As a former System Administrator and now a consultant working with administrators regularly, I frequently see one key challenge. It's engaging the users of an organization in exercises that help them visualize how work could be accomplished instead of how it's currently done.

 

There is a vital intersection between day-to-day work and taking time to think about the processes used to complete them. It seems the former often bumps the latter, meaning organizations take far less time to think strategically than they could, should, or would like.

 

I could write an entire article on the detrimental impacts of organizations who opt to skip strategic planning, but I can sum it up in one sentence:

 

"If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail." - Benjamin Franklin

 

System administrators/owners can help foster a strategically-minded approach to an organization's work. Although as system admins you have much flying your way, taking time to listen and understand your workforce will reveal gaps and solutions.

 

You'll be able to show your team the system's potential and how they can be more efficient, effective, or succinct in their work. The effort can spur additional creative thinking on the part of the team to identify other areas of improvement or other features that might be valuable.

 

So how does a system admin/owner do this? By creating a visionary demo.

 

What is a Visionary Demo?

In simplistic terms, it's a demonstration of the features and functions of your system that opens users' eyes to the system's capabilities. One example is leveraging a trial of the newest version that unlocks the latest features and even some preview ones (planned items not yet available).

 

Why use a Visionary Demo?

You want users to see what a system can offer. System admins often engage users in discussions about what they want from the system. While this approach is well-intended, the conversation typically looks like this:

 

Admin: What do you want in the system?

User: That depends. What can it do?

Admin: Tell me what you're trying to achieve, and I'll tell you if it can do it.

User: Hmmm, oh! Manage my activities!

Admin: It already does that. What else?

User: It does? How? What else can it do?

 

A visionary demo helps end this frustrating cycle of discussion. However, there needs to be a strategy to plan a demo of this nature.

 

Planning a Visionary Demo

It's easy for people to relate to a storyline—even if not directly related, they can follow the premise along and get the point. Showing multiple features can work, but it becomes a fluid journey the user can visualize when weaved into a story.

 

To be most effective here, use examples from your organization. To do this, you must listen to your users.

 

Listen

System admins need to hear what the users are saying and take the time to listen to the data.

 

Example: "The fields on this form aren't in the right order. I have to move all over the place to enter the data necessary to save the record."

 

Conducting a regular data review to identify information gaps on customer records or how long processes generally take (how long to solve a case, how long an opportunity is open for) can provide insightful information to a system admin troubleshooting.

 

Understand

Once you've gathered the information, understand the details. Validate your understanding by circling back to the users to confirm you're on the right track and adjust as necessary.

 

Connect

Pull it all together by weaving it into a story. I don't mean write a book, but lay out a scenario that you can walk your users through. A very simplistic example is this:

 

During the Listen phase, the organization identified the following:

 

• Increase sales results by leveraging AI and mobile features

• Reduce Customer Service resolution time by increasing use of shared knowledge

• Build strong customer retention by providing exceptional service

• Strategically tailor our marketing communications

• Empower customers to use self-service features

 

Know

These points represent the basis of your story. You can now build a storyline that follows their user personas and shows them the features they could leverage/consider to accomplish these.

 

The admin needs to be aware of the available features to do this. We addressed tips on how to stay on top of the evolution of Microsoft's Business Applications in an earlier blog found here.

 

The Demos

While it's tempting to do live demos, they have a high potential of going off the rails. Users can ask questions that cause you to deviate from the storyline, and while we always encourage questions, you want the story to feel complete and thorough.

 

The idea here is to have the users envision their company with your actively used features.

 

Pre-recording the features you want to highlight is a great way to achieve this. For example, when addressing the item around leveraging AI and mobile features, you introduce short videos on these specific topics like this:

 

AI: D365 Sales Insights - Basic

AI: D365 Sales Insights - Sales Accelerator

Mobile: D365 Mobile Features

 

These short snippets give just enough information to demonstrate the feature. Show them the potential to help them think creatively about how it could help their work.

 

Address the Benefits

As you work through these snippets, talk about the benefits. Build into your story a glimpse of what the future might look like with these features.

 

Even something simple like, "Thanks to the advanced AI assistant, Salesperson Pat can quickly identify the most important and probable deals to pursue!"

 

We hope this provides some insight on how you can foster excitement, creativity, and strategy in your future planning.

 

Our next article will address how to harness that excitement and process in building a roadmap for your company's application evolution.

 

Want to chat about how a visionary demo could benefit you? C5 Insight has several hours worth of video demo content prepared, with fresh material created ongoing. We're happy to discuss how C5 Insight can support you in your D365 or M365 journey!