119. What's the role of pre-sales in setting up Microsoft customers and partners for successful Dynamics 365 and Power Platform projects? Today's guest is Craig McGeough, Power Platform Pre-Sales Consultant at Incremental Group.
Make sure you catch Craig's session, More than "selling the dream"! Why Pre-Sales is the key to Power Platform success, at Scottish Summit on Friday, 9 June 2022. Register for free today at ScottishSummit.com.
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Craig McGeogh: [00:00:00] I think few things in life, annoy delivery teams, more than badly scoped requirements. There is nothing worse. And you'll, you have been there, I'm sure. There is nothing worse than picking something up to take you three months and you've got four days to do it.
Neil Benson: G'day everyone. This is Neil Benson, your host for another episode of Amazing Applications.
What role does presales play in building amazing Dynamics 365 and Power Platform applications?
If you're a Microsoft customer, the pre-sales process, should help you visualize how your organization's current challenges can be solved with Microsoft business applications and envision the [00:01:00] art of the possible.
If you're a Microsoft partner, the pre-sales process should uncover your customer's business objectives, show them how Dynamics 365 or Power Platform applications can help them reach those objectives, and highlight your business's capabilities in delivering the desired outcomes.
Pre-sales can set you both up for success, or it can completely misalign expectations and set you up for a car crash.
In this episode, I'm chatting with Craig McGeough, a Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement and Power Platform pre-sales consultant at Incremental Group. Check out his blog PracticalPresales.com.
Congratulations to Jessica Li, Power Platform and Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement consultant at IBM, and Ethan Weathby-Fell, project manager at Factor.
They are two more Customery Academy students who completed my Scrum for Microsoft Business Apps online training, and achieved their Professional Scrum Master certification with Scrum.org [00:02:00] this month. Well done to both of you.
Start your agile journey with my free Agile Foundations online mini-course. In about an hour, you'll discover why I use an agile approach to build business apps, the benefits and basics of agile software development, which agile certification I recommend and how to achieve it. Visit Customery.com/Foundations to enroll for free today.
Okay, let's catch up with Craig McGeough from Incremental Group and find out how pre-sales helps us build Amazing Applications. If you'd like to find out more about presales, make sure you catch Craig's presentation at Scottish Summit on Friday, the 9th of June.
You can pick up one of the last remaining tickets for Scottish Summit at ScottishSummit.com or catch his presentation on the Scottish Summit channel on YouTube afterwards. Here's Craig.
Craig, welcome to Amazing Applications. It's fantastic to have you on the show.
Craig McGeogh: Thank you. very much. How are you doing.
Neil Benson: I'm great, thanks. I wonder just for the [00:03:00] benefit of our audience, who might not know you, if you could give yourself a quick introduction.
Craig McGeogh: Yeah, absolutely. So I am Craig McGeough. I think pronouncing the surname is probably a great place to start for anyone who doesn't know me cause it's not the easiest. And I I'm a pre-sales consultant at Incremental Group. So I've been in the Power Platform now for a few years. Before that I was a Dynamics recruiter. Boo hiss! I hear from the, from the back, and then I'd started decided to make the transition into the technical world. Did some time in delivery, and yeah, now working as a, as pre-sales consultant and absolutely love it. I've I've definitely drank the pre-sales Kool-Aid. Let's put it that way.
Neil Benson: That's something you and I have in common, we both started life as recruiters. My first gig as well. I didn't do Dynamics recruitment. That was way before Dynamics, but I, yeah, I was a recruiter. I started in 96.
Did that for four or five years. Yeah.
Craig McGeogh: Proper recruitment.
Neil Benson: Yeah, I was taking COBOL programmers from South Africa and helping them find jobs in Scotland to support Y2K projects. That's a long time ago. Man, I feel old [00:04:00] talking about that. And the question everybody has on the lips is, 'What'd you have for breakfast this morning?'
Craig McGeogh: Oh, see, you've caught me on a bad day, but I'll be honest. I had an egg and salad cream sandwich. Which is unusual for me. It's not something I would go to if I'm honest. It was really nice. If you haven't tried it, I would recommend it, but probably not for breakfast.
Neil Benson: Yeah, you'd have to, you'd have to hunt high and low to find salad cream here in Australia, I think.
Craig McGeogh: It's a thing of beauty. I don't know what's in it and I don't want to know, but it's a thing of beauty.
Neil Benson: Your favorite Microsoft application?
Craig McGeogh: For me, it has to be Power Automate. I think without exaggeration, I think Power Automate might be the greatest invention since the wheel I think is absolutely incredible. I think, especially in the pre-sales world, um, when we're talking about digital transformation and we're trying to show quick, know, snapshots of what digital transformation could look like.
Neil Benson: Yep.
Craig McGeogh: is incredible.
Neil Benson: There's a fan boy there. And for anybody not familiar, what does a pre-sales consultant do? How would you define the [00:05:00] role?
Craig McGeogh: I think it's a really big question and it's a very misunderstood role, I think. We straddle lots of different areas of, of a project life cycle, uh, and we don't own many of them, which I think is where the confusion comes in. So I am responsible for assisting our sales and commercial teams, which includes marketing as well to help turn the, the interest in the Power Platform, into tangible projects that we can deliver.
