SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

Have you MAPS CRM IURed?

Let’s face it. Many members of the SMB Nation community are happily situated at the Microsoft Action Pack (MAPS) membership-level inside the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN). Fair enough. But did you know that, with the recent June 30/July 1 renewal date, MAPS has a hidden jewel just waiting for your consumption. It’s related to the five (5) Internal Use Rights (IUR) for Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement Plan Enterprise Edition. This is real value and I’m going to share with you my journey, up-to-the-minute as of this writing.

Bekker’s Partner’s Guide
My journey started when I read Scott Bekker’s IUR posting (Bekker is a colleague who works for Redmond Channel Partner magazine). His missive imparted details about the five IUR licenses for Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement Plan Enterprise Edition in MAPS. Prior to that, I hadn’t been aware of this benefit. You can download Bekker’s guide here.

The timing couldn’t have been better for two reasons.

SMB Nation has 50,000+ contacts as a long-time community. We have migrated over the years from Microsoft CRM 1.2 to NetSuite to Salesforce and back to Microsoft CRM Dynamics 365 on-prem. We have been happily paying $60/seat per month for our licenses. But the MAPS offer is just too juicy to pass up – the IUR licenses (count ‘em – five) are effectively free after you pay your MAPS annual subscription fee of $475. My current annual CRM financial commitment is 3x that amount and only because we conserve our license usage (can’t wait to do more with more licenses!).

Get Appy!
As many readers know, I’ve spread my wings over the past few years playing in Seattle startups in addition to running SMB Nation. At the Big Data startup LeadScorz, we worked with Versium. Fast forward the movie and Versium has a Dynamics 365 app called Predict that provides insights, appends records and intelligence to your CRM contacts, leads and accounts. It has very basic scoring models but the good news is that it’s free. I’ll write more about Predict at a future date but the point is, that with my current Dynamics 365 on-prem implementation, I couldn’t use Predict (it’s only on the cloud-side aka Microsoft Online Services). Ergo – my motivation to conduct the migration asap to my new CRM instance.

Looking Back
First – proper context needed. Here are the exact details of my current CRM instance: (Version 1612 ( (DB on-premises (SQL Server 2016 Service Pack 1). While I’m happy with Dynamics 365, I’m wanting to get more appy as per above (plus there are hundreds of more apps to play with). In Figure 1 – you can see my current environment.


Figure 1: This be our existing CRM instance! 

Looking Forward

To level-set, I’m migrating this offering: for Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement Plan Enterprise Edition (Version 9). When I renewed MAPS, and I assigned out a couple of my IUR licenses, I then wanted to “run” my CRM instance but it wasn’t clear at all how to do this. So I filed a service request with Microsoft and worked with a support professional to stand-up my new CRM instance.

SECRET: The key is to select Dynamics 365 via Admin centers on the lower portion of your left-side column in the Microsoft 365 admin center console. You’ll answer questions about production v. sandbox and what module you want to activate. See the results in Figure #2.

Figure 2: The instance setup procedure results in the following instance. But there is much more work to be done.

Migration Madness
Initially in my “simple is hard” technology paradigm, I thought I’d just do a lift-and-shift or forklift migration from my existing CRM instance into the new instance. I asked my current CRM hoster to export the database which resulted in the following files seen in Figure 3.

Fig3 current crm databases
Figure 3: My current CRM database files exceed 10GB.

But after researching this lift-and-shift migration approach and consulting with the fine people on the Microsoft Dynamics CRM group (Facebook), it was none other than SMB Nation fan Julie Yack who educated me that this is both a migration and an upgrade (plus we have limited customizations).
So it’s been a “back to the drawing boards” circular reference as I’m trying to complete this work over the long 4th of July holiday week/weekend when the private sector is napping. Another call with Microsoft support suggested I output my existing database to an Excel file so it can be imported into my new CRM instance. I’m in the process of doing that now with these steps in my existing CRM instance:

• Select data area (e.g. Accounts, Contacts, Leads, Opportunities, Reports, Marketing Lists, etc.)
• Select Funnel (advanced find) in upper right
• Select Edit Columns, Click OK
• Select Add columns
• Select ALL COLUMNS by clicking the checkbox next to Display Name
• Click OK
• Click OK
• Click Results (this can take a long time to run)
• Click Export Accounts
• Select Dynamic Worksheet
• Select Export on the Edit Columns dialog

Then – in theory – I’d import the contacts, et al into the new CRM instance. Read “even I could do it!” But I have hit a time-out condition/error because of the number of contacts I have, etc. See Figure 4.

