Microsoft FastTrack Success by Design with Seth Kircher

Microsoft FastTrack Success by Design with Seth Kircher

103. The Microsoft FastTrack Success by Design implementation guide was first published in May 2021 and has refreshed this month (October 2021) in the 2021 Wave 2 update .

What is Success by Design? Is it the latest incarnation of the Dynamics SureStep methodology or is it a new framework that all Dynamics 365 partners should consider adopting for their enterprise projects?

To find out, I'm joined by Seth Kircher. He's the Principal FastTrack Solution Architect Manager for Microsoft FastTrack's solution architects in the Americas.

We dig into the role of FastTrack, the origins and benefits of Success by Design and its future.

Resources

Support the show (https://buymeacoffee.com/amazingapps)

Transcript

Neil Benson: [00:00:00] The Microsoft FastTrack Success by Design framework. Is it the latest iteration of SureStep? Ooh. Or is it a repeatable approach that partners should consider adopting in enterprise Dynamics 365 projects.

Welcome to Amazing Applications. I'm your host business applications MVP, Neil Benson. 

I've had a couple of spring camping trips with the family over the past couple of weekends. And either side of that, I was oiling the deck at the front of our house. I was on my hands and knees sanding about 20 square meters of hardwood by [00:01:00] hand, twice, and then sanding the sides of all the little boards and I'm feeling wrecked. I've lost the fingerprints on the end of my fingers to the sandpaper so I can't even open my phone. And the result I have to say is, ah, fairly mediocre. 

It was a timely reminder for me to either hire a professional who knows what they're doing or get the right tools for the job. And when I'm looking at a DIY job like that, I always wonder whether I'm better hiring a professional so that I can go and enjoy my free time and make some more money building business applications, or whether I should tackle it myself, take a break from building business applications, and enjoy the reward that comes from a physical job well done. Yeah, I think II'll outsource it next time. 

I've been digging into the Microsoft FastTrack Success by Design framework recently, and I wanted to share my findings and my learnings with you. But rather than try and tackle it myself, I brought in a professional. Seth Kircher is the [00:02:00] Principal FastTrack Solution Architect Manager, and he leads the team of FastTrack solution architects in the Americas. 

Seth and I cover the role of FastTrack, the origins of the Success by Design framework, as well as its future. You'll find show notes to the resources and to the trainings that we discuss as well as a transcript at AmazingApps.Show/103.

Here's Seth Kircher.

Seth Kircher, welcome to the Amazing Applications podcast. It's great to have you on the show.

Seth Kircher: Neil, it's great to to be here and one of the things that that I wanted to just start off by saying is about four or five years ago in a slightly different role at Microsoft, I had the benefit of of having two college hires. There was a program that's now called Microsoft Aspire, which was called MACH or Microsoft Academy of College Hires. We put together a rigorous kind of plan for these college hires to come in. And part of that was getting [00:03:00] certifications in Dynamics 365. And when they were Amber and Anna were, their names were studying for the exam. I remember them sending an email to me, "In Neil Benson, we trust", because of that the content that you had written about certain exam preparation and so forth. And just thought that would be funny in the context of introductions to. To let you know that, inside of the ranks of Microsoft and individuals getting, their start with Dynamics 365, that we were relying on you.

So it's really nice to be here. 

Neil Benson: Oh, that's embarrassing. Okay. I'll have to send that to my wife. She'll she'll never believe it. Okay. I did, I wrote a CRM 2011 customization exam guide a long time ago. And in fact, I just got from the publisher. I just got my most recent royalty statement. So the book is earning around about 30 pence, that's about 50 cents, a quarter in royalties. And as soon as I get to 75 pounds, they'll pay out. So maybe in about 2030, there'll be another royalties check. don't know who's buying the book today. [00:04:00] 

Seth Kircher: That's good. 

Neil Benson: I wonder if you could take a moment just to introduce yourself to our audience. We'd love to know a little bit more about you.

Seth Kircher: Yeah, for sure. My name is Seth Kircher and I look after Dynamics 365 FastTrack's customer engagement business in the United States, Canada and Latin America. In addition to a couple of managers, there's a whole team that that reports up through to me, a set of solution architects that focus primarily on attaching to qualified customer projects and seeing them through from basically project kick-off all the way to go live stabilization. 