But in reality, what does that encompass? So that is taking requirements, evangelizing the platform, building tailored demos, delivering those demos, being in workshops following those demos and making sure that we can accurately understand pain points, opportunity points. Making sure that we can map that to a long digital transformation that is going to tangibly change your business.
And then making sure that the requirements that we hand off to our delivery teams are accurately scoped in terms of time and effort. Is the project actually doable in, in [00:06:00] the timescale and with the budget that would that were suggesting? Yeah, you're wearing many hats, but I think you, you know, ultimately being someone who can assist in understanding why a business might want to go through some digital transformation, being able to play back what that might look like, and then being able to codify that and hand that off to delivery. That's probably how I would define pre-sales.
Neil Benson: You know, I was presenting to a team of recruiters recently that asked me to come in and give them a briefing on the Power Platform and all the different roles and different technologies and what people do to help them become better recruiters. And we went through all the different roles: business analyst, project manager and delivery and functional consultant. The managing director of this recruitment team, he's like, "But I don't understand presales. Why do they get paid so much?"
I was trying to explain to him that a great pre-sales consultant can win sales opportunities that others can't, and
Craig McGeogh: Yeah.
Neil Benson: up for success that others can't. It's a pretty, pretty critical role.
Craig McGeogh: Yeah. A hundred percent. Yeah.
Neil Benson: Do you think pre-sales [00:07:00] consultants need or benefit from a background in delivery or in sales? You know which side you need to come from?
Craig McGeogh: Yeah, I think that's a great question, actually. I don't think you need either. I think if you had both, you would be, it would be amazing. Of course it, of course it would and I think, you know, I'm quite fortunate in the sense that the, I come from an inherently sales background, uh, in the recruitment world. Um, and my first ever role was, was selling phones.
I think it's fairly obvious that selling a Nokia and selling a digital transformation project are very different, but it helps. Um, so I, you know, I came through sales and then I went into delivery and, and found myself in pre-sales. So I think it definitely helps. I think if you were. If you would draft in a CV, I think having both would be, it would be a big help.
But I think for me, the biggest thing is just having a willingness to listen and to learn and to collaborate. And I think you'll have salespeople that can't do that. You'll have that have worked in delivery that can't, that can't do that.
I think you need to be able to listen and understand [00:08:00] pain points or needs and opportunities. And need to always be learning about how you can maximize those. You need to know your industry. You need to know the platform. You need to grow with it as both of those elements grow. So I think, it would be amazing you had someone that had sales and delivery. But I think as long as it's that willingness to learn, I think you can pick both of those up. So yeah, don't think, I don't think that vital, but it definitely help.
Neil Benson: You mentioned industry knowledge or industry expertise there. That that's a critical one, but I don't know many pre-sales consultants who specialize in an industry. A few do, you know, financial services or they work for a Microsoft partner that specializes in that. And I know Incremental Group does a lot
Craig McGeogh: Yeah.
Neil Benson: and insurance and financial services. you have an industry specialization what happens if you get dropped into a health opportunity? How do you handle that?
Craig McGeogh: Yeah. So I do specialize now. So I work, um, as you say, I work for Incremental that on the FSI side of things, we are incredibly laser-focused on what we do. Uh, in terms of my business [00:09:00] unit.
We do have wider capability across the business, but I have worked more generically in the past.
Um, and I, I think it's. I think it's easy to miss the industry, but so I think it's about doing your research and making sure you're prepared. I think we should generally be working to best practices that give us time to research our industry. So, whereas I I'm, I'm surrounded by the, the financial service industry every day. I think if I was working at, at a more generic partner, shall we say, and that's certainly not to be, uh, a disparaging, um, comment there. I think you can still understand what's going on before you go into the conversations.
I think my, my concern would be anyone in pre-sales who thinks that the platform is enough.
I think this is where I think the, the real risk comes from. You know, it's all well and good explaining why, you know, leveraging, cloud based apps and really nice automation with Power Automate. And, you know, having that secured by the COE, for example, is amazing. But if you don't actually understand how a production line needs to function [00:10:00] on a day to day basis, that's driving this conversation, I think you're missing at least 50% of the conversation. So I think you can definitely make sure that you're well prepared in advance. I think there's enough research material out there that as long as we're giving ourselves time as pre-sales consultants to prepare before we go into these conversations that I don't, I don't think there's a, there's a reason not to be prepared, but yeah, I'm fortunate and I'm so, you know, Uber specialized now that it, it makes a lot of that easier.
It's very much by osmosis now.
Neil Benson: I think it's important that presales consultants are up to date with business trends and what's happening. If you're the type of person that loves reading the business newspaper, the business section of the news, and you're familiar with what's going on in the stock market, with the economy, with politics. Cause those are the issues that are impacting the leadership of your customers. And you need people to talk their language and understand what's impacting their business.
