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Neon Smoke

emPOWERment 101

Updated: Oct 11, 2023

Hello! Welcome to emPOWERed humans. A blog dedicated to how Microsoft technology can empower users and companies altogether.

With the fast-paced evolution of AI capabilities, all the advancements of Low/ No-Code development with the Power Platform and the competitive landscape of business applications, let's deep dive into what matters the most: Deepening the human impact we can have.

The free-fall of implementations

For a decent part of my career, I have been an end-user of CRM systems. From in-house systems, to Salesforce, Adobe, and Dynamics 365 implementations, I have seen it all. My background is in Marketing and Digital Strategy, leading the commercialization of journeys and products. And most recently, consulting enterprise clients on Microsoft ecosystem implementations. Throughout these large-scale projects, I have always had to connect the dots on incredibly poor customer data mapping, incomplete journeys, broken integrations and A LOT of manual workarounds naturally prone to human error. What does this mean for end-users? Errors, too much extra admin time figuring workarounds, impact on speed to market and of course, a genuine lack of understanding their roles' needs. One thing has always been clear; people do not wake up in the morning rejoicing in the fact they get to use a CRM system again. If you make them feel like they are catapulting each time off the Grand Canyon to complete an approval workflow or document a lead, you will lose their business faith and proper adoption of your solution. And then business revenue will free-fall too. Promise.

From Chaos to Champions

To separate implementation chaos from a multiverse where you can emPOWER your users, you first need to do one thing. Step into their shoes. There are 5 principles to successfully portal into that universe:

  • Persona Mapping: This is typically your foundation as a Business Analyst or a Change Manager. In the former role, you need to understand users in order to write business requirements or define an RBAC process and CRUD permissions. In the latter, you are prepping for your stakeholder assessment and change impact assessment. Regardless, put a map together to understand the org structure, responsibilities, the functional objectives and how different teams interact together. Sometimes, personas are easier with a "Day in the life" picture to visualize a user performs their role or a task. This really helps Solution Architects put those fancy Visios together. The bigger picture is key to understand dependencies, complementarities and future opportunities. And of course this is how you START UNDERSTANDING who your stakeholders are before you even interact with them.

  • Discovery Interviews: Let's quote the Beatles; Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away. Now they look as though they're here to stay. Emphasis on yesterday. To deepen your understanding of users, you cannot just focus on the perfect present. No matter how polished it looks. Run some discovery sessions to hear about their past challenges, pain points, risks and backlog items. This will help you put together a nice backlog of requirements, both technical and functional, to then assess and prioritize accordingly. Moreover, you will develop a solution where you can hand on heart say, YOU ACTIVELY LISTENED, engaged with the business, and delivered a solution to emPOWER users, not just satisfy senior egos.

  • Leadership alignment: It is important to emPOWER every part of the organization. Leaders set the business vision for growth and revenue, so there must be a clear North Star to guide the future user solution whilst also accelerating revenue and modernizing services provided. This will be part of your case for change, and will build strong sponsors out of your leadership stakeholders. You need to be able to ARTICULATE the company's future direction, OBJECTIVES AND KEY RESULTS. (Did I hear someone scream OKRs and Viva Goals? Maybe, but that's a story for another time). Big-picture metrics will then be paired up with specific user outcomes you found above.

  • Co-design and co-creation: If you do not listen to those who understand the processes, purpose and pain points inside out, then who are you building for? With the rise of fusion teams as more than a concept, I firmly believe users as business technologists should be part of the solution design and creation as much as reasonably possible. Based on Gartner research, 41% of employees can be described as business technologists. Whilst the number changes per industry, research also showed that IT teams which enable fusion teams and business technologists are x2.6 more likely to fast-track their digital transformation. Bottom line, DEMOCRATISE your digital delivery for meaningful change.

  • Measure for meaning: Value is only defined by the consumer. So if your CRM system has delivered 0 value, it will become another tool users avoid like the plague. And they will revert to legacy systems. So, impress with a framework which shows how you delivered value back to them. For example, how much time have you saved them from manual data input? How are you using Copilot to track client conversations and leads on their behalf? How are you simplifying self-learning and self-help? Value, just like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Are you ready to MEASURE FOR IMPACT?


Let's do this; emPOWERment homework

As the Ancient One said (yes, I love Dr Strange quotes), We never lose our demons, Mordo. We only learn to live above them. Whilst no business application implementation is perfect, you should always champion your users. They are the lifeblood of the organization and your success. So:

  1. Listen and actively engage your users in discovery and feedback sessions.

  2. Map your user stories against your Azure DevOps (or JIRA etc.) requirements.

  3. Champion fusion teams. Digital democratization, just like Rome, was not built in a day.


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