Building a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Platform to Manage Business Processes
Technical Case Study
Published: December 2012
Microsoft Information Technology (Microsoft IT) oversaw the development of Microsoft Incident Management Operations System (MIMOS), an integrated operations management solution based on Microsoft® Dynamics CRM and OpenText MBPM.
Technical Case Study, 885 KB, Microsoft Word file
Products & Technologies
The Microsoft Regional Operations Centers provide incident management service to four key Microsoft lines of business using inefficient, highly manual processes for handling cases. The existing system did not support the kind of seamless, centralized incident management that Microsoft requires for providing service to its customers and partners.
As part of the Fada operations outsourcing initiative, Microsoft contracted with arvato Systems, the Fada consolidation vendor, to develop MIMOS, a new workflow and incident management platform that also enables business process automation.
This case study describes MIMOS, a solution developed for Microsoft IT to improve incident management efficiencies in the Microsoft Regional Operations Centers (ROCs) and to enable workflow management and business process automation for the following incident management activities:
- Orders, adjustments, and agreements for Microsoft software and services
- Maintenance and amendments related to orders, adjustments, and agreements
- Queries about an order, adjustment, or agreement
For all but a few of its Microsoft Operations users, MIMOS replaced a previous tool, Microsoft Service Enterprise (MSE), which had provided only incident management capabilities. Another tool, Voice Support Application (VSA), was similarly replaced by MIMOS for one line of business (Microsoft Business Solutions, or MBS).
The success of MIMOS is instrumental to the success of Fada, a larger operations outsourcing initiative. The primary Fada technology goal, as demonstrated by MIMOS, is to modernize Microsoft Operations by providing "a simple and human-centric transaction platform that supports one perpetual relationship with the customer."
This document includes the following topics:
- A description of the ROC environments prior to MIMOS
- An overview of the Fada initiative, which outlines the need for MIMOS
- A detailed description of MIMOS and the engineering it entailed
- A list of the benefits derived from MIMOS following its deployment
The Need for Automation
The Fada program is a Microsoft Operations outsourcing initiative that is focused on consolidating agreement processing, order processing, and user query management operations performed in the ROCs. Four lines of business at Microsoft took part in the Fada program:
- Microsoft Volume Licensing
- Microsoft Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM)
- Microsoft Services (including Microsoft Consulting Services and Premier)
Each of these lines of business has ROCs in four geographic areas—the Americas, Europe, Asia Pacific, and Latin America. Key to the financial success of Fada is the automation of existing ROC processes, both by implementing new technologies and by making better use of technologies already in place. Through automation, Fada seeks to improve ROC operations by providing a flexible way to analyze and improve ROC processes on a single operations-focused technology platform. The primary users of such a platform are service agents in the ROCs who triage and respond to incidents that have been opened in response to customer or partner requests for information, along with processing license agreements, amendments, and orders.
The need to enable workflow automation was determined through observation of the following inefficiencies that the Fada business groups previously experienced:
- Isolated, highly manual processes. ROC operations frequently required multiple agents, working independently, to engage with multiple systems in order to handle cases. The transaction of information between agents was often impeded by redundant efforts and manual communications, and was a time-consuming, paper-based process.
- Inefficient collaboration and case oversight. Agents interacted with MSE, but there was no unified way for all agents involved with a case to share information. Supervisors had limited visibility into case statuses, making it challenging to monitor workloads.
- Lack of centralized processes and tools. Case resolution generally entailed using multiple IT systems, which required extensive agent training. Limited collaboration or process alignment existed among business groups, and the processes each ROC followed to resolve cases differed greatly by geographic location.
Figure 1 shows the workflow changes that the MIMOS team sought in response to these observations. In the current situation, workflows for requesting, tracking, and processing incidents were frequently isolated from one another and frequently delayed or disrupted by manual activities, including the handling of unstructured data such as email requests. Changes were needed so that these workflows could be centrally managed, enabling end-to-end fluency of incident-related data, along with closer real-time monitoring and better reporting.
Figure 1. Incident management before and after MIMOS implementation
Supporting Fada, Retiring the Existing System
In addition to the need for increased efficiencies, two realities drove the creation of MIMOS: the technology requirements of the Fada program in early 2010, and the executive directive later that year to retire the existing incident tracking tool, MSE, which had served Microsoft Operations for over ten years.
The four business groups that were represented in the Fada program became the primary customers for MIMOS. arvato, the vendor that Microsoft contracted to oversee Fada, worked with these customer groups to gather requirements for a solution that would help the Fada program meet its functional and financial goals. This phase would later be expanded to include detailed reviews of current operations, and use case discovery workshops that the MIMOS team conducted with agents from all ROCs across all four Fada lines of business.