Craig McGeogh: I totally agree. I I'm yet to find a project I've worked on where technology was the driver. It's, it's the solution inherently based on what we do, but the technology technology is never the driver. And I think that's where, that's where sometimes when you have people [00:11:00] dipping into presales or people who are new or. I think that's where it goes wrong is that, you know, tech technology shouldn't come first. Technology is the, is the answer to the question, but often we don't know the question that's being asked. Um, and that's where, that's where the industry knowledge. And, and again, that doesn't have to be hyper hyper-specific.
doesn't have to be understanding exactly how, uh, an intermediary would go and process insurance workflows, but you, you know, you'd have a vague understanding as to why they would want to do it in the first place.
And I think that's, that's where we are. Yeah, you're right. We need to understand the politics, the world, the economy what's going on, what's driving things. And, um, I think if you're, if you're in pre-sales and you're not doing that, I'd be pretty nervous. I think, I think you, you need to go in there armed as well commercially as you are technologically, without a shadow of a doubt.
Neil Benson: You make it sound awesome. What's the best part of being a pre-sales consultant?
Craig McGeogh: For me, it's problem solving. Well, it's actually two things. It problem solving it's and it's performance. I, I love being that person who, you know, [00:12:00] when, when a question goes to the floor my hand will invariably will go up. I love being the person that gets on a stage and does karaoke. Even though I can't sing.
So that there's that element for me. It's kind of theater. I think pre-sales done well is kind of, it has a theatrical element of it, you know, the wild moments and the big reveals and that type of thing. But at the core of it, for me, it's it's problem solving. I'm a big people person. I'm a big people pleaser, and I really enjoy listening to pain points and turning them into solutions or listening to excitement about something that could be done and then showing what that could look like.
I get a real, I got a real kick out of that, and I think that's what took me away from delivery is that I felt that when I jumped in that bit had already been done and I almost had a bit of, um, I was a bit jealous looking over the fence thinking, oh, well, everyone knows what they're getting now.
You know, it's kind of like turning up after everyone's opened their Christmas presents. wanted to be there while it was happening, if that makes sense. So that, yeah, that that's, that's the two best bits to me is like seeing, seeing the excitement or the relief when you either uncover opportunity or cover off pain and then the performance element that goes [00:13:00] with that.
Neil Benson: So you don't miss delivery. You don't miss being billable and having to fill in time sheets and.
Craig McGeogh: No, I really don't. If I'm honest, if I love the, I love the fact that you do get a lot deeper in terms of your relationship with your clients. And I was very fortunate that when I joined Incremental, just for one example, I worked on a squad that was on a long process of work with one particular client. And I became very, very close with stakeholders there.
And you have that kind of, it almost feels like blurred lines between don't have the sides of the fence. You're all kind of working to one aim and that's amazing. And I think that is truly something special when, when a partner and a customer is able to have that kind of relationship. But it was still not as fun as you know, I still enjoy going, 'But guys, look at this,' a lot more than I enjoy going, 'Yeah. I've delivered them user stories that you needed.'
Neil Benson: You mentioned there people the new stuff.
Craig McGeogh: Um,
Neil Benson: we think about what's going on at Microsoft Build at the moment, there's lots of reveals Power Pages and the [00:14:00] what's it called the one that scans a document and converts it into a
Craig McGeogh: Off the back of Figma.
Neil Benson: Do pre-sales consultants need to be the first people to pick that stuff up and be able to get their hands on it, their sleeves up and learn it, and then be able to talk about it and demonstrate it to clients?
Craig McGeogh: Yeah. A hundred percent, a hundred percent. I think we, we need to be at the forefront of everything that's coming. And I, and the reason why, I guess there's two reasons why, number one, you don't want to be blindsided by your customer. I think that is, yeah. That's one of the pre-sales 1 0 1 is that you don't want to be in a room, and have a customer tell you something that's on the roadmap that you weren't aware of. It's it's not great. So I think that's number one.
The second thing for me is that, you know, if you look at what we're doing at our core, we're constantly mapping. Get your customers, raw customers, roadmaps customers, digital transformations, and how we can impact that. And it would be incredibly unfortunate in my opinion, if, just because we weren't keeping on top of the trends, we had someone build something bespoke that cost them X [00:15:00] amount of thousands of pounds that is off the shelf in six weeks' time.
So I think, you know, that's obviously a very big example, but you know, I think we need to be mindful of the upcoming solutions to questions that we haven't been asked yet. And I think that that is hugely important.
I also think that presales done right, has an element of feeding that into delivery. I do agree that, you know, FCs who are chargeable for, you know, their full seven and a half hours a day. Probably have less of a, a compelling factor to go and look at the latest stuff that's on the that's on the wave releases. But I think that's where pre-sales can help. You know, I'm a big believer that pre-sales is the, is the hub of the wheel, if you like, in terms of Power Platform. And in fact, I'm going to plug my session, which depends on when it goes out, might have already been done but I'm sure you'll be able to catch up, which is, 'Why pre-sales is the key to Power Platform success.' And I truly believe it. This isn't, you know, it's, I'm not throwing out propaganda. I genuinely believe that. And I think one of the elements to, to answer your point there is that [00:16:00] pre-sales can be a hugely valuable resource internally for picking new releases up, uh, and disseminate that information out to sellers or to delivery consultants.