And if you know anything about FastTrack we're not a proxy or a replacement for the partner, there should be a signed statement of work between customer and partner.

We're not a proxy for support. What we really are, is a set of, feet on the street customer facing engineering resources that can link project interactions, feedback, et cetera, directly to engineering. that's the group I look after. 

Neil Benson: Okay. So I worked on a recent implementation for a local customer here in Brisbane called the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland, [00:05:00] RACQ, and we had a FastTrack architect assigned and it was really useful touchpoint. We checked in at least once a week, escalated any issues, but also got a lot of feedback on our architectural designs, some of the patterns and practices we were trying to adopt. And also trying to get a sneak peek into what's coming next with a Microsoft product suite. Is that a typical way that FastTrack engages with Microsoft partners and customers?

Seth Kircher: It is. Yeah. I think you, you articulated it really well in the early stages of a project where there's work, that's being done to understand what are the requirements and how will those shape in, into the context of an actual solution? The best case scenario is that the project leadership, the technical architect or dev leads, are having an interaction with the solution architect from FastTrack.

'Hey, my last implementation, this is what we did. It seemed to work well, but is that pattern based on what's coming from a roadmap perspective, still viable?'

And so in the best case scenario, we're linking to connect with one another in a meaningful way to really just look [00:06:00] at, what are the, the patterns that will lead to a durable roadmap line to solution.

So in that front end of the project, It should be very much something along those lines. And as we, veer into later stages of the implementation life cycle, once we start to get into testing FastTrack should be there again, not necessarily as a proxy for support, but if you think about support is this break fix, minded organization, when we go through bug triage and it's identified that indeed there's a product issue.

What's great is that once that support ticket has confirmed that jeez is a product issue, we can go directly to engineering. Get them engaged in the context that we can bring to those discussions. Hey, we're about to enter, systems integration testing right now. And, ultimately the customer has three weeks until then you're talking about a bug fix that's five weeks. 

Microsoft doesn't want to be the reason that the customer can't be successful. And so FastTrack can bring voice to that. 

And ultimately when we look at just, identifying risk that that might [00:07:00] exist from a project or from a technical perspective another set of eyes, not as a police person or, that sort of thing, but really as a partner to, to ensure wait a second, maybe, this isn't something that we saw as risky.

But it's not always that, the partner, for example and the governance model that they bring in the context of their methodology would be able to unearth maybe they did unearth, a particular risk, but it's not being paid attention to. And so we can partner together with our partner counterparts to really drive home a message of, if we accept this risk, these are the things that might turn out and we're here to help maximize your investment in Dynamics 365.

So let's use that, what we know works and what we know is the anti-pattern to, to steer clear from the, the things that might interrupt or impact a customer's investment in the, in the platform and product. 

Neil Benson: That really aligns with my experience as well. Not every project or customer scenario qualifies for a FastTrack engagement. you [00:08:00] for me because it might've changed since last time I checked. What are the qualifying criteria for FastTrack participating in a customer's project?

Seth Kircher: Yeah, it's great. Up until January 1st of 2021 people who are familiar with the FastTrack program aligned to Dynamics 365 may be under this impression that the only customer band that we serve are customers who have have spent in annual contract value 300,000 US dollars, or above. 

That has been the case from a big sort of a basic eligibility criteria for a long time. And when we look at what are the apps that we cover it's a specific set. From a CE perspective, it's Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, Field Service, Project Operations. On the F&O side, there's a set that are covered. 

But starting in January 1st we essentially said, what is it that we can do to serve more customers at a lower band of investment?

And so on January 1st we modified the program. Wherein customers that are [00:09:00] spending anywhere from 100,000 US dollars up to 300,000 US dollars are eligible for FastTrack. 

But we deliver that program slightly differently because now what we're talking about is a much greater just pool of customers who are eligible the way that, you know, since we're not an infinitely, scalable team. The way that we serve that band from 100 to 300,000 US dollars is to partner more closely with the Dynamics 365 implementation partner that's been chosen so that when we engage in the framework that we call Success by Design. When it comes to coming up with findings and recommendations, that is the FastTrack solution architect that's going to do that within the 100 to 300 k band project. 