In later phases of MIMOS deployment, other business groups at Microsoft—most of them similarly affected by the retirement of MSE—also adopted MIMOS, although the functional needs of the four Fada business lines were the primary drivers of the deployment schedule and the resulting MIMOS feature set.
Microsoft IT and arvato worked closely with the Fada lines of business to design and implement MIMOS, a new workflow and incident management platform that also enabled modeling and real-time control of ROC processes through both user and administrative interfaces.
The key technologies that MIMOS comprises are Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 and OpenText Metastorm BPM (since rebranded as MBPM). Workflow management and incident management were achieved by adapting built-in functionality of Microsoft Dynamics CRM and by developing custom web services. MBPM provides business process automation based on workflows derived from those workflow management and incident management functions. This automation is a core capability of business process management (BPM), a technology approach using business rules and a graphical workflow design user interface.
Figure 2. MIMOS primary components
The strategic decision to use this blended platform resulted from extensive requirements analysis by the MIMOS team, who determined that native Microsoft Dynamics CRM was an optimal platform for delivering workflow and incident management when used in conjunction with MBPM. The key advantage of using native Microsoft Dynamics CRM was the simplified development overhead that resulted from configuring built-in components. These components could serve the functional needs of workflow and incident management while interacting easily with MBPM for business process automation.
MIMOS is an example of using extended customer relationship management (xRM), where the technology of traditional customer relationship management (CRM) is extended to provide value in noncustomer management scenarios. xRM provides benefits by extending CRM to include management of employees, partners, assets, suppliers, or other business entities a company might want to manage. In the case of MIMOS, xRM is used to significantly extend the capabilities for managing incidents.
Previously, MSE tracked incidents as Incident Tracking Requests (ITRs), and used groups and subgroups for organizing and handling those ITRs as part of its system. Groups and subgroups usually mapped to the Microsoft internal organizational structure, reflecting which teams would work on which cases at what time. In MIMOS, cases replace ITRs, and queues replace groups and subgroups. Queues are CRM entities that allow for the logical assignment of a case to its associated work area, which is usually a team of people. MIMOS uses queues to segregate individual cases and the work that is associated with those cases. When a case is created in the system, it is placed automatically into a queue, and agents can work on each case based on the queue it is in. The agents can also move cases from one queue to another, or the MBPM component of MIMOS can be configured to do this programmatically, using business logic and workflows that have been imported to MIMOS.
The result of this case and queue management design in MIMOS is that it enables a more efficient handling of cases based on each agent's interactions. Before, an agent needed to know where to send a case each time he or she reviewed it. Now, based on metadata attached to the case, agents receive cases that are targeted to their expertise, and when they complete their work on a case, MIMOS can automatically route the case to its next workflow step.
MIMOS workflows can span multiple agents in multiple roles, and often agents working in different groups. Agents are usually within Microsoft Operations but are sometimes outside that group as well.
MIMOS Integration Layer
The implementation of MIMOS required integration with some existing systems, most notably the Call Logging Tool (CLT). CLT was the tool used to submit cases to MSE. The time-frame requirement for MIMOS deployment did not allow for replacing CLT, so the MIMOS team created an integration layer that included an inbound CLT/MIMOS interface. Using this interface, cases submitted via CLT—including cases submitted by customers outside the Microsoft corporate network—are placed into queues where they can be operated on by agents or by the MIMOS MBPM components.
Likewise, License Information Repository (LIR), the reporting tool used by MSE and the primary data warehouse for the Volume Licensing Fada business line, was a practical necessity to maintain for use with MIMOS. To allow LIR to continue to operate with the new system, the MIMOS team developed an outbound MIMOS/LIR integration interface. Together, these interfaces with key existing external tools allowed MIMOS to deploy on schedule with a minimal disruption of service to the Fada business units.
Another critical technology introduced in the initial release of MIMOS was the Online Call Logging (OCL) web form for MBS PartnerSource and MBS CustomerSource. OCL replaced previous web forms for MBS partners and customers, allowing them to submit cases and track their status in a similar way to the previous MSE and VSA methods.
Successive releases of MIMOS have delivered integration with a variety of other Microsoft IT components, including:
- IT Service Management (ITSM). This integration provides a single point of entry for incoming OEM cases, allowing the cases to be routed manually as needed from MIMOS to ITSM, a different incident-tracking tool that was developed separately from MIMOS to replace MSE for the Microsoft internal help desk. When MIMOS routes a case to ITSM, ITSM can send a notification back to MIMOS indicating when and how the case was resolved. This capability allows the OEM Operations team to provide a single contact point for partners on all operational and technical issues.