And look, we've built this isn't this cool. You know, and we can deliver a 25 minute internal lunch and learn session as opposed to getting an FC either to, you know, not do chargeable work, or be picking this up over an evening, uh, and looking at it. So I think, yeah, I think pre-sales has to be at the forefront for both your customers and internally as well.
I'll give you a long answer to a short question there, but I hope that made sense.
Neil Benson: Yeah, I love that aspect of, being able to evangelize internally as well as externally. That's a, an awesome option. Tell me some of the highlights you've had as a pre-sales consultant. Any wins that you're super proud of your contribution towards, or the best parts of the job that help you jump out of bed in the morning?
Craig McGeogh: I think for me, and this is going to sound like a very vague answer and I apologize in advance, but I don't look at project wins. I look at what made that win [00:17:00] special. And I think for me, I always come back to, who or what was inspired by what we did?
You know, I, I spent time working for an ISV called Mercury. An incredible product. Ran, ran, and built by incredible people. You know, they, they truly are, in my opinion, the best recruitment product out there it's been, it's built on the Power Platform. And it was amazing to see what could be done with that business. But where I get really excited is where we've brought a lot more things from the platform in. You know, Mercury for very specific reasons doesn't cover off all of the stack. Whereas I get really excited by bringing in lots and lots of disparate tools and processes and pulling that together and really making the platform as a whole flourish.
And they're the projects that stand out to me where it isn't just sales or it isn't just service or it isn't just a bespoke canvas app to do X. I get excited when it's bringing much more of it together, because I think that's when the platform truly sings. That's when you get multiple stakeholders in a room, that's where you start to solve multiple pain points. You start to open up [00:18:00] multiple opportunities.
So when you can get into a business and you can really start to, you know, spread the roots out and the platform starts to cover every different area of that business. And you get multiple different groups of stakeholders engage and that's top-down and bottom-up as well, which is excites me. I think you need to bring users with you on the journey as much as you need to bring the C-suite and vice versa. So they're the projects that stand out for me where it's, uh, it's true transformation.
And it starts from a lead or a conversation somewhere, or a referral or whatever that might be. And when pre-sales pick it up, it's just the genesis of a maybe. And then we
Neil Benson: Yeah.
Craig McGeogh: we nurture it and we turn it into the real possibility that can be delivered. And this is what you can get. And these are all different people that can be impacted. That's where I get really excited. They're the ones that stand out.
And I think, you know, if there's Microsoft involvement there, you know, Incremental and Microsoft works very closely because of our specialization. Again, it's a, it's another, it's just another layer of. This is amazing. We've got another group of people with their input, with their ideas [00:19:00] that you can learn from. That you can bounce off. That you can share things from you.
You learn from every person you meet. It's very cliche, but it's true. That's where I get excited. And so for me, it's not about. That project because of X or at that value, or it was a hard demo and I brought it back round or whatever. I get excited about the ones where it was like, wow, this is truly transformational.
And often that's all that that's part of a team. You know, we've got, we've got a team of pre-sales people at Incremental and we, we truly work collaboratively. I think it would be really unfair to say any project that we do is the sole responsibility of one person. You know, you have to bounce ideas off each other.
So, yeah. I've not answered your question in terms of giving you names or specifics, but to me, what stands out when I think of good or exciting, or, you know, if I was sort of back on my career, when I'm kind of said and done, it will be the projects where it was varied and it was a big, big bit of work with lots and lots of people that stand out to me, it won't be that was a two week lead cycle and we won a big opportunity and it was sales that that's never, that's never going to stand out for me.
Neil Benson: You mentioned a couple of things that I find interesting. One is about bringing the [00:20:00] power of the entire Power Platform into an opportunity. Do you need to be across all the licensing options and nuances in order to be able to do that or in your organization, does the sales team or commercial team handle that? How do you handle licensing questions and so on in your opportunities?
Craig McGeogh: Yeah, I think licensing is, uh, is an art in itself. Isn't it? I think it's, I don't know about you, but I get a little shutter every time I hear the word. I think, do you need to be mindful of it? Yes, absolutely. The last thing you want to be doing is selling the dream of let's get all these users on board. And then, then you haven't spoke about licensing ramifications.
I think it's as important as I did not say security, for example, like it's just a, it's a core tenant of what we do that needs to be covered. At Incremental, I think we're very fortunate in the sense that our sales team are very, very good on the licensing side of things.
We might be different to the sales pre-sales teams in the sense of that we probably lean on our sales guys for [00:21:00] that more than they lean on us. But I do think that could be very different in different organizations. I think, you know, so for me, I I'm, I'm certainly mindful of it. I'm certainly mindful of when, for example, we're looking at things that might be restricted or things that are premium or things that might need an enterprise type license.
But what I'm not is really down in the weeds saying, well, you know, actually to get it at scale, if you, if you do this or that or the other, you might get this benefit or, you know, you can maybe look at using this license as opposed to this license for these reasons. I think for me, that probably falls to our sales guys more than myself. I'm probably very fortunate in that sense.
Neil Benson: The other thing that struck me is the type of opportunities you're working on. The types of digital transformations that
Craig McGeogh: Hmm.