Same thing is true when we talk about the, the project that's above 300,000, but we rely a little bit more heavily on the partner to allow [00:10:00] us to scale. Whereas, in that 300 k or above scenario, I as a FastTrack solution architect might carry a portfolio of 10 customers multiplied by the number of projects that they have, let's call it 10 to 15, and I'm carrying those completely myself. Where we look at FastTrack solution architect, who's working with that 100 to 300 K band, they may have 30 projects with a higher number of customers. And the way that we scale is to say, when we go through a Solution Blueprint Review, which is a structured way of in the early stages of project, lifting up rocks, looking underneath them and, trying to identify project and technical risks. We'll actually the partner, who's engaged to go through that, kind of fact finding and bring that information forward that it's the FastTrack solution architect who's then looking at that information, using it to come up with a set of findings and recommendations, and we're doing it a little bit more closely together. Whereas in the 300 K or above a band, what we find [00:11:00] is that the FastTrack solution architect he would embed more deeply into the project and do that work themselves.

Not that they're, we're not tied at the hip from a project team perspective but ultimately there's a little bit less reliance on the partner to to assist in that, in gathering that information what's common to both is where FastTrack SAs are always the ones that are, delivering those findings and recommendations, if that makes sense, that come out of our workshops. 

Neil Benson: You haven't mentioned something that FastTrack was famous for, at least a couple of years ago, and that was doing on premises to online 

Seth Kircher: Yeah. 

Neil Benson: I guess that's partly because that program has opened up now that certain partners can execute that program 

Seth Kircher: Yeah. 

Neil Benson: some of the work that only FastTrack could do before.

Seth Kircher: Yeah. 

Neil Benson: I guess there's fewer customers doing those migrations. Most of them have gone already. So maybe there's just less work out there that's you know, that kind of characterisation.

Seth Kircher: Yeah. It's actually a really great point and I'd be remiss to have missed the opportunity to talk about about OP to OL. 

Yeah, going back to [00:12:00] the early days of that program the central premise was, we've got a ton of customers who've made an investment in Microsoft CRM or Dynamics and ultimately they've got this workload that they've been carrying along. I want to get this to a place where I can go online, but as soon as you look at the effort associated to that without a way to automate the migration to the cloud, it becomes a compelling event, quite frankly, for any organization to say, 'wait a second, if we're going to go into the cloud and we've got to do that kind of heavy lifting. We really, we had to think twice about, are we on the right platform?' 

And so there was an incredible motivation by engineering to say, look, we want to respect customers who have been with us for a long time and serving customer engagement needs through a Microsoft solution, and so there have been efforts constantly over the course of the last number of years to refine the OP to OL which essentially will, if you've gone through the process before, take an [00:13:00] on-premise workload and restore the customer's database, their users, their securities profiles, et cetera, to the cloud service.

And there's a step in between that is required. Sometimes customers that have the capability internally, the bench strength, technically to do this will take it on, but in most cases that step is we do a differential comparison of, okay, you were on premise and this particular version, these are the things that have deprecated and changed. Here's, you know, code that needs to be rewritten. Ultimately there's a remediation step in there. And so very often what's happening besides the restore process of your database into the cloud is what are the things that I need to update. FastTrack doesn't do that work. We partner with whoever it is, the technical resources are, whether partner or customer, to to get that remediation done. When that remediation is done, we do a couple of dry runs to see did it, where the kinks worked out and then we move forward. This reduces the cost for customers to get [00:14:00] online and overall duration, if you were talking about a reimplementation or trying to do this, manually on your own it's not even an apples to apples comparison.

So we're still strong there. We're seeing I dunno something like two or three go lives per week for customers that are, that are moving, on-premise to online. And that's just been a steady trickle of being able to honestly help customers to do more quite frankly with Dynamics 365.

Neil Benson: I haven't met an on-premise customer for a long time and I thought they were all gone. So it's it's good. It's amazing. They're still out there and and going online. So that's great. How does FastTrack fit in with some of the other teams at Microsoft?

You've mentioned a heavy focus on Dynamics 365 customers. And I'm going to assume just for a moment that excludes Power Platform customers that have made big investments in Power Apps and Power BI and Power Virtual Agents and Power Automate that unless they've made a decent decent investment in Dynamics 365 licenses that they're not really eligible for FastTrack engagement. Is that right?

Seth Kircher: Yeah, it's actually a really [00:15:00] interesting question, Neil. And we've got a sister organization within Customer and Partner Success which sits under James Phillips organization. What's called now, Digital Transformation Platform Group. That sister organization is Power CAT, and they serve customers, a certain segment of customers who have made extensive investments in Power Apps licenses. Technically, Dynamics 365, as we know, is a, is it Power Apps?