Fig4 error exporting accounts to dynamic excel spreadsheet

Figure 4: I can’t export 50,000 contacts successfully at once – one person has told me I’ll have to do smaller exports (think letters A-J; K-S; T-Z).

And there you have it. I’m at mid-point in my migration trading notes with Yack to successfully land this migration!

In my next blog, I’ll let you know how it goes!

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M&A: BoomTime acquires attachedapps

Many readers know that we’ve helped tell the attachedapps story at SMB Nation for the past 2+ years. It’s a start-up that has “layered” on top of Office 365 with a -baby CRM- solution similar to Business Contact Manager (BCM) in the early 2000s. This past week, BoomTime announced the acquisition of attachedapps to integrate it into its Marketing-as-a-Service (MaaS) play. I consider this a case of attachedapps starting over with a new life.

I have used attachedapps in a Big Data venture I’m involved in and I can honestly say I know the product intimately. Its paradigm was -shared contacts- for the GoDaddy-sized S of SMB. I’ve used it for its simplicity in a start-up where Salesforce or Dynamics would be overkill. Somethings I like (the reporting) and some things I don’t (hard to customize). Overall I think it’s a good move that attachedapps was acquired by BoomTime. To me, strategically, it’s a case of a solution that has now found a home.

However, in the spirt of being independent and transparency, the attachedapps acquisition does raise concerns. It is not taking on new customers for now. The roadmap with respect to BoomTime integration is not published. Do existing attachedapps customers need the increased functionality of BoomTime? All valid questions.

attachedapps bootime

With respect to my continued use of attachedapps, I can tell you this. I’m in discovery mode with respect to what alternatives exist to migrate to. So far my research has led to Slingr from Idea2 and the amazing Grace Schroeder whom many SMB Nation community members know well. It’s a fully customized CRM-like solution that is layered on top of Slack. I’ll do a deep dive in a future blog on Slingr as it deserves standalone treatment. But I can tell you this. As I look at the possibilities, Slingr feels like I’d be leap frogging over traditional CRM solutions that have a legacy feel. It’s just frickin cool. Think of it this way. In the early days of Small Business Server (SBS), one of my worldwide tours took me to El Salvador. There were few landlines, and primarily mobile phones. Why? Because after the 12-year Salvadoran Civil War the country rebuilt and leaped frogged right up to mobility. Great in earthquakes and the rebels can’t cut the landlines is how it was explained to me.

BONUS: Attend our MSP M&A (Part 2: Sell-Side) webinar this Thursday at Noon Pacific (GMT-8), August 18, 2016. Sign-up HERE.

Analyst Discolure: I hold stock options and am in investor in attachedapps.


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Microsoft Angst

Microsoft Angst

Some weeks it feels like it’s always something. With the end of the Microsoft fiscal year upon us, there are, at least for SMB Nation, renewal deadlines upon us. For example we have to renew our Office 365 E3 partner plan as part of the Action Pack membership level. Understood.

But what I didn’t understand was how my pivot from Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online to the hosted version would trigger a one-month payment penalty. Let me explain.

During the life of SMB Nation, we’ve gone from Microsoft Dynamics CRM 1.2 to NetSuite to Salesforce and back to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online (v7.x) and now to Microsoft Dynamics CRM on-premises hosted. Why? In the first couple of conversions, life happened. But the most recent Microsoft Dynamics CRM pivot from online to hosted on-prem was driven by a few factors.

Hidden costs. There is a dirty little secret to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online: storage costs. After you exceed 5GB of storage (not hard with email tracking), you have to buy additional 1GB increments at $10/month (or $120 per year). Not only does it add up but it’s typically of CRM and ERP vendors (as you can ascertain, we know ‘em all above) cost creep. And it pisses me off. The pivot to on-prem instance gives me 25GB storage right from the start. Thank you!