Neil Benson: customers are asking you to help them with. They sound pretty big. In the last 10 years, I think I've probably worked on 10 projects. They tend to be big, enterprise digital transformation projects. Some of them have been multi-year, you know, two or three years. Others have been six or nine months. But there's [00:22:00] only been about 10 of them. How many opportunities do you think you get to work on in a year how long is a pre-sales engagement?
Craig McGeogh: That's a really hard question to answer because you could, I could throw that back into say a pre-sales engagements for some of our clients never stop. So there's clients that we're, that we're doing work pre-sales work with, that were there before me, and maybe will be there after me because of how big their transformation is.
I think working in the financial industry, they aren't looking for a quick win because they don't need to. Since the recovery from the crash, they aren't looking to save a few quid or make a few quid here and there, it's not a case of, you know, if we just take this app that our fleet workers, if we just put them on an app, rather than having them filling in paper documents, then we'll save X amount per year. They're not doing that. They're trying to truly re-invent at times how they go to market, how their customers interact with them, how their processes are done. And that is full root and branch change. [00:23:00] So presales never really stops for some of them. For some of them, it can be months, and months, and months of presales.
Some of it is existing clients who jump in and they want an addition to what we've delivered and that might be a month's worth of requirements gathering, building a demo, getting that out, getting a statement of work together.
So it's a really hard question to answer in our business unit, because you could anywhere from six to eight weeks to five to six years, it wouldn't raise eyebrows.
The financial services industry is going through a real step change. I think the crash raised a hell of a lot of a hell of a lot of concerns. I think what you've seen at the minute is a real appetite for change across the board. We're looking at big, big, big pieces of work and they can go on for a long time, but the rewards are huge in our industry if they get this right.
If you can take a process, which we have done, that would maybe take three weeks and have a horrendous dropout rate because people are just fed up of doing it. If you can change that into a process, [00:24:00] that's nice. That takes minutes.
As a bank, you have to be making money. What we also have the benefit of is that we have people who fundamentally understand commerce and that's not, not, it's not me suggesting that other industries don't of course, but what I mean is that you're, you're literally talking to people who understand how to make money.
So when you present them with an opportunity that truly allows them to change the way they go and attack their markets. Then they listen. So I think we're in a very fortunate position in the sense that we aren't swimming against the tide of really low costs, low IT budgets and people who maybe don't understand why digital transformation is a thing.
We're not operating in that world of 15-man businesses who, you know, they're pushing back against going to Exchange online, for example. We're not swimming in those circles. What we are swimming in circles, is where it's the other end of the scale. Where expectation is big but opportunity is big.
And I just love it. I love it. So
Neil Benson: Changing gears a little bit. I'm thinking about the qualities that a pre-sales consultant needs, how [00:25:00] important do you think is? Both on the Microsoft stack but things like Microsoft Catalyst or the implementation methodologies. How broad a set of skills and certifications, do you think the pre-sales consultants should have?
Craig McGeogh: Yeah, I think that's a great question depending on where people are in their career. So I think for me, certifications were a huge tick in the box in terms of feeling like I was credible maybe before I was credible. I think I allowed me to sit at the table was early in my career and have the conversations and feel like I could justify it.
I think if you're someone who has been in delivery for 10 years, you could maybe, you know, you may put less emphasis on certifications than maybe I did at the start.
But I think from a product perspective, I think you absolutely need to be covering things like PL-200, or PL-100. I think, you know, you could probably get away with not doing, you know, that the first party app certifications, if you've got a good enough handle across the stack but there's so much changes so quickly that I think everyone should be regularly taking those [00:26:00] core certifications every time there is a, there is a big change.
In terms of the non technical ones, if you like, you mentioned Catalyst there, which I think is a really timely bit of training to mention. So I've done my Catlayst training and it was eye-opening for me, genuinely. The amount of things that I realized that I did, but did either badly or to a really low level and thought it was enough after, until I did that training was, was really eyeopening for me.
You know, I, I think I just got a new perspective on how and why Design Thinking needs to fit into everything that we, that we do.
Neil Benson: Do you want to just describe Catalyst for people who are not familiar with it, who might be listening?
Craig McGeogh: Yeah, absolutely. So, so Catalyst is really the branding of the IDEA framework, which should allow us to go into businesses and look at and taking harnessing ideas and putting them through a framework which allows for repeatable success. Allows us to get better understanding.
The different elements of, uh, of how and why we should be taking a business who are trying to [00:27:00] transform themselves a codified set of outcomes at the end of it, that will allow us to go and build requirements. So there's lots of different approaches to Design Thinking. Catalyst is the one that Microsoft are leveraging. And I think it's, I really enjoy it.
But, you know, cards on the table. I've never done any formal training in anything other than Catalyst in the design thinking world. what it will do is allow anyone who has to go and evangelize or solutionize, horrible word, it would allow people to, to be armed with exercises and tools and best practice and the why as to why we would do that.