But our structure and our focus is really around the project event. 

If you think about certain customers that are out there investments in in Power Apps that said in many cases, it's a citizen developer model where we're really talking about how do we enable the citizen developer. What's the right governance model to, to be able to deploy across an organization for almost like a viral creation and adoption of apps. 

That is fundamentally not our focus within FastTrack in so far as a customer makes an investment and they want to go ahead [00:16:00] and do some sales automation or field service, or that matter project operations, they're attached specifically to a model driven app. And it's not to say that when we look at the overarching solution architecture that there isn't a canvas app here, or, some other component of the Power Platform. Like, whatever falls into that that project in terms of scope, in terms of solution architect, we don't shy away from that. We cover it, but in terms of our model, where it's a pure Power Apps play in that sit dev model comes into play. That really is something that's owned by our Power Apps, Power CAT team. They're almost like, it's a different name, but it's almost like a FastTrack for Power Apps for that to support that, cit-dev model. 

Neil Benson: All right. That really helps clarify it. I had Marc Schweigert [from Power CAT] on the show a few episodes ago and talking about the ALM processes for Power Apps. Sometimes these things shift and change a little bit and it's great to get an update on that. So thank you. 

What I really wanted to dive into was, it feels to me like a brand new framework, there's a book released [00:17:00] in May, it's called Success by Design. And that's the name of the framework that FastTrack has developed to help customers and partners be more successful and achieve their business outcomes with their Dynamics project.

Do you want to share with us a little bit more insight into what Success by Design is and where it came from and really where it's That'd be great too.

Seth Kircher: Yes. And I'm excited to do in particular, I think what is interesting is a question that commonly comes to mind before we really get into answering the question is this, is this just another methodology? Is it like SureStep 3.0? How does it fit in?

And I think to answer that question first off, we are not attempting to replace SureStep. The goal here isn't to to create an overlay methodology on top of that proven approaches that our Dynamics 365 partners bring to the market. We want to leave that to our partner channel and driving successful projects.

But I think what you can say about Success by Design as a framework is that there is a [00:18:00] governance. The governance is specifically tied or in a way married to what's going on from an engineering perspective. 

If you think about your early days with with Microsoft CRM or Dynamics 365, it was months between release cycles. It was so easy to learn everything that there was to know and be an expert in so many different things those days, and in, in a lot of ways are gone. In so far as I can't keep up with the number of apps. I can't keep up with the number of changes both on an app and a platform level.

And as a result of that, there's a general risk that sort of exists with customers who are deciding to invest in our cloud service, that we have a responsibility to put some engineering skin in the game. To provide an individual who is not part of a sales organization or some other entity that's trying to attempting within Microsoft to drive more revenue.

What we are here to do is to help [00:19:00] maximize the customer's investment and commitment to the to the product that they are now attempting to implement. And years ago, just to give some perspective, when FastTrack started, I think we adopted the name some years ago, but, before we were FastTrack, it was essentially a customer partner success model where we just identified individuals who had been there and done, from an implementation life cycle perspective, most often solution architects who had intimacy with the technology. And at the same time had just gone through the war wounds of X number of implementations. And in some ways in the early days, it was a cross your fingers approach that, if we put attached to an implementation. If they're plugged in enough to the conversations that are happening throughout the implementation life cycle that by sheer force of will we would have a positive influence on the implementation. 

I think there's a problem with that fundamentally because not every solution architect is created equal. We've got individuals on our team who have been [00:20:00] credited with partaking or participating in the writing of the first CRM SDK and others who are much more functionally oriented or have specific expertise in certain areas. And so when James Phillips is sitting in front of a Gartner analyst and talking about the customer success program, FastTrack that that we have, when he's challenged by how do I know if I put Seth or if I put Neil on onto exactly the same project in a blind test, whether the outcome is going to be the same or not? 

What Success by Design is really designed to do is level an important set of questions that are call it implementation lifecycle timed appropriate. So that early on in the engagement, I'm asking a specific set of questions that allow me to unearth certain responses, certain information that would allow me to effectively assess whether or not there's a risk project or technical to, to pay attention to as we get into the implementation life cycle there [00:21:00] are a number of what we call reviews or workshops that allow us to go a little bit deeper. So if we want to focus in on data migration or integration or reporting or ALM another set of well-placed questions that allow us to dive deep and assess the risk. 

