Meet Michael Ferreira, Dynamics CRM solutions provider
Experience: 12 years of Dynamics CRM, 2 years of NAV and GP implementations.
Projects sought: Freelance or consulting. Focus on establishing client relationships by engaging in longer term opportunities/projects or deliverable based needs (i.e. short term engagements).
Markets: Canada. Michael can travel occasionally but he can’t be abroad year-round. Happy to take on remote projects for North America or beyond with some time onsite if needed.
Availability: March 2015.
Other interests: Sports – playing soccer, taking his children to their activities such as hockey, soccer, and music practice. Investment or Finance – equities products and investment portfolio ideas. Technology – being in the Microsoft space.
Take a look at Michael’s profile and CV on 365 Freelance.
- Sandra from 365 Freelance: Michael, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. What is your ideal role?
Michael: Most of my work is self-sourced or referral based introductions. When I’m brought in to a customer, engagements typically fall across two scenarios.
If they have an existing solution, quite often it’s a ‘review, revise and recover’ project: I evaluate the client’s CRM solution and give recommendations on how to improve the CRM project, solution architecture or operating model. Most of the time, the discussions broaden into how CRM fits into the client’s overall business course. I find out about their business operations, their goals and their objectives then look at the solution from a technology perspective. The outcome is typically a modified solution architecture, a project delivery plan and/or a corresponding business operating model that can help address their current CRM needs or challenges.
The second – and broader in scope – scenario is when the referral happens early in the customer’s envisioning process. Then, it becomes more about defining a strategy, delivery roadmap or program, and conceptualising an integrated multi-channel customer relationship solution. This can mean implementing CRM in the marketing department; implementing CRM in a call-centre; connecting self-service web portals, mobile applications and leveraging tools such as BizTalk, Scribe or other data management tools to keep it all together.
The client’s focus is typically broader than one functional area: how do we engage with customers and work with them across the locations, channels, web, mobile devices, etc.? I work with the client’s business leaders to define their solution, what a project will look like to delivery, what skillsets/resources we’ll need, what the time line and the costs are. Then, back to the client, it’s a senior-level type of discussion where I’m positioned as the contracted Technology Leader, CIO or CTO.
For instance, I worked with a leading Canadian Financial Services firm where I interviewed commercial banking and wealth management leaders, understood where they wanted to go from a business perspective and put together a new business operating model and corresponding technology platform.
In a similar fashion, I worked with a leading financial services solution provider. They needed a mobile mortgage offering that could integrate into CRM as a back-end. I put together the product development and operating model.
The second scenario is more strategic and longer term in nature so it’s a little more difficult for contractors to find and get. The first kind of scenario is quite frequent. Of course, there are lots of opportunities across the two scenarios.
- Sandra: You seem to be a very experienced senior consultant / practice lead, what made you decide to go freelance?
Michael: Freelance began as contract consulting, working with end-users. Then, my next set of customers were partners who were asking for Dynamics coaching or looking to build a new practice. This was more of a short-term need: as the partners grew and became self-sustained, my coaching was no longer needed. There are some partners I’d like to work for, but it hasn’t worked out from timing perspective.
My passion is really more about the solution and working with the end-customer. I find it easier to be on the customer side than on the partner side. I like delivering solutions – business, technology, or otherwise. Freelancing allows me to minimize or avoid the corporate or business relationship politics. Consulting gives me the opportunity to work with customers and organisations with a focus on successful outcomes. But if you’re going to be a freelancer, you need to be comfortable with risk and uncertainty and with the ups and downs that come with it.
One recent successful outcome happened when I saw a gap in the CRM market: customers were asking me for a complete industry tailored, cross-functional, multi-channel, cloud based, integrated service delivery platform. Leveraging Microsoft CRM’s xRM capabilities, I put together and brought to the market a CRM solution partner that offered just that. We built vertical regulatory body and association management offering focused on clients who couldn’t afford an outright customised system by themselves, but could afford to pay a part of it each – I was the business investor and architect behind it and the solution still exists today.
- Sandra: Have you seen a high demand for senior exec resources in Canada and USA?
The demand for senior executive resources in Canada fluctuates. Last fall, I’d have said yes: many partners appeared to have established new practices or switched practice leads. The demand is a function of who’s investing in what products or new capabilities. For CRM, it goes up and down.
Where I see it the most, recently, is on the client side – where new releases or versions have generated strong product interested that’s turned into significant sales growth in Canada. They really like the product – but the bench in resource space isn’t sufficient to meet that demand at times. The partners tend to recruit only when they get new projects – typically at the functional level. Mentoring or investing in the next set of consultants or capabilities quite often isn’t the first option in building a team.
That’s one area of personal interest to me. In the last 12 years, I’ve mentored well over 100 individuals. When I implement a system for a company, I take a .NET developer or a sales and marketing professional and I cross-train them. Not a lot of individuals or organisations will do that and customers like it: when I leave a client, they typically have a Dynamics person who can maintain and manage their system. It’s not great from my own business perspective because it means I don’t get a phone call until the next version or major product release (yes, clients remember!) but the successful outcome focus is really there.
- Sandra: With so many CRM consultants on the market, how do you differentiate yourself? Does your experience with ClickDimensions, Zap and Scribe help you generate more opportunities?
Michael: I differentiate myself by my experience, diversity and by not just being a technology provider. The number one role everybody has a hard time filling is business architect – someone who’s able to go in and talk in business terms (for example banking) and have a frank discussion on how to improve the business by using process, people and technology. It isn’t something most consultants can do. Clients can find lots of talented people who understand Dynamics CRM and ISVs or widgets, but they don’t know about business. I don’t typically have that problem.
Dynamics CRM is one element of what I do. I also have experience with Dynamics Marketing (MDM), Social Listening – and soon Parature aspects; as well a broader Microsoft technologies (SQL Server, SharePoint, Office 365, BizTalk, .NET, and more) that Dynamics leverages or builds on.
For myself, add-ons don’t help much in finding projects. Client sponsors are focused on the conceptual CRM solution, how it works, how it might work with their web portals, mobile devices or analytics. They don’t really care about what the tool is: they look to me, to the Partner or to the Technology department to recommend it. As such, I typically try to match the solutions to the client’s needs – the Microsoft solutions in itself, ISVs such as ZAP, Scribe, ClickDimensions or otherwise. Clients will say they need an email marketing solution and I’ll provide a recommendation based on what they’re looking for.
- Sandra: What do you think of the 365 Freelance service?
Michael: I like the model. It’s a win-win situation for both parties – which I thought was pretty cool. It’s a similar philosophy to what I’ve been trying to do. I find it user-friendly.
I also like that I’ve seen you’re on social media – there’s a marketing effort there, which is different to what other organisations do.
I like the philosophy of the project, and I like that there’s an element of value for money in a service provider.
Sandra: Thank you, Michael! It is great pleasure talking to someone as experienced as you!
About us: 365 Freelance is the first online platform that gives Dynamics partners and end-users instant access to hundreds of contractors. With a network spanning 80 countries, it allows companies to search for freelancers based on their skills, rates and available dates, enabling them to find the best person for their projects without incurring the hefty fees typical of recruitment agencies. Register here – www.365freelance.com.