I think, again, we talk about being prepared earlier in the conversation. There's few things worse than walking into a room where you don't know what you don't know, and it's horrible and you don't know what's coming. The Catalyst framework will allow you to walk into those initial requirements gathering workshops. Whether that's one workshop and one day, or whether that's a stream of work. And it will allow you to plan and execute [00:28:00] exercises that are repeatable that allow you to eke out the real requirements of that, that business needs. I think it's fundamental to pre-sales, but I really urge every single person that's working on projects to go and have a look at that.
It's yeah, it changed my perspective. Every single person that I've spoke to really, really enjoyed the trading. I don't know anyone that's come off it and gone, yeah, it was okay. Everyone that's come off and said, wow, okay, yeah, that's given me a new perspective now.
I think it's, I hate buzzwords, but I think, I think that's the new buzzword that's coming will be Design Thinking because you know, not everyone is operating in industries or with clients who are massively receptive to huge digital transformation. But that's where a lot of us need to be heading. And I think if we aren't armed with something like Catalyst, although I think Catalyst is the one that makes the most sense for most of us working in Microsoft partners. Um, I think people might make things harder for themselves. I don't think it precludes you from doing, you know, sensible and effective and really successful digital transformation, but it definitely makes life harder.
Neil Benson: Yeah, I really enjoyed the [00:29:00] training as well. I took the training it's online videos and there's a few kind of solo exercises that you do, I would love some group exercises, particularly if you're working in a Microsoft partner which is p retty big and selling digital transformation projects
Craig McGeogh: Yeah.
Neil Benson: through it together as a team
Craig McGeogh: Yeah.
Neil Benson: brainstorming together and bouncing ideas off each other would have been, would have really cemented the learning
Craig McGeogh: Yeah.
Neil Benson: watching a few videos.
But I appreciate, they're trying to educate thousands of people at scale and online learning is a good way to do that. so hopefully there'll be some options to go a bit deeper later.
Craig McGeogh: Yeah. Yeah, I hope so.
Neil Benson: then about setting up projects for delivery. How much do you get involved in, something very close to my heart, which is estimating them? How much is it going to cost? How long is it going to take? Is Craig normally the person who answers that or who your team normally gets involved when those two questions get raised?.
Craig McGeogh: Yeah, for us, it's a real collaborative effort and kind of explain why we approach it that way. If we look at the three elements [00:30:00] of successful kind of presales work or the pre-sale work, if you like, we need someone that represents delivery. We need someone that represents sales. And we need kind of owes in the middle as the, the independent arbiter. Or the representative of the customer while these conversations are happening.
I'm sure that there is no salespeople out there that would try and get a quick win. And I'm sure that there is no delivery leads out there that would try and add more time in to protect their team. I'm sure that doesn't happen, but let's assume it was to happen where there is a neutral person that tries to keep things on the straight and narrow.
So for us, what we try and do is we try and represent all of those different elements of the triangle to make sure that everyone is comfortable. So the salesperson is there to make sure that fundamentally that's commercially viable for us as a business and to make sure that it meets the, the budget that they've spoken about with the, with the customer.
Because we are pre-sale, I think some people have a, maybe an opinion that we [00:31:00] are there throughout, and we're not, we come in when something is ready to have us get involved, you know, those conversations with only the seller they could last for months, or years potentially, talking about things that might happen. So we come in when the time's right.
So the seller will be armed with all of this information around what the budget looks like, where the budget's coming from, who needs to sign off on the budget. Are there any things that we need to be mindful of? Is there any things like funding that we can go into it again? Microsoft do a great job of arming people with funding to get them into the, in the door and making the transformation a bit easier to kickstart.
So we have the seller's interests. We then have the delivery interests. So we get our heads of our delivery, uh, business units involved to make sure that
Neil Benson: Okay.
Craig McGeogh: meet their standard.
I think few things in life, annoy delivery teams, more than badly scoped requirements. There is nothing worse. And you'll, you have been there, I'm sure. There is nothing worse than picking something up to take you three months and you've got four days to do it. So someone somewhere is losing out in a very difficult conversation that needs to happen. And [00:32:00] it's probably probably you then the client.
So we need to have someone who represents the delivery element. Is this actually doable? First of all, you know, we're not selling, we're not selling unicorns on a stick and telling people that it's digital transformation, we're selling actual, tangible change. So is it doable?
Secondly, if it's doable, is it doable to the right standard? Do we have the capability? Yes or no? If we don't, we shouldn't be doing it. Simple as that. We shouldn't be learning on the job. We need to make sure that we're comfortable that we can do this.
The final point is just making sure that the requirements are, are understandable and that they're sensible you know, whilst agile is, is phenomenal. And I know I'm probably about to preach to the, the person that needs least convincing about this that I could be, but agile is phenomenal, but it does give people a place to hide behind a 'We'll worry about it later' methodology. You know, agile is not about, we're worried about it later. Agile is about making sure that we're being reactive, um, and that we're doing things in a sensible manner, understanding that things might not be as entirely linear as we, as it could be.
But at the same time, you need to make sure that people know what [00:33:00] they're getting into from both sides. And then we're there to make sure that what we've promised up to this point is referenced in the documentation that goes to a statement of work.