- LivePerson LP Chat. Partners who visit a site enabled with this integration can open a chat window and chat directly with an agent. The agent's console is integrated to MIMOS, so the agent can view the partner's previous incidents or create a new incident as needed, directly from the LP Chat user interface.
- Order Central. This integration enables MIMOS to create and track cases related to orders from partners who sell Microsoft Dynamics products. Order Central users can create cases in MIMOS from within the Order Central user interface, and they can open existing MIMOS cases that are linked to Order Central orders (for example, if an order requires agent intervention before it can be processed).
Figure 3. MIMOS integration with existing systems
Figure 3 shows the custom technology components that make up the MIMOS integration layer. The order of development for these integration efforts was driven by the needs of the business groups who were part of the Fada initiative.
xRM and MBPM Development
Because the first objective of MIMOS was to replace an existing workflow and incident management system (MSE), and MSE did not include BPM functionality, the bulk of the initial engineering effort took place in the form of configuration and customization of native Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
Figure 4. Microsoft Dynamics CRM-based MIMOS development steps
As shown in Figure 4, the MIMOS team conducted this engineering in four main steps:
- Case definitions. First, the team converted the MSE case type, called an ITR in MSE, into an xRM entity capable of holding metadata about the case. Then, based on input from the Fada business customers about the kinds of metadata they wanted to store with each case—for example, the geographic region where the person creating the case is located—the team added fields to the MIMOS case definition. This allowed MIMOS to automate workflows and generate reporting based on each case's individual characteristics.
- Queue definitions. Next, working from the array of groups and subgroups that were previously used to categorize and manage cases in MSE, the team worked with the Fada businesses to define the MIMOS queues necessary for their business processes. Some of the businesses simplified their existing groups and subgroups into a list of queues, while others took the opportunity to examine their processes and simplify the queue list by consolidating groups and subgroups together. Group and subgroup data are still tracked for both intake and reporting purposes, and MIMOS uses this data to route cases into queues.
- Queue management development. In MIMOS, queue management is an administrative function that allows supervisors to create or modify queue views as a way of deciding what information about cases in a queue they want to display. To enable this functionality, the team created an administrative user interface using standard Microsoft Dynamics CRM features. This user interface shows the list of queues and provides a variety of queue management actions that the agent can take. In addition to queues, the user interface manages users, groups, and teams, allowing for further flexibility in the ways that agents can interact with the system.
- Workflow development for BPM. Finally, using the outputs of both the case definition and the queue definition phases, the team configured the MIMOS xRM components to provide basic workflow abilities: creating cases, editing cases, re-routing or re-assigning cases, and closing/reactivating cases. These abilities made it possible for MBPM to programmatically handle the cases and allow for business processes to be automated and managed using the new workflows.
In addition to the development work done in Microsoft Dynamics CRM, the MIMOS team also worked on MBPM functionality to meet the solution requirements. This work included designing process definitions to be deployed in MIMOS and developing the code and business rules necessary for automating those processes. With iterative releases, the team continues to use MBPM to automate workflow and business processes in MIMOS.
MIMOS Hosting and Deployment
The Microsoft IT ConnectedCRM team hosts the MIMOS application within a private cloud environment, providing a cost-efficient solution that uses cloud technologies. The ConnectedCRM team provides ongoing maintenance, including upgrades to the latest release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Tier 2 user support. (The Fada program manages Tier 1 and Tier 3 support.)
Microsoft IT deployed MIMOS on the following schedule:
- In February 2011, the 1.0 pilot release was deployed. The goals of this deployment were to test the xRM development work in a real environment and gain customer acceptance from all users in MBS and a subset of users in Microsoft Services, together representing roughly 15 percent of the total expected Fada user base. A key part of this release was OCL, the MIMOS integration layer that enables the new web-based user interface for MBS customers and partners.
- The 1.1 release, deployed from May to July 2011, delivered the 1.0 functionality to the remaining three Fada business groups, including the integration requirement for CLT. This release coincided with the shutdown of MSE.
- The 2.0 release in November 2011 delivered basic BPM capabilities.
Starting with the 3.0 release in May 2012, successive releases have delivered the following:
- Integrations with new and existing systems that the Fada business groups required.
- New MIMOS functionality and enhancements, including new incident and workflow management processes.
