The Diary of a CRM Migration – Part 5 – Can I see your License sir?

Time for the standard disclaimer. This article, as with all in this series, is based upon personal experiences and from experiences of others I have spoken to. What I write here is my opinion and my personal thoughts regarding how to get the best out of each of the project phases – none of it is reflective of the views of my employer. 

I should also make very clear that any people or companies I write about here are not real but are fictitious composites made up of conversations that we’ve all had, with characters I’m sure we can all relate to.

Owwwww, my head. Can someone please stop the room spinning and pass the paracetamol please?

No, I’ve not been out on the town with Chaz, Wilbur, Lucinda and the others from The Delivery Group (I’d not be writing this if I had been, the memory of that incident with the water fountain, the mermaid and the pirate still lives long!) I’ve instead spent the past week trying to work out the spaghetti puzzle of Licensing with Limahl (NO, Not that one!) from the Acquiring and Provisioning team.

The joys of licensing mean that we need to look at everything from storage, user count, number of emails, attachments, calories consumed that day, the colour of the moon, the date in the Aztec calendar and so much more (ok, some of those might be made up… or not)

As our current system contains data dating back to the dinosaur era and includes every email sent to/received from anybody within the CRM system, the database is somewhat sizable. So much so that we ended up with our own storage cluster just so that everyone else can store their cat pictures and countless copies of documents from the central share. Because, you know, just in case it gets deleted or someone changes it and I need the previous version or the central share disappears in a puff of smoke along with all the redundancies and backups. Yeah, that last one might have happened in the past but Gothic Sebastien, the Lord of the flashing lights and Down Below, did get it all back somehow

This copious amount of data raises a very serious issue as the cloud, as fluffy and light as it may seem, does tend to cost more when you are putting very heavy amounts of data into it.

But this is, believe it or not, the most straightforward of issues.

The true complexity arises in trying to work out who needs what, why they need it, and how they will get to it, along with the all-important question of “is it worth the cost to allow them to do all this”

Trying to pin down this complex conundrum of possible permutations resulted in the use of the “User System Engagement Listing Every Suitable Scenario” pack. This is a very confusing collection of excel worksheets, pivot tables, filters and formulas that produces a list of the requirements and counts how many people fit into each category.

I think it probably goes without saying that the list was exceedingly long, and the number count very rarely got above ONE for each unique pattern of requirements.

When confronted with this rather amazing stereoscopic spreadsheet Limahl (NOT THAT ONE – although he does have a rather fetching mullet?!) immediately did what any professional would do. He burst out laughing uncontrollably whilst trying to tell me I needed to get this list down to a maximum of 7 distinct characteristics.

Why 7? I have no idea, but he did give me a “People Enabling Required Software Outline Needs Analysis” assessment form so that I could try and get the users to fit into one of the 7 boxes.

3 Weeks Later….

Hello there Diary – I haven’t forgotten about you, but running around trying to get all of our “High-Level Prime Drivers” on board with the 7 “PERSONA” assessments has proven to be an exercise in herding cats that have been drinking Red Bull non-stop for a week and eating nothing but blue smarties.

BUT – we got there… in a way…. OK, I may have failed. It turns out that there is a loophole in the “PERSONA” assessment process which actually allows the users to select multiple matching boxes. That works out at over 5,000 possible combinations of ticks in boxes.

Sitting back down with Limahl (OK, I’m starting to suspect things now – he has a keytar in the corner of his office) and presenting him with the results was some sweet revenge as it was MY turn to laugh, and his turn to try and work things out.

Oh how short that laughter was, have you seen the complexities of licensing. When Limahl had finished going through the “abbreviated” 50-page list of licences, I was in desperate need of some of that Red Bull (wonder where the cats keep it?)

Following a fair number of phone calls, plenty of coffee, about 38 different cost estimates, and 3 changes to licensing whilst doing this – we FINALLY got there (we think) and actually have our licensing costs sorted.

To avoid any further changes and complexities Del-Boy Daley immediately ran round to get Philomena Parker-Packer (Head of Potential Procurement and Product Placement) to sign off on the purchase. Then it was on to ensure that Konrad (Global Operations Director) had also signed, stamped, sealed, and sent the licensing order off without any delays.

Can someone tell me if I’m any closer to doing this migration, please???

If there is one key area that causes any Microsoft specialist to have nightmares, it has got to be licensing. For as many years as I can remember it has been a maze of dangerous hazards, deep pits, and the potential to spend way more than you actually need to.

I first really encountered the joys of it all back in 2000 when I had to look into a School Agreement for a large group of private schools. Since then I’ve dealt with Enterprise Agreements, individual licence purchasing, charity pricing, and others – and each one has filled me with dread.

Then there are the inevitable changes to licensing that are guaranteed to hit just when you think you might have wrapped your head around things.

I’m writing this just after the Microsoft Inspire conference for Partners in Vegas. Reading all the tweets and info coming out of it was fascinating and full of some great, exciting, stuff… oh, and changes to licensing.

On the surface the changes look as though they do, genuinely, have the potential to save a big amount of cash. Unfortunately, I also know that dealing with the complexities of partners of all kinds, and the Microsoft Licensing people themselves, that achieving the maximum saving is not the easiest of tasks. To this day, I am yet to be convinced that I have ever fully reached that state of nirvana.

Understanding the usage requirements of the users is even more key today than it was when I did the licensing survey for our migration, there are way more options and it’s definitely worth the time spent.

The actual process of carrying out that survey is going to be different from place to place. Some places have clearcut processes and very clearly defined job roles and therefore a matrix of use cases is easier (not easy, never easy) to come up with. Other places have very nebulous job roles that morph into each other and every person has their own way of doing things. More often than not you’ll be somewhere in the middle.

Whether or not you are responsible for recommending the correct licences it is vital that you understand licensing. I cannot stress that enough – you MUST understand the licensing that applies to your scenario.

Partners will deal with all kinds of licensing scenarios and you’ll always be unique in requirements. They will do the best they can to recommend the correct licensing, but they are dealing with huge matrices of potential options and pricing. They will suggest the best course of action as they understand it, and will do the best they can. However, if you don’t understand your need for storage, user count, functionality and extensibility then you can’t be sure that you are going to be fully covered – or optimally covered.

Whenever I’ve dealt with partners, resellers, and even Microsoft directly, I have needed to clarify points and there has ALWAYS been back’n’forth on the licensing. The first option has never been the right one.

Where things get even more complex is that the Cloud is a subscription model. I know, that’s obvious, right? But it’s no longer a case of buying the correct number of seats and then leaving it until the next upgrade comes along (and maybe not even then if you had Software Assurance). As we are subscribers on the Cloud our licensing model is only good up until the renewal period, and this means that announcements such as the ones this week have huge implications for us.

The need to maintain a knowledge of the licensing models out there is ever more important now – whether you are an end-user customer, consultant dealing with various clients, a development house, or a partner, then subject of licensing is critical.

But let’s look on the bright side – all of this mental exercise working our way around the multitude of matrices must mean that we’ll be absolute killers as puzzles!

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