It's a real collaborative effort. And I think what that does, you know, our NPS scores, our satisfaction scores are through the roof as a business. And whilst this isn't a party political broadcast for Incremental Group, I think that approach to estimation absolutely must help because we aren't blindsiding people. We're not spending three months talking to, uh, a CTO let's say about, a 35 grand project. And then all of a sudden now when it's time to sign off and it's 250 grand, and it's going to take three times as long. We're not doing that. We're not hoping for the best. We're also not passing over to delivery and causing problems further down the line. We're also not underselling a salesperson that spent their time, you know, building a pipeline that they think is worth X and all of a sudden is worth Y when everything drops out the bottom.
Neil Benson: Yeah.
Craig McGeogh: it's a real collaborative effort.
We do, we do have a lot of input into it, but we don't own it. We collectively own it. I guess if we're really splitting hairs, the salesperson owns it until it's signed, but [00:34:00] really it's a again, it's, you know, one of the big things that you'll hear from anyone that works at Incremental, I'm guessing is team. There is a real divide and conquer, do it properly once mentality. To do it properly once, instead of going back around the houses and eventually you get it signed off, but you get it signed off by a customer who doesn't trust you anymore. And it's pretty fed up with the process.
Neil Benson: My old boss used to say never let capacity get in the way of a good proposal. How much does the capacity of your delivery team play on your mind when you're in that proposal stage? Are you working with the delivery leads to say, Hey, look, this is the size of the project. How many people is it going to need? Do you have those people? Where are we going to get them from? Are they on a project at the moment? Are we going to recruit them? Does that play in your mind whenever you're writing proposals or do you ignore that until to the real pointy end and delivery?
Craig McGeogh: No, no, no, no for us, it's vital. It's absolutely vital yet. The last thing that you want to gain, uh, from, from a pre-sales perspective, you know, I'm certainly not in a position that I can talk for the commercial directors at Incremental. So I'm just giving you my opinion here. Um, but I think, I think I'm going to be [00:35:00] certainly speaking to the party line here. But the last thing we want is to be getting people excited for their project. Then all of a sudden, we've got to put them on ice for six months. It's the last thing that you want to do. You don't want to be scrapping to recruit for a project that kicks off in four days. The market is not, uh, is not flooded with talent. So yeah, it's for us, it's vital. It wouldn't stop us having discovery workshops, conversations doing demos, but we would always, always be mindful of the fact that if we're getting down to brass tacks and we're going to start signing pieces of paper, that we need to be mindful of capacity and capability.
I think capacity is not alone. It has to be capacity and capability. Just having bodies to throw at something it's, it's not, it does not equal successful teams. I think you need to have enough of the right people rather than just enough of people. So yeah, we're very big on making sure that's right. and that's again, where the delivery lead will come in as that person, you know, the person who owns that team is the best person to tell us whether we can and can't do that project. The salesperson, give us all the reasons in the world, why we should do it. [00:36:00] And I'm sure there's lots of reasons on every project why we should, but really until we know that we can, should it is just a hypothetical pipe dream.
You know, we get paid when things are delivered. Ultimately, you know, if we take it really down to the commercial elements, you know, when I was in recruitment, what goes on the board is vanity and then what goes in your bank is sanity. Cause I used to have a lot of people in recruitment dropout, and they would say, 'Yeah, I'll take an offer,' and you would, you would ring a bell or you would get a bottle of champagne. And then two weeks later they would take a counter offer or they didn't want the job or whatever. So I had a real mentality of, until they start on day one in recruitment, you haven't placed them.
We need to make sure we're delivering because until people are. You know, you asked me earlier about the question, do I have, do I miss filling in time sheets, but until someone is filling in a time sheet for that project, we've not made anything off it. It it's just been a cost up to that point.
Neil Benson: There was no sales opportunity closed until the first invoice is paid.
Craig McGeogh: I'm trying to, you know, you left the last thing you want to do, as I said, you know, and, and this, this really, I don't, I don't want to get dragged into commercial thing, being the driver. Cause the last thing you want to do is misrepresent to your clients what you can and can't do. And when you can and can't do it. It's the quickest way to break [00:37:00] relationships.
Neil Benson: What does the career path look like for a pre-sales consultant? You mentioned coming in learning some new skills delivery skills and sales skills. Being able to run a room, facilitate a demonstration, where do pre-sales consultants go from there?
Craig McGeogh: Yeah. I still think pre-sales is very much in its infancy. So I don't think there are very clearly defined pathways yet, in my opinion. I think that the ceiling at the minute definitely seems lower than other areas, but I think the obvious ones that would stand out would be into kind of more core architecture, you know, especially when we're looking at people who are doing pre-sales work around entire platforms or big digital transformation, I think there is definitely logic in someone who is more technically minded moving into a core architect role.
I think on the flip side, if you've got someone who's maybe a bit more on the commercial side, maybe a bit more salesy, I would like to think I have a good blend of both, but I think if you, if you had to make me choose whether I was more technical or [00:38:00] commercial, I would say probably commercial. I think, you know, so for people who do come from in a pre-sales from the sales world, it might be that they go back into the sales world.
