for profit accelerator. It's one of a number of accelerator's have released for different industries. Some of those are more mature than others. The plus behind them is a common data model to try and modernize and standardize some of the terminology used in. 

 Speaker 2 

Different entities and so on. 

 Speaker 2 

But really, to give partners a foundation to build upon, it sounds like you went first year. Your Mission CRM application available before Microsoft's not for profit accelerator. How is that worked out? 

 Speaker 1 

Yeah, so they brought the accelerator out. 

 Speaker 1 

It was about two years into us just having launched our products and things. 

 Speaker 1 

And so we were like Oh no **** right? 

 Speaker 1 

So yeah, like we just just built this thing and then here comes Microsoft with their like vision for it wasn't and the problem is if they come out with just like a product it would be OK. 

 Speaker 1 

There's a lot of comparable sales accelerators out there and there's a lot of room for additional first party and 2nd party applications. 

 Speaker 1 

But what they did is they basically came up with a blueprint for how. 

 Speaker 1 

Nonprofit product should be built on the dynamics platform utilizing what they're referring to is that common data model like that common data model is effectively like the Rosetta Stone of how nonprofits data should speak to one another 

 Speaker 1 

Data is like the Achilles heel of nonprofits. 

 Speaker 1 

There are so many point solutions that everyone resonates with that message of what that common data model is. 

 Speaker 1 

Anyone from the outside might be like, well, that's just a bunch of fields that are named in a consistent way like what's the big deal, but believe it or not, there's really nothing like it in the nonprofit world except. 

 Speaker 1 

Thousands of point solutions. 

 Speaker 1 

None of which really elegantly talk to each other. 

 Speaker 1 

So here we are year two we’re onboarding new customers and the accelerator comes out and so we have to make another difficult decision. 

 Speaker 1 

Do we keep pushing? 

 Speaker 1 

This application and kind of ride it out and see where they accelerate goes. 

 Speaker 1 

Or is it an opportunity? 

 Speaker 1 

Do we do version like two of the Mission CRM system? 

 Speaker 1 

Do the second one on top of that nonprofit accelerator utilizing that common data model and use all the intellectual property that we've already built for our first time? 

 Speaker 1 

Our knowledge of how dynamics is constructed and just simply apply it to this and. 

 Speaker 1 

And that's what we took so. 

 Speaker 1 

Down come the shop shutters again for a year right and we go back back in a year on the in the front of their shop door sign right and a year later on we come out with Mission CRM . What we internally refer to as V2. The full V2 on the non profit accelerator which utilizes common data model and it worked out. 

 Speaker 1 

We ended up being the first, the first certified in apps stpre, the first legitimate common data model based application for fund raising on dynamics and and I guess that's where maybe Microsoft. 

 Speaker 1 

We caught their attention because of what we were not just doing in that space, but also we were really behind what they were doing. 

 Speaker 1 

We we saw that that was a great idea and that is something that we wanted to be a part of and if the accelerator was about standardizing how applications and nonprofits talk to each. 

 Speaker 1 

Each other then just like any organization, what drives a non profits is typically sales and sales is fund raising. 

 Speaker 1 

So if we could be the fund raising solution we could be at the heart of it and really be the reason as to why you would adopt then not just dynamics but the common data model and it worked out well. 

 Speaker 1 

Thank goodness. 

 Speaker 1 

But yeah another really. 

 Speaker 1 

Very hard decision and and that's the thing with applications. 

 Speaker 1 

If they'll be another hard decision the year after, they'll be another competitor. 

 Speaker 1 

They'll be something else that happens that you have to keep changing, and you have to keep making decisions, but always decisions aligned to that strategy of being the best fund raising solution that there is out there on dynamics and the most technologically advanced utilizing. 

 Speaker 1 

Everything there is, and if you're driven by. 

 Speaker 1 

I, I guess those guiding principles. 

 Speaker 1 

Then the clients will come and the application will will develop along those lines. 

 Speaker 1 

So we were again lucky but strategic as well so. 

 Speaker 2 

That's a great story. 

 Speaker 2 

Are there any other major challenges like that where you had to pivot? 

 Speaker 2 

You know, make some hard decisions and pivot in a pretty tight fashion to get around some of the hurdles facing you? 

Speaker 1 

Well, yeah, actually. 

 Speaker 1 

So one was was really the design of of dynamics. 

 Speaker 1 

Is is an application an incredibly powerful tool. 

 Speaker 1 

But the problem that we had with fund raising is that fund raising is meant to do a lot of things repeatedly in a very short amount of time. 

 Speaker 1 

So you might have a client that has hundreds of thousands of recurring donations that need to be. 

 Speaker 1 

Batch process and so you really blur the line between like ERP Custom Solutions and dynamics. 