Partner-2-Partner power. For whatever reason, I just wasn’t falling in love with “Her,” the Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online edition. As a point of reference, if you missed the subtle joke, I’m trying to create an analogy to the popular 2013 movie “Her”  starring Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson and directed by Spike Jonze. So we hired one of our own, well-known Microsoft partner Grant Thompson (MG Technology Group). Essentially I’d rather give my money to a SMB Nation member and friend of the family then Redmond to host my CRM. I’m not necessarily saving money but I receive a hellva lot of value adds from having a real partner attached to my Microsoft Dynamics CRM instance. For example, Grant (who has a heart of gold) implicitly provides free wisdom as a natural trainer. He is working with Jenny at SMB Nation to create an event registration form that flows right into our CMR instance instead of us using a commercial event management program at $5 per registration and creating a split database.

Many readers will recognize Grant as he is our long-time expert trainer on the Office 365 roadshow. As an aside, there is a chance for YOU to talk to Grant about what you’d like to see in the next nine (9) workshop cities here.  

So why am I angry at Microsoft? 
For the first part of this tale, I’ll take ownership. We migrated around Memorial Day weekend in late May 2016 and ran both CRMs in parallel for a few weeks (just in case we had to rollback). Apparently, with the end of the Microsoft fiscal year and some renewal deadlines that impact SMB Nation, our Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online service “automatically renewed” on June 23, 2016. My bad as I wasn’t attentive to the fact we had auto-renew turned on. I discovered this on the June 25th and promptly terminated my service. I was greeted with a one-month service charge as a termination fee as seen in the pic (actually the pic shows the same condition for my termination of the Office 365 E1 SKU, but it’s the same point). Really? Seriously Microsoft? Shame on you! I felt I’d been oracled in my orifice by MSFT when this Article 50-like clause was invoked on my Brexit from Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online.


When I’m back in the saddle early this week, I intend to look into this with Microsoft starting with some internal connections. I want my termination fee back!

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Analysis: Why I’m Qualified to Discuss AttachedApps

Analysis: Why I’m Qualified to Discuss AttachedApps

Over the next couple blogs, I’ll review AttachedApps, a contact management system for small businesses (and I’d assert Start-Ups in particular). I’m qualified to have this conversation with you. I use AttachedApps. And I use it in a start-up. Let me use this blog for the proper context and later I’ll rock the speeds and feeds.

There is a popular philosophy about being a lean start-up.

Just as the name implies, you keep it simple stupid. I’m currently involved in a Big Data start-up in Seattle in addition to my ownership role at SMB Nation. I’ve learn a lot over the past year about what a real investor-backed start-up looks like. It’s been like earning a second MBA. One decision relevant to this conversation with to use AttachedApps as our “baby CRM” system. I can now say that I’ve used nearly every major CRM solution including Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online 2015 (“Dynamics CRM”) and NetSuite. I still use a couple programs daily supporting the Big Data clients we have.

But internally, the decision was made to roll with AttachedApps from day one. Why? Simplicity! Essentially instead of being consumed with the complexity of Saleforce et al, the prevailing sentiment was to just get stuff done. I get it. When I work with the big boys (Salesforce, Dynamics CRM), you find yourself spending more time just trying to figure out how to do something. You know it can be done, you’re just not sure how to do it. Then there is the notion that most people use a fraction of the power in the big boy CRM packages. With AttachedApps, using it daily, I can honest say I’m using the majority of the horsepower that comes standard! 
Bottom line: Rethink the technology you deploy in a start-up. Complexity is overkill. Consider simplicity like AttachedApps.

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Microsoft announces new features for CRM solution

Microsoft Corp. unveiled this Tuesday new capabilities it will release in Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016, the latest version of its customer engagement solution. 

It enhanced and advanced intelligence, mobility and service, among other areas, with the new enhancements designed to provide a seamless CRM experience. 

“Microsoft’s obsession with customer success is rooted in our ambition to reinvent productivity and business processes,” said Bob Stutz, corporate vice president, Microsoft Dynamics CRM. “Dynamics CRM 2016 is designed from the ground up to deliver core capabilities all in a single system to eliminate distractions, to make it easier to get things done, and to dramatically increase productivity so our customers can spend more time serving their customers.”

Microsoft also released earlier this week the Dynamics CRM Release Preview Guide.