Or they take more of a CCO or a CRO, you know, chief revenue officer they'd go down that sales path to it, to a higher level. I think it'd be remiss not to not to accept the fact that, you know, a managerial ladder to climb in pre-sales. And I'm very fortunate that I work for very, very, very good manager who again, has kind of climbed that pre-sales architectural ladder and it brings a wealth of experience to me.
a line manager who understands my day-to-day job. there's probably a lot of people out there in pre-sales that report into someone that's not quite role that they're doing. So there, there is a growing, growing market for managerial pre-sales personnel. And the final one I wanted to touch on, which is you don't see a huge amount of. Well, I haven't. I'm hearing murmurs of these type of roles and it sounds amazing, which is kind of being an out-and-out [00:39:00] evangelist. So maybe like a vendor or a really big GSI or someone like that. You know, being, being more of a, of an ever present evangelist. So rather than flying into a project, demoing it, winning the work, passing the good requirements on a moving off, that you're always there.
You're always there to, you know, to be talking about the Power Platform, how that can help. And you're not talking to clients on a client by client basis. You're talking to clients as part of a much wider conversation. I think that's really interesting if that grows arms and legs, that could be a real game changer for the Power Platform, especially because if you look at the higher end of the scale, where there is simultaneously always something going on, but there aren't as many big compelling events where it's like, okay, we need this in by this day, or we're in bother. I think that evangelist role could be a really interesting addition to, to the armory.
And pre-sales people are the natural people to fill that gap in my opinion. So I think that's one to keep an eye on for anyone who is interested in starting a pre-sales journey or anything like that. [00:40:00] I think that's your four routes with that final one, much, much, much less developed than the others. But that's where that's, that could be a real rock star role in the future and, yeah, we'll see how that one plays out.
Neil Benson: Yeah, I can think of one partner in Australia who has a, a person in a role like that,
Craig McGeogh: Hmm.
Neil Benson: and far between it's. Yeah, like I said, it's evangelist role where you're running workshops, you're doing education pieces. You're doing industry events and talking about the capability of the Power Platform, but also your organization's ability to help clients on that journey. And you're really not in the details of an individual opportunity with an individual prospective customer.
Craig McGeogh: Yeah, that that's it. think that could be a real game changer in terms of getting people bought in on a bigger scale than just transactional pieces of work.
Neil Benson: Craig, is there anything else I should have asked you about in your pre-sales role?
Craig McGeogh: No, I don't think so. I mean, I think it would be, it would be terrible of me not to plug my blog while I'm here. So my blog is, is [00:41:00] PracticalPresales.com. My blog is aimed at people who either are new to the pre-sales world of those consultants who, who occasionally get dragged into pre-sales and think, well, I don't really know what I'm doing here. Sadly, there are more and more of them than I think we would probably like. Pre-sales is still a very niche skill. A bit of a dark art for many. my blog aims to give real, real, tangible advice on things like how to set up a demo, know, how we should approach things like smoke and mirrors. What, what is that? Do I need to be scared of that? So it's still very new the blog, but yeah, please do check it out and, and get in contact if you've got any questions on that. apart from that, I think we've covered a lot. But pre-sales is amazing so I'll, I'll live with it.
Neil Benson: I haven't had a presale consultant or guest on before on Amazing Applications. I think it's a vital role for setting up the delivery of what I am passionate about, which is amazing applications that stakeholders love. And. We ignore the, the critical role -- well, I have ignored the critical role -- that a pre-sales consultant can play in and framing it [00:42:00] and setting us up for success or, passing us a hospital pass that gets the team flattened with misaligned expectations.
Craig McGeogh: Yeah, a hundred percent. There is so much opportunity if it's done right. And I truly believe, again, plug my Scottish Summit 2022 session, I truly believe pre-sales is the key to success. But you're right. If it's done badly, it can, it can be disastrous. And that's why I think, you know, if you can get specialists in to do it, don't, don't ask your FCs or, or technical consultants to do a role that isn't really their skillset. They are very different skills.
Neil Benson: So you're making a way up to Glasgow in a couple of weeks while there's Scottish Summit. We'll make sure we include links to your session in there.
I guess it's like a visit back up to HQ for you.
Craig McGeogh: Yeah, it is. It's a, um, I'm able to factor it into my, to my regular visits, which is nice. It gives me a bit of familiarity to be on home, away from home turf.
Neil Benson: Well, Craig, thanks so much for joining me on Amazing Applications. It's been a fascinating discussion. I hope you enjoyed it as well.
Craig McGeogh: I did. It was great. Thank you so much for having me.
Chike Eduputa: Thanks so much [00:43:00] for listening to the amazing apps podcast you can join the show's mailing list at https://AmazingApps.Show you'll Get a personalized welcome video from yours truly and a notification when there's a new episode available there are also shortcuts So you can follow the show on all major podcast players and you can follow amazing apps show on Twitter LinkedIn YouTube Instagram and Facebook You can send me a message or a voicemail if you'd like your question answered on a future episode and even support the show through BuyMeACoffee or by buying an amazing apps t-shirt visit https://Amazing.Apps.Show Thanks again for listening I really appreciate you Until next time take care and keep sprinting