 Speaker 1 

One of the things that we originally did is we wanted to be like a centralized service that provided all those things where clients would connect from App Source to us and one of the decisions that we had to make like pretty quickly was actually changing that that architecture around. 

 Speaker 1 

To be client driven and what we found was. 

 Speaker 1 

That the processes ran more smoothly. 

 Speaker 1 

The client likes being in tighter control of their application, and it also meant that a lot of the compliance hurdles where, like you're managing customization on their behalf. 

 Speaker 1 

You could do so securely without actually having to have your your data. 

 Speaker 1 

You know centrally located. 

 Speaker 1 

So we changed our design. 

 Speaker 1 

To have an Azure environment that literally wraps around an organization's tenant infrastructure, so it's all locked behind their Azure environments that only they can get, and really only dynamics can speak to and that was a really great decision. And what we have now invested in that is just phenomenal. 

 Speaker 1 

Like we just started moving Azure service, it did recurring donations and now we've got live donation pages. 

 Speaker 1 

Rich TTL integrations like data validation services and phenomenal amount of process is really being like our home for where dynamics. 

 Speaker 1 

Is is great at surfacing and allowing users to interact with data. It's never being ideal at. Like I gotta go recalculate 1.8 million records in next hour, right? It's just not gonna pass in. You know, it's like that fix right? So so yeah, so so I think learning. 

 Speaker 1 

And adapting to, let's face it, a platforms limits that you have no control over which which, even to this day is still ever changing can prevent present it. 

 Speaker 1 

You know some some architecture challenges at the last minute, right? 

 Speaker 1 

So? 

 Speaker 2 

I've done that on behalf of enterprise clients where I'm offloading a lot of transactional processing to Azure in a similar way. 

 Speaker 1 

Yeah. 

 Speaker 2 

You are, but that's you know.  

 Speaker 2 

One clients dynamics instance. 

 Speaker 2 

One clients Azure instance. 

 Speaker 2 

Are you? 

 Speaker 2 

Do you have a common Azure tenant that is processing transactions for all of your clients, or is it one per customer? 

 Speaker 1 

It's it's one. 

 Speaker 1 

It's one per customer, so one of the things that we did was we invested a lot in. 

 Speaker 1 

How can we make that process really simple? 

 Speaker 1 

We actually did a lot of investment into how the deployment of that Azure environment would actually complete and now when we do an install like a ring. 

 Speaker 1 

And we have to manually create all the services you know, set all the configurations, get all the private keys in place and there was always some human error that could be in there at the very early days. 

 Speaker 1 

And now it's amazing. 

 Speaker 1 

Like going I click a button and the environments built. 

 Speaker 1 

It's just done right? 

 Speaker 1 

So I think one of the things that often like gets under estimated. 

 Speaker 1 

Is I would say that we've invested just as much in our product as we have in the process that support the product's like things like that, right? Like our infrastructure for help. Our infrastructure for support. And when you build this product you can build the most amazing product in the world. But if you haven't got a great learning curriculum to guide. 

 Speaker 1 

Users on them and you're relying on just like in person or like one on one training. 

 Speaker 1 

You're never going to scale. 

 Speaker 1 

Well and and so a lot of investment like you don't realize the beginning gets sucked into just the infrastructure and onboarding and management of clients on the application as well. 

 Speaker 2 

It's funny 'cause you mentioned earlier about sometimes customers want to build an application and they're going to take it to market. 

 Speaker 2 

I get that a lot with seems to be Australian state. 

 Speaker 2 

Agencies who have counterparts in other in other states, right? 

 Speaker 2 

So there's six or seven Departments who have a similar function across Australia. 

 Speaker 2 

One of them wants to build an app and then I make certain power apps and they have a vision for selling it to all of the others to recoup their investment. 

 Speaker 2 

And they just don't have any idea what it takes to build a product. 

 Speaker 2 

The dev OPS investments you have to make an infrastructure deployment like you said in the support process is in the maintenance and updates in the learning and helping users to understand and adopt your application. 

 Speaker 2 

These are these are investments that are client. 

 Speaker 2 

Unless software development is their core business. 

 Speaker 2 

It's quite often a huge distraction for them and something they just don't see when they embark on these types of projects. 

 Speaker 1 

Yeah, absolutely. 

 Speaker 1 

And also your scale. 

 Speaker 1 

And one thing that I think people underestimate is. 

 Speaker 1 

At the beginning you can go really, really quickly because your customer base is only so big and so therefore your your impact for change is is pretty small right? 

 Speaker 1 

If I look at one of our releases now if I introduce a new function in the system or even like tinker of a small piece of that already exists. 

 Speaker 1 

I've got. 

 Speaker 1 

It goes from my dev solution branching to our QA to our pre release to our pre staging. 

