“Collaboration can be fun and productive or just plain painful. It can be tedious, slow, and complex.”

The above quote from Henry Mintzberg, a famous Canadian academic and author of business management and strategy, sums up how many of us feel about collaboration at the best of times. The recent mass move to remote working amid coronavirus has likely made collaboration with your team members even more painful.

For those normally office-based we tend to collaborate in various ways, many of which are done face to face or the spontaneous sharing of ideas with those around you. Now that we are forced to collaborate virtually, it doesn’t mean that it needs to be painful. Through the right use of technology, collaboration can be made easier.

As my colleague, Jen Adams, outlined in her blog on the shift to remote working, we are now all in the same boat so, getting answers from our colleagues while working from home isn’t as challenging as before. As someone who spends most of their time working from home, I have certainly noticed an increased ability to collaborate virtually with the tools at our disposal.

Multiple stakeholders

So, what tools have enabled my team to come together and continue to collaborate successfully? And how have we driven a positive outcome whilst working remotely? Well, for us it has been the combination of Dynamics 365 and Office 365 which has empowered successful collaboration.

A McKinsey study found that you need to collaborate with 16 different colleagues on the average business development opportunity. The study also found that the average deal also includes 6.8 external stakeholders. This is a total of 22.8 people involved in the exchange of information.

Historically, this information circled around the same channels – email, calls, face to face conversations and meetings. All of these still have their place in modern collaboration – I would actually say I have been speaking to colleagues more recently via Microsoft Teams calls (always with our cameras on!). But we need to ensure these communications channels are used in the right way so that they are effective.

Collaborating on a project with Dynamics 365 Sales and Office 365

Dynamics 365 Sales users will be used to working within the application to manage their opportunities. This often includes recording critical opportunity data about the customer, the specific opportunity, internal stakeholders involved, and any communications with the customer. Dynamics 365 is adept at helping users to manage this data, to view their pipeline, forecast, execute processes and manage activity assigned to themselves and colleagues.

However, in most modern commercial engagements,  the management of this ‘data’ only takes us so far. At some point, we need to work with our colleagues to ‘create’, to ‘co-author’, to ‘collaborate’ on an output, for example, a presentation or a proposal document. This is where a symbiotic relationship between Dynamics 365 and Office 365 can deliver immense value.

Through integration with Microsoft Teams, it is possible to create a new team for a specific opportunity and to automatically add all stakeholders listed in Dynamics 365 to this Team. This Team and the Dynamics 365 opportunity are now inextricably linked. Dynamics 365 continues to manage the opportunity and its data, but Teams becomes the focal point for collaboration.

Within Teams, documents can be created with stakeholders (internal and external) collaborating in real-time, and you can easily discuss project specifics through chat, calls and video. Documents relating to the opportunity can be stored and edited without having to leave Teams, and the documents can be easily accessed in Dynamics 365 Sales.

Supercharge project collaboration with Power Automate

Project collaboration can be taken further with tools such as Power Automate. With Power Automate, when the Team is first created, users can automatically generate document templates and retrieve content based on the type of opportunity and the proposed products. As output documents are finalised, Power Automate can initiate approval processes, notifying stakeholders through Outlook or a notification on their mobile device that there is a document that requires review and approval. No more confusion with multiple stakeholders working on different versions of the same document! Only one version exists.

Successful business outcomes

To summarise, a combination of these tools helps drive more effective collaboration. Firstly, it helps to ensure that customer proposals are delivered on time. Through shared files and the ability to work on the latest versions, we know the submitted proposal contains the latest information. Due to the systems enlisted, the process is structured and controlled, ensuring the appropriate level of collaboration and input from each stakeholder – all 22.8 of them!

The use of technology during unprecedented times like these has the power to bring us together. If you would like to know more about how Dynamics 365 Sales can assist your team during this challenging time, download our guide ‘Improving sales productivity with Dynamics 365 Sales. Alternatively, visit our Business Continuity Hub for all the latest remote working resources.