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SBS leader by day, MLSP affiliate by night: Longtime SMB Nation member offers MyLeadSystem Pro to support channel community

Using social media for virtual networking and relationship-building is a modern key to success in any industry, and especially essential to MSPs and other members of the channel community that may not always meet their clients face-to-face as often as they'd like.scott in seattle

Social media should brand company leaders, rather than just the company as a whole, Microsoft SBS leader and SMB Nation member Scott Cayouette said. Executives should take advantage of platforms from Facebook fan pages to video blogs that give them a direct opportunity to create connections with current and potential customers. Twitter and LinkedIn, too, continue to be an important part of networking strategies.

With his roles as a managing partner at IPW Networks and MyLeadSystem Pro affiliate, Scott is invested in helping company leaders to do just what he suggests and build a strong social media presence.

“The more people get to see what you look like, the more they feel like they get to know you,” Scott said. “It solves that age old issue: Who are they, and what are they like? By the time they meet you, they feel like they know you.”

MyLeadSystem Pro, a social media affiliate platform providing strategies and trainings to help affiliates and their clients create a well-branded multi-platform social media approach, also offers opportunities for additional income from lead and referral generation. Though it began in 2008 as a network marketing resource, it has transformed into a platform designed to help small businesses of all kinds.

MLSP also provides tools for customer relationship management, tied closely today with companies’ and company leaders’ social media presence and execution.

Through his participation in this platform and others, Scott continues to act as the trusted adviser he’s always strived to be for his clients and peers. Connect with Scott on LinkedIn, Twitter, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to learn more.

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D&H Aims to Personalize Partner Services via Microsoft Dynamics CRM Upgrade

DH-80px round 95thD&H Distributing said that it has furthered its partner services initiatives via CRM (customer relationship management) capabilities through use of Microsoft Dynamics CRM.  The distributor will integrate this product with targeted, content-rich marketing and communications campaigns to more proactively support and educate its reseller customers, as an extension of the distributor’s personalized customer service model.

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Fine Solutions Named to Inc. 500/5000 List Fifth Year in a Row

Dan FineWe heard today from Dan Fine, Managing Partner of Seattle-based Microsoft Dynamics partner Fine Solutions, that his company has been named to the Inc. 500/5000 List for the fifth year in a row.

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Broadview Links Cloud-Based Phone System to Salesforce, Other CRM Apps

BroadviewNetworks-Logo-MainBroadview Networks has launched the CRM Connector for OfficeSuite, its cloud-based business phone system. The new CRM Connector integrates OfficeSuite with and any other TAPI-enabled (Telephony Application Programming Interface) CRM application to provide businesses with a fully integrated communications solution that improves employee efficiency and effectiveness.

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Aria Systems Launches Unified Channel billing for Recurring Revenue Models

Aria Systems today launched Unified Channel Billing, a breakthrough solution for businesses selling recurring revenue products and services through channels. Aria’s Unified Channel Billing provides end-to-end cloud billing for business partnerships with multiple levels of complexity. All the advantages of a recurring revenue strategy are now available for channel businesses, exclusively from Aria Systems.

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SugarCRM Announces New Deployment Option

SugarLogoThis morning, SugarCRM announced the availability of a new deployment option for their CRM applications at the SugarCon 2013 event in New York, NY. SugarCRM customers may now choose to have their services deployed via a private cloud option, which will be managed by the Sugar team.

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Zoho Fortifies its CRM with Dropbox, LiveDesk Integrations

Zoho is now offering the latest round of upgrades to Zoho CRM, the company’s online CRM. The new features start with BCC Dropbox, which lets users BCC customer emails to CRM in order to associate those emails to the related customer records inside Zoho CRM. Integration with Zoho LiveDesk brings customer support and customer information together. Custom Related Lists brings customer information from multiple sources, including third-party applications, into Zoho CRM, making it the central place to aggregate all your customer information. MailMagnet for Mobile brings the power of MailMagnet — email filtering based on active deals in CRM — to Zoho CRM iPhone, iPad and Android mobile apps.

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Latest Scribe SMB Technology Report Includes Findings on SMB CRM, Investment Trends for 2013

Scribe Software LogoLast week, CRM data integration provider, Scribe Software, released the results of their late Nov/early Dec 2012 industry study on the state of CRM for SMBs, including common “pain points” and areas of investment for 2013. Scribe received 306 responses from their customers, channel partners, prospects and system integrators for the study, which showed five key trends for how SMBs utilize, manage and research for their CRM systems.

The five key trends from the study are as follows:

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