 Speaker 1 

Then it goes to release candidate and then it goes out and and like that happens whether I want to change a field on the form or actually like a an iintegratable piece of it and so imagine managing all these moving pieces. 

 Speaker 1 

That shift around your release strategy is as well and the support in the key way that goes into every single versions of those. 

 Speaker 1 

Because you're at a point where you got such critical mass that you can't afford not to go through a really rigid process because those processes are the only ways to avoid absolute catastrophic outcomes otherwise. 

 Speaker 2 

Right, so all the hurdles I go through to get your feature into production, you're having to do that on behalf of 10s or hundreds of production instances for all of your customers. 

 Speaker 1 

Thanks. 

 Speaker 1 

Exactly, you know. 

 Speaker 1 

So it has to be guaranteed, right? 

 Speaker 1 

So yeah. 

 Speaker 2 

Forgive the pun, but it's it's mission critical. 

 Speaker 2 

If fund raising goes down a lot of these organizations are going to be in dire straits, so. 

 Speaker 1 

And that's it. And you know what? That's actually really interesting point too because ERP systems they deal with typically with the aftermath of something else collecting revenue. When you look at a fund raising system that is the entry point for revenue. Therefore we introduce a few different scenarios as well. You take the typical really good dynamic developer architect. 

 Speaker 1 

There will never normally be dealt with a scenario whereby if if you mess that up. 

 Speaker 1 

Up that means that that organization doesn't collect any revenue as their only source of managing revenue. 

 Speaker 1 

Let's face it, if we were doing a sales implementation, So what if you can do an opportunity for like a day like whatever you know why? 

 Speaker 1 

It's it's just and So what we find it was very difficult was like getting into that mindset and really meant that we had to put these processes in place. 

 Speaker 1 

At the very beginning and one of the things that. 

 Speaker 1 

Although the time is really painful even before we started development, we figured out what our DevOps release process would be. 

 Speaker 1 

We figured out what those processes for approving and changes and managing and testing would be so that we could have them in there for day one. 

 Speaker 1 

And so now like we onboard new team members. 

 Speaker 1 

I've got all twenty-eight members of our teams. 

 Speaker 1 

Know how that process is and can support and amply new team members on boarding as a result of it thinking forward down about how are you going to do it like today? 

 Speaker 1 

If you're thinking of building an application. 

 Speaker 1 

Is really worthwhile. 

 Speaker 1 

Go through those motions and figure out how you're going to support it. 

 Speaker 1 

Manage it, test it and ship that product because those are things that could make or break your application. 

 Speaker 2 

I'm a big fan of taking an agile approach. 

 Speaker 2 

You don't think this is something you can figure out iteratively customer by customer. 

 Speaker 1 

I think you know it's interesting, so our. 

 Speaker 1 

Our development is agile or our core development is agile, but when it goes into release it then goes into a completely mechanical specific process that goes through all the checks and boxes as as a result of that. 

 Speaker 1 

So yeah, I. 

 Speaker 1 

Yeah. 

 Speaker 1 

 

 Speaker 2 

Think that sounds like a good marriage between Agile software development. 

 Speaker 2 

And well structured dev OPS. 

 Speaker 2 

That's that's the way it should be. 

 Speaker 2 

It should be highly structured, very automated, as little human intervention as possible. 

 Speaker 1 

Yeah. 

 Speaker 2 

Completely tested from one end to the other with feedback loops all the time, confirming it successfully being deployed here and here and here. 

 Speaker 2 

So yeah, sometimes you got that you figured out. 

 Speaker 1 

Add really there's no better testament to your agile strategy. 

 Speaker 1 

Then then having that DevOps process in place. 

 Speaker 1 

Because all those feedback loops are telling you in many ways how is that Sprint doing and performing and really giving you those benchmarks. 

 Speaker 1 

And I think a lot. 

 Speaker 1 

People do agile, right will say they do agile, but but they don't realize that agile is also, you know, calculating your performance in Agile? Is your agile strategy working. 

 Speaker 1 

Is it right for your customer base, like we had a very difficult time finding the right methodology for deploying our products? 

 Speaker 2 

Yep. 

 Speaker 1 

At the very beginning and and that was really because of our maybe lack of experience in the nonprofit world. 

 Speaker 1 

Whereby organizations and nonprofits are typically governed by committee. 

 Speaker 1 

That means that bringing an agile experience where we can all solution and think about how things could be and see how it goes is very difficult to then apply to like that committee based focus that want to digest break out of you know. 

 Speaker 1 

Agree to move forward into the next stage and and they see because they run their organization in that way. 

 Speaker 1 

It's very difficult for them to manage. 

 Speaker 1 

Let's say development process as an application. When I think back to your point earlier about, you have a lot of organizations that want to productize an application. 

 Speaker 1 

A lot of customers want to do it. 