- Updated platform to match the current Microsoft Dynamics CRM update rollup (UR), ensuring that MIMOS always runs on the latest product platform.
Along the way, other groups at Microsoft have also adopted MIMOS as a replacement for MSE in their own environments. These groups, while not part of Fada, were interested in retiring their own incident management tools, and many had specific integration requirements that matched the integrations that each MIMOS release provided.
All MIMOS deployments are conducted by various members of a diverse, international virtual team comprising MIMOS solution management, project management, engineering, operations, readiness, change management, and support personnel. Deploying 1.0 and 1.1 required the involvement of roughly sixty personnel, only a few of which were located in the United States. Subsequent deployments have required fewer than half this number on the MIMOS team, working in collaboration with other Microsoft IT teams who were the customers or integration partners for each release.
The Fada program is expected to deliver $55 million of cost savings over five years with $22 million attributed to the adoption of more standard and efficient workflow and BPM systems and processes. The MIMOS case load represents the third-highest volume of incidents at Microsoft, and its data—cases, reports, and attachments—makes up one of the largest CRM databases of any enterprise in the world. Given these savings, MIMOS provides a significant improvement in the operational efficiencies of managing this data and the business relationships it represents.
With the implementation of MIMOS, the ROCs and the MIMOS team have seen the following benefits:
- Consistent, flexible case definition. MIMOS unifies the data representation for cases across all of the Fada lines of business, rather than relying on nonsimilar case structures and unstructured data (such as comments made in a case’s Notes field).
- Automation and simplification of business processes. The ROC processes that use MIMOS now allow cases to be moved into and within a set of queues, either manually or using BPM. This ability is instrumental in driving new efficiencies in ROC incident response quality, and the intelligence for moving cases between queues is based on metadata that MIMOS tracks on a case-by-case basis.
- Intelligent case sorting. By using metadata attached to cases, the MIMOS MBPM component can be used to move cases into queues automatically, and from there to other queues, without the need for manual intervention. This saves agents time, dramatically reduces delays in case processing by reducing inaccuracy and the reliance on user decisions, and provides the ability to refine the queue selection based on the characteristics of a case. As a result, more agents view cases at the time their expertise is needed, rather than having to review a case and immediately send it elsewhere.
- Improved workflow transparency. MIMOS enables supervisors to view case workloads and agent performance in real time. They can then use this information—together with other case data, such as complexity, required skills, revenue amount, and incident priority—to manage case assignments manually. For reporting purposes, MIMOS also creates an audit trail for each incident, which tracks changes made to the case, who made the change, and when the change was made.
- Improved user experience, including for customers and partners. For agents using the system, MIMOS delivers a more satisfying work experience. Better targeting of cases to agents' abilities and easier linking between tools result in less time spent reworking cases and improved coordination with other agents. For customers and partners, MIMOS provides a faster and more seamless response to their incidents, as well as a more intuitive web-based user interface for MBS customers and partners that is focused on data about the incident rather than on team names within Microsoft.
- Extensibility to new feature sets. Modernizing the incident management platform from MSE to MIMOS enabled extensibility on a level that was not previously available. The configurable Microsoft Dynamics CRM components allowed the MIMOS team to flexibly develop new features at the request of individual Fada business units, such as LP Chat ability and online agent preparedness checklists. Because of this flexibility, the MIMOS team was able to design, develop and implement a full replacement of MSE in only ten months, and is better positioned than ever before to provide future system improvements.
- Improved cross-enterprise collaboration and awareness. MIMOS acts as a unifying element for business groups (both Fada and non-Fada) to learn about each other's business processes, including where they might benefit from aligning with one another. Rather than disparate individual customers who happen to use a single repository for incident tracking, they now feel like part of a cohesive organization that benefits from each group's awareness of the others' processes and workflow designs.
- Retention of existing reporting systems. Rather than replacing all existing reports, MIMOS ensures continuity in the data previously transmitted from MSE to LIR for reporting purposes, as shown in Figure 5.
Figure 5. MIMOS reporting
MIMOS provides an example of how the extensible architecture of Microsoft Dynamics CRM can form the foundation of a business-critical, xRM-based operations management system. By coupling Microsoft Dynamics CRM with MBPM, MIMOS provides an integrated incident management, workflow management, and business process automation solution, designed to meet a long list of requirements from key business groups at the company and resulting in a better user and customer experience. This successful integration has led to efficiency gains and new tool sets for its business customers, all while supporting the "one perpetual relationship" user experience that was key to the Fada mission.
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