But in most cases, Success by Design, I would say is two things.

It's a, it's an opportunity to slow the project team down a little bit. To do meaningful self-reflection. In many cases, the partner who's leading the implementation has already a lot of what would come in the form of our findings, but sometimes not. Sometimes they'll come to us and say, we really need to partner together with you to drive home this message, you know, how important it is to have healthy ALM practices, because what we're finding is we're having some challenges there and these are certain messages that we need to drive home. 

If we think about what Success by Design is [00:22:00] at its core, the goal is always helping the customer to maximize their investment, but we do that through making sure that the customer can go live with a roadmap aligned durable solution that is less writ, carries less risk with it.

We've sussed out those problems or issues so that before we go live, we find ourselves in a situation of dealing with it then. As opposed to when it's having meaningful business impact. As one partner put it not long ago, there was a blog post that I saw on LinkedIn, and essentially what the person said is, I wasn't sure about Success by Design initially, but as I got into it and had some experience, what I love about it is that it it creates an opportunity for us to essentially allow the to hit the fan early to identify what the stuff is that is going to impact the project as early as possible so that we can address it then as opposed to it having this bigger impact downstream. If that makes sense.

Neil Benson: Yeah. If the project has big systemic risks, you want to discover that in the [00:23:00] initiation phase, not in the cut-over night, when it's too late to do anything about it. So it sounds like a good approach to de-risk those complex enterprise kind of projects. 

Seth Kircher: Yes. 

Neil Benson: I've taken the Microsoft Catalyst training and the Success by Design training. And they seem complimentary, but neither one mentions the other. Can you maybe enlighten us? Are they designed to fit together or is it just circumstances brought them together? So that we've got Catalyst is a great presales way of engaging customers and unearthing opportunities and then Success by Design picks up from that point and then implements the Dynamics 365 products. Is that a fair way to characterize them?

Seth Kircher: I actually think you've summarized it better than I could if I was to carry on about it?

And I don't think it's super intentional that we don't mention one another per se. If that's the perception, I think it's a reflection more about where our centers of gravity are. 

Although FastTrack does get [00:24:00] engaged on a very limited basis in pre-sales to support strategic deals. Our center of gravity is really the implementation life cycle. We get engaged at project kick-off and stay engaged at a minimum through a stabilization, post go live. For certain customers, we have a perpetual engagement because they've been identified as strategic to to Microsoft and we're almost evergreen as they continue to make different investments in Dynamics 365.

But I think what you said about the two different groups, one being more pre-sales oriented, whereas we are really focused on successful delivery is probably why. No other intention. 

Neil Benson: Just thinking about Success by Design and the resources that are available, there's the ebook, which we'll come back to at the moment, we've also got the Success by Design website, which has got some e-learning material there. Rachel Profitt has got a great series on YouTube. So I'd encourage anybody to, if you want to learn more, and you're a visual learner, Rachel is a great [00:25:00] presenter and content creator. So I'll put a link in the show notes to her content. 

Let's come back to the ebook for a moment. It was published in May and I was thinking, oh, this is going to be a nice guide, there's going illustrations in it. It's 658 thing is deep and broad. It's a pretty detailed for, for a version 1.0 of the guide, Seth, this is a pretty comprehensive description of the framework. Can you tell us what the rationale behind coming out of the gate was such a big piece of content is and where it's headed?

Seth Kircher: Yeah, I have to comment on the page length. So let's let's make sure that we check back in on that, but the history is an interesting one. There are numerous customers as you can imagine that qualify for FastTrack in terms of their investments. And for whatever reason maybe there's a lack of awareness or knowledge during the sales cycle that this is an option for them. There are some customers that qualify know about FastTrack and basically say, no, I, I'm not interested. And then there's this whole group of customers that ultimately that [00:26:00] wouldn't qualify but how do we spread the goodness that FastTrack has to bring. 