 Speaker 1 

What's their project management Happy Place and is it going to like gonna compliment that process or is it just going to be? 

 Speaker 1 

They've got the best idea in the world. 

 Speaker 1 

They have the technical chops to do it, but their ability to manage it maybe doesn't. 

 Speaker 1 

Doesn't sit in harmony with what the application is being asked to do is as well, right? 

 Speaker 1 

So there's there's other components in there. 

 Speaker 2 

Tell me a little bit about your release and your update strategy for customers. 

 Speaker 2 

I'm sure you've got some customers who are. 

 Speaker 2 

Very eager for the latest release with the features that they've been waiting on. 

 Speaker 2 

Maybe you know the stuff that they suggested it's in your road map. 

 Speaker 2 

They're very excited about it, but at the same time, some customers get very nervous about any changes to the production environment, and I think resist or push back on releases. 

 Speaker 2 

How have you managed to balance that? 

 Speaker 2 

Because I presume you're providing updates to all of your customer base. 

 Speaker 2 

All at once on a schedule. 

 Speaker 2 

Or have you figured out a way for customers to be able to opt into each of your updates on a customer by customer basis? 

 Speaker 1 

Yeah, so we. 

 Speaker 1 

We plan our releases around the planned releases for Dynamics, so we always know and document out to our clients. 

 Speaker 1 

You should always expect to spring and you should always spring to fall. 

 Speaker 1 

We all know that fall off and is like right before Christmas and that spring often is just before summer. 

 Speaker 1 

But you know, that's the language, right? 

 Speaker 1 

That fits with with dynamic. 

 Speaker 1 

So there's always an expectation that that you are purchasing a product that you have very little control over because you can't, we can't manage compliance, be secure, and keep everything where it needs to be by having to negotiate with our clients about how they manage and accept their updates. 

 Speaker 1 

But something that helps with that though is this. 

 Speaker 1 

Further, they should naturally expect updates because of the way that dynamics rolls out now. 

 Speaker 1 

One of the things that we we find a little challenging is in our release strategy we add. 

 Speaker 1 

Actually, we try and release everyone at the same time, but we also understand that certain geographic locations might not be able to go at the same time. So like we have clients in Australia using Mission CRM, I've got the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Canada and the US right? There's there's a real smorgasbord of regions there that are using the system and. 

 Speaker 1 

And as as Microsoft's rollout strategy, interesting enough that hits the Canadian datacenters first, then I believe it hits APAC region and then it makes its way to Japan. 

 Speaker 1 

I'm probably getting this incorrect but it effectively it goes into in a tiered approach right? 

 Speaker 1 

So we need to be able to react ahead of time as those releases are being rolled out into those different geographic locations. 

 Speaker 1 

So although the client is expecting a full release or a spring release. 

 Speaker 1 

We also have to be able to follow in those geographic locations for updates as as well. 

 Speaker 2 

That's pretty tricky to dovetail into Microsoft release strategy, 'cause you might be developing that feature. 

 Speaker 2 

On the previous version, Microsoft working on a new feature you got. 

 Speaker 1 

Oh yeah. 

 Speaker 2 

You gotta test out in preview in a very short window before they rolled it out to your customers and they're gonna roll out your updates at around the same time, so that must be a tricky balancing act. 

 Speaker 1 

It is a balancing act. 

 Speaker 1 

I'm understanding that I think the communication is getting better around when things are actually going to be sent out and making those those items that a little bit more clearer. 

 Speaker 1 

So in one of the issues that we we might have is that APAC didn’t roll out when we're expecting it to, and so you know everyone is geared up to manage these releases and all of a sudden you know your whole next three weeks gets completely turned upside down as a result of it. 

 Speaker 1 

But I guess that's just managing a product. 

 Speaker 1 

I mean, the benefit is I don't have to create my own CRM system to have a home for our fund raising system either, so. 

 Speaker 1 

I'll take that compromise of the engineering team that are taking those rollouts and I'm quite happy to fit in with their schedule as a result of it. 

 Speaker 2 

Wow, there were so many great insights there from CJ Brooks Fund raising an engagement architect at Mission CRM. 

 Speaker 2 

A special thanks to Nick Doleman for introducing me to CJ. 

 Speaker 2 

If you enjoyed that episode with CJ, then remember to subscribe to the Amazing Applications Podcast to get access to the bonus extended session. 

 Speaker 2 

The bonus episodes aren't promoted on social media, and the best way to access them is to click subscribe in your favorite podcast player and automatically download future episodes. A bonus episode will be published in the next couple of days. Meantime, you can get show notes for this episode at customery dot com slash zero two seven 

 Speaker 2 

The show notes includes all of CJ's contact details and a transcript of this episode. 

 Speaker 2 

Until next time, keep sprinting.