Keeping that in mind, James Phillips was on a trip actually to the APAC region about 18 months ago. It was just prior to COVID and the customer that he was talking to, I believe in New Zealand, had basically said, look, I love my FastTrack solution architect. We get so much out of our interactions with that person, but geez, James it just, it feels like, there's the information that we get from this individual ought to be codified someplace. And and it's not. Don't you have anything or would you have something? And not talking about Microsoft Docs. Really the knowledge that in addition to this, the Success by Design framework that FastTrack solution architect might bring on any topic. I want those questions. I want that thinking. I want the frames of reference that they bring into discussion. But I want it on my own without actually having to pick up a telephone or, to, to set a meeting on the calendar to [00:27:00] get them engaged. And James came home and he came to his SLT and said, this is the next project that we have going on. And in his mind he wanted to answer the customers' requests. He also saw the wisdom in the idea that if we could take what Neil Benson knows about data migration, about integration, about ALM and supplement that with the things that FastTrack has to say about that, that, that might be a good thing.

And you're an experienced implementer with many years within this space, but also you look at an individual who they might be a business user who's been introduced to a project and been told that they're going to play this particular role on, on, on the project. And they've got no clue about what Dynamics 365 is. They've never implemented a business application before. And they don't know the what they don't know. They don't know the questions to ask et cetera. 

And so if you think about eligible for FastTrack or not, we're really through the implementation guide attempting [00:28:00] to really settle the score, provide support, which if you have a FastTrack S.A. on your project, you're supplementing the value and knowledge that you would get from that individual by having access to this guide. Are an experienced architect, same thing coming in leading the engagement, you've got, access to the guide.

It should be just a confirmation of the things that you already know and may bring to bear in your own implementation life cycle. But also wanting to serve those customers who are not eligible for FastTrack and the personas want to be able to walk into a meeting about data migration or enter a conversation about ALM and be in the ballpark.

I'm gonna, I'm gonna read the checklist associated to that particular chapter. There are key questions that are being asked. Why are they being asked? Some of that is explained and it really. You talk about that, that the length of the book, we were a little bit nervous when we, when we did it when we came out the back, end of it realized like, oh my gosh, 600, and how many of her pages that is? Are we going to get feedback from the, [00:29:00] from the community or even our competitors that, see, implementing Dynamics 365 is challenging. And proof of is the length of this guide. 

But when we started out, what we said was, it would be really important for us when we wrote a chapter on a particular topic that we give full treatment to it. And that meant not, a lightweight treatment of the things that you need to think about from project governance perspective or from a data management perspective or from an environment strategy perspective. 

That full treatment really ought to allow you to pick and choose. I don't need to read the entire book. 

If I want just the chapter on ALM. I can read it and have a grounding in the topic and I can be done. I may not come back to the book or any of those chapters for a while, but when I'm ready, I can go and have that, that look at I'm finished with my implementation. I want to now look at driving apps. That's a whole other treatment.

So we were stuck between a rock and a hard place in so far as we, we [00:30:00] wanted very much to be able to give substance to our implementing community. And and this is not a sales tool as FastTrack is not a sales tool. We were giving substance in order to really help to drive value.

And we hope that our implementing community feels that sees that based on what they've seen. In sum, yup, the book is big because we had to give full treatment to these topics. Many of which are challenging in, and of themselves. Implementing a business application, whether it's Dynamics or not, as you know, Neil in your own experiences. And, and ultimately, James' goal really was how do we give FastTrack and Success by Design to every customer? Not just the ones that are eligible for it. So that was the spirit. 

Neil Benson: I've listened to some community feedback on Success by Design. I just wanted to challenge you in a couple of things. It's format at the moment is a single big ebook. If it was published as a series of docs on the Docs website, then the community could provide feedback and [00:31:00] input maybe a little bit easier than a monolithic ebook. plans to change how it's published in the future?

Seth Kircher: Yeah. In fact by November, we should actually have a landing page on Docs with an intro what it will allow now our implementing community to do or anybody who happens upon the Docs site is to download the chapters individually.

And then some of the chapter artifacts like the checklists or potentially certain graphics that could be useful in the context of an implementation. Again, we've gotten feedback like, Hey, are we ever going to get deliverable templates and that kind of thing.

And as I said, a minute ago, the plan isn't for the Success by Design implementation guide to be SureStep 3.0. So we're not, we're not going to go there. But I will say this we took on that project starting in October of 2020 by May, we had the book.

There wasn't a really good way in 189 days for us to to work within any other format. We know at some point [00:32:00] Scott Guthrie is going to call James Phillips and say, Hey, why isn't the book completely on Docs. We are making a transition there. So over the course of the next number of releases, I think that's something that you will see. 

We are super keen to be able to implement a feedback mechanism that offers us an understanding of who's reading. And literally by paragraph what it is that that you might have to say about, a particular set of contents so that we can bring that into our backlog, react to it, and serve the community of implementers in a way that we intended to when we set foot into writing this book. 

Neil Benson: Thinking about the training resources that FastTrack provides. There is a kind of set of resources for Success by Design. And there's a knowledge check at the end of it, but it's not really what I would call a comprehensive training. And certainly there's no certification mechanism yet. Is that something you're considering in the future? Is there going to be an exam that people can sit to showcase their expertise in Success by Design?.

Seth Kircher: [00:33:00] So I don't know that there's particular plans for an actual certification exam. What I would say though is the training that is now available, and I can share the link with you on that, is a recorded set of training. We did a number of live trainings that occurred last year. We may return to those that type of training, but the idea of that knowledge check is really in some ways to create a level of awareness that otherwise working together with FastTrack on a project you would get. 

What we found in certain cases is that a customer would be eligible for FastTrack, they would want to proceed, and in having FastTrack as a part of their overarching engagement. And what we would find is that in the heat of a sales cycle, the implementing partner would put together an SOW, not really anticipate that FastTrack would be engaged. 

Yeah, there was good feedback that, wait a second, like this is clunky. I now have to figure out how within the scope of work that I need to deliver that I also comply with [00:34:00] this. And so part of the, the learning resources that are there, that the training that we did, that the Learn content that's out there now was degenerate a level of awareness so that as we get into a project kickoff or before, the partner who's leading isn't surprised by the possibility that this may be a construct that they have to live within throughout the implementation life cycle. But certification, I don't know going forward. I can't see that happening in the near term. 

Neil Benson: Okay. So if I'm a project team in order to engage with FastTrack on a Success by Design type of project, I need to work for a Silver or Gold partner. And then I need to learn a little bit more about Success by Design and pass the knowledge check. I think what you said is that will really help me when I'm writing my statement of work to engage with my customer, make sure that there is time set aside for that Solution Blueprint Review and there's efforts set aside for the Go Live Readiness workshop on those other kind of milestone workshops that [00:35:00] Success by Design brings in. Is that right? 

Seth Kircher: That's correct. 

Neil Benson: Okay. Cool. Can you share me some examples? I don't know if they're already public case studies yet of customers and partners who have benefited from Success by Design. I'd love to learn more about them and perhaps even invite them onto the show is future podcasts guests. 

Seth Kircher: Let us take that as an action item. In fact, you may have seen in the implementation guide references to numerous customers. And one of the things that that we will be doing is surfacing in an upcoming implementation guide release, just a list of customers who have benefited. We definitely have a series of references that that are willing to have a conversation like this. Let me take it away as an action item and we'll follow up so that you can, now you can follow up this series with with talking directly with a customer.

Neil Benson: Looking through the implementation guide, a massive emphasis on the role of the solution architect. You have elevated them to kind of hero status. Is that purposeful? What role do other people in a project team [00:36:00] play? Everything seems to be done by the burdened solution architect. Is that a fair comment?

Seth Kircher: I think it is a fair comment. And I think probably a reflection of the bias of the authors that participated in in writing the book. We did endeavor with a professional editor to try to level the voice of the book, but it is a fair criticism. And I think one of the things that that we do need to do, we've heard feedback about this, is to make sure that in upcoming versions that we really look at the content through different personas. I would say just, providing forgiveness to the FastTrack team that was engaged in writing the first version that that we were under some time pressure. And so they wrote what they knew through their lens.

But that persona based approach by chapter is that is something that we ought to endeavor to really level set into so that if, if I'm a project manager or if I'm a developer, I play some other role. I can look at a chapter with a particular [00:37:00] lens and not constantly feel like the solution architect is the only lens by which I can consume this material. 

Neil Benson: That'd be a good idea, especially for project managers and others who want to consume this content. Oh, I've met some amazing FastTrack architects, but if you read this thing, you think and they can carry this project by themselves. 

Seth Kircher: Yeah. 

Yep. 

Neil Benson: Good. What's a 

Seth Kircher: fair. 

Neil Benson: for Success by Design. Do you see it following a particular release cycle or are you just going to get updates out as quickly as you can? Is there a team within your dedicated to updating this framework, or are you still going to have that model of trying to distill the field practices from the architects who are out there working on projects.

Seth Kircher: Yeah. In the immediate future and this has always been a part of the plan for the implementation guide. We are committed to twice yearly releases. So we've got to, excited to say this cause this is the first time it's been publicly announced, that a release the second release of the book, which is coming up on October 8th. And we will follow that up with with an [00:38:00] April release and so forth. 

In terms of this upcoming release, one of the things that we really attempted to do. There's a lot of, how shall I say, like expressions of value that FastTrack brings or touches the market with whether it's our workshop content and the way that we express the Success by Design framework within the context of the project, there are our partner architect boot camps there, our tech talks, there's a lot of material that's out there.

And when we wrote the book, it's not that there wasn't a broad awareness of all of that content, but we're making an extra special effort to make sure that there's a single voice across every one of those value expressions. And so while readers in this second release may not notice an enormous number of changes for the release that underpinning the work that we did for the October release and we'll continue for the April releases, there's just this internal alignment. So all of those value expressions, no matter where you go ought to be singing from the same song [00:39:00] sheet. 

What we realized is we didn't want a partner or a customer to say, wait a second, when I went through this Success by Design workshop with your team and we focused in on integration, you set this, and this was the guidance that you gave, but it's nowhere to be found in the book or vice versa. So we're doing some reconciling there.

And I think that's just by dent of trying to write a book within a six month period and knowing like we had to make some choices. I will say that in in the April release and we're excited about it, we're adding some new chapters. 

There's going to be one on change management. We're partnering with our Customer Success unit you may have worked with a customer success manager engagement in the past. There focus is more user adoption and change management. That's not an area of expertise that FastTrack claims to have. We do by dent of just being there and, maybe familiarity, but we're working together with that team within Microsoft to give a full treatment on change management, which we think is appropriate.

We're also creating a companion volume of process [00:40:00] architectures. If you can imagine it, customers come into an implementation, and, as a starting point, there's a question of, okay, I've got a sales process that eventually leads to opportunity management with which leads to order management or what have you. Sometimes having those baseline processes are useful to start a discussion around what are my requirements and how do I arrive at the automated version of this. We want to be able to provide that baseline, but we also want to on top of those process architectures identify a perspective that is Microsoft's. Which says in these are the apps that you can use in order to automate that particular process or set of sub processes, even if it means that you're going to leverage this independent software vendor or other solution alongside Dynamics 365 to do it. 

So we've got new chapters coming, some companion volumes. There's an ongoing effort to continue to align with Success by Design. I would even say, in the future, yes, to the transition, to Docs, that's a that's on the lookout [00:41:00] and who knows, be even an opportunity to do some guests offering. There is a team right now that sort of dedicated to to driving the Success by Design implementation guide content. 

But as we kicked off in the new year, which starts for us in July at Microsoft, one of the things that we said was we want attrition among those ranks because this book, it wasn't written by an individual it's been written ultimately by our team. Rachel Profitt, you mentioned her name trying to recruit her to to become part of the team so that she can take a crack at, whatever topic she really wants. But again, as we get into new content, as we look at refreshing existing content, having that cycle across cycle of individuals from our team that are contributing make makes a difference in terms of the rich richness of the content. So hopefully that's a good overview. 

Neil Benson: Yeah, thanks. Well, full credit to the team behind it. I've been really impressed working my own way through the content. And I'm looking forward to applying what [00:42:00] they've shared with my customers in future projects. I'm going to share with the audience, there's the link to the Docs website where they can find the overview of success by design and some of learning resources.

They can download the guide from there. There'll be Rachel's video series, any other calls to action? What would you encourage our audience to do with the information that we've shared in this podcast episode?

Seth Kircher: Yeah, I would say, if you haven't had the opportunity to to look at the implementation guide, please go ahead and do that. We'll make sure to share the link. The other thing is October 8th is the new release and by U.S. Thanksgiving time, should have it actually a Docs presence where you can begin to download the book on a chapter basis so that you're not stuck with a 593 page document. If you just need to know what we have to think or say about data management or integration, you can just download that portion of the guide and use it for hopefully immediate value. 

Neil Benson: Well, Seth, thanks so much for joining us and sharing a lot of information of really valuable content around FastTrack and Success by Design. I really [00:43:00] appreciate you coming onto the show.