Microsoft releases Sure Step 2012

imageA couple of days ago, at a Sure Step 2010 training at Sundsgården, Helsingborg, Sweden, while students were preparing to take the exam, one of the students asks me where she can download Sure Step 2010. I give her the link, but she tells me: “No, that’s Sure Step 2012, I’d like to download 2010”.

That came as a surprise. “No way” – I say – “It hasn’t yet been released.”

Or has it?

And then I check, and almost can’t believe it – it’s really there. I completely missed the tweets, the Facebook announcement, the LinkedIn discussions. It seems that I’m not particularly social nowadays. A quick check of Twitter shows me that there wasn’t too much buzz around it, and most of the blogosphere simply redelivers the same content, which either comes from the official announcement (which I also missed Smile) or from whoever blogged first.

Instead of giving a simple “excited” redelivery of the announcement, here’s my take on Sure Step 2012, what’s new, what’s not new (both sadly and thankfully).

What’s New in 2012

A lot. And I am not at all sure if that’s good or bad. I’ll come to that.

Among a lot of updated guidance content, documents and templates, what somehow slips under the radar of most of announcements I’ve read over the couple past two days is the fact that Sure Step 2012 is now available completely online. If you ask me, that’s quite a news, since now it’s not necessary to install a bulky application on your machine. Unfortunately, you need Silverlight to run it, but even that manages not to diminish the importance of this update. It’s moving to the cloud and it kind of proves a point.

Another important news is that Sure Step 2012 comes right away in ten languages, including English, Chinese, Danish, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Turkish. I haven’t installed and checked each of them, and it wouldn’t make much difference for me even if I did, but it’s fantastic that those folks don’t need to spend time translating it themselves. My language, Croatian, is not supported, but judging from the number of Turkish soap operas running on Croatian TV channels, I deem it not a problem at all.

And now, before I go on with what’s new, I make a short break and ask myself a question – is a methodology something I want to see heavily updated – and the answer is blurry. Were they, and all of us, all that wrong in how we did it so far? I’m not a traditionalist, or a conservative, but it’s about methodology. Do we need a methodology updated every so often? Is there that much to add, or is it about reinventing the wheel?

So, I’ll give my view of what’s new, and what’s not, both from fortunately and unfortunately perspectives.

What’s Fortunately New

I’ll start with the Project Management Library. The alignment with PMBOK is fantastic and if you have experience with it (if you are serious about project management business chances are that you do) Sure Step methods will be so much easier to grasp. There are three major changes in this:

  • Integration Management became the official part of Project Management Discipline, and it makes so much sense that it did. For those unfamiliar with PMBOK, it’s project integration management and has nothing to do with integrating NAV or AX to SAP or something.
  • Sales Management is gone, and it has found it’s logical place under Integration Management. Previously, it was an artificial addendum, which did have some logic behind it, but made it all confusing about which discipline is actually about handling changes. Now it’s clear.
  • Issue Management is gone, too, and it took me a wild guess, which proved right, that I’d find it right under Communication Management, where it naturally belongs.

As a PMP, I am excited about the above, but Microsoft folks, if they are reading this, must be scratching their head at this point, because of all things, I start with project management library. Let’s me be fair, and give a list of couple of news:

  • Solution Optimization has been revamped, and it is more aligned to products, than to phases. This is both good, and bad (I’ll come to that, too). It’s great that it’s more specific than it was earlier, and if you are in AX or CRM, you’ll love the new stuff. Being a NAV guy, I am drooling at the menu of AX optimization offerings, and the first thing I know I’ll be doing is reading through all of them to see what and how I can put it to use in NAV world.
  • Solution Envisioning has been beefed up, and the alignment to MSSP is even stronger than it was. Diagnostic is now not only about Decision Accelerators, and with addition of Solution Overview it gets a logical formal start. Also, there is an all-new Accelerated Proof of Concept with CRM Online, a new Decision Accelerator for, well, CRM Online, which must work well, but I am in no position to judge this.
  • A lot of new content for AX 2012, and again, I can’t help much so I simply list what I’ve read about it: updated Decision Accelerator guidance and documents, implementation templates and artifacts, upgrade templates and more.

What’s Unfortunately New

Now we come to a slippery terrain, but I’ll voice my opinion loud, nonetheless. So, here’s the list:

  • Solution Optimization: it has good aspects and bad aspects to it, and now we are about bad ones. The alignment with product has raised a lot of questions. Taking a look at the Solution Optimization diagram, I have a distinct feeling I could blog about that one for a month, but let me try keeping it simple:
    1. Illogical product alignment: it seems that NAV doesn’t need Design Review, or Performance Review, or Upgrade Review or even Project Governance & Delivery Review. And something similar could be said about all of product lines.
    2. Not all needs to be colorful and geometric: otherwise people could think, by both colors and positioning, that AX is about Analysis, CRM about Design, GP about Development, NAV about Deployment and SL about Operations.
  • Renaming of concepts should be avoided, and it wasn’t. Diagnostic phase seems to be under a renaming process into Solution Envisioning, which might not be too bad in itself, but at very least it’s inconsistent. Either it should have been renamed (and again, why?), or it should have been left, but if you are navigating the guidance, you’ll notice that there is not a single mention of Diagnostic phase in the navigation pane. Strange. Also, Optimization Offerings have been translated into Solution Optimization.

What’s Fortunately Not New

Thankfully, folks over in Redmond didn’t touch the project types and phases, and largely they remain exactly where they were. That makes sense, and increases my confidence in soundness of this release, as methodology should primarily come from experience and what’s proven to work, and not from perceived view of what should be changed.

Decision accelerators were a great thing, and they are all still there. I was slightly afraid they may get a major revamp, because they were a new addition in last release, but all seven are still there, and I’m glad to see them around.

What’s Unfortunately not New in 2012

There are certain aspects of Sure Step which were bad, and should have been updated, but haven’t. And here, I believe it is primarily, if not exclusively about the Alignment with MSF. In my opinion, it’s more of a liability than of an asset.

It looks all nice and geometrical that we have three groups of cross-phase processes, three processes each, but it’s artificial. There are two specific aspects here:

    1. Program Management: Now that we have Integration Management discipline, I don’t think we need to have Program Management cross-phase process. It’s about the same thing, and having both is royally confusing now that both are there. Previously it was difficult to explain the term Program Management to whoever wasn’t familiar with MSF, but now the confusion is even higher. Another issue here is that there is no Program Manager role in Sure Step Roles, however, Program Management cross-phase process still talks about it, mentioning both Program and Project managers. Oh my.
    2. Statement of Work: I am not 100% sure it is as much of MSF term as it is generally a Microsoft term, but having both SoW and Project Charter as parts of Sure Step is redundant. The content is the same, the purpose is almost the same, and it may be only me missing the point, but explaining the difference to anybody is difficult. I’d like to see one of these two go, and they both seem to be here to stay for at least one more release.

To be slightly more positive about what’s unfortunately not new, I’d say that it’s lacking much hoped for improvements of the Agile project type. I believe that there is so much more to be said and done around Agile, especially around making it truly iterative in all phases, not just Analysis, Design and Development, but I believe I’ll have to wait a future version.

And to be a bit snarky here, what’s unfortunately not new is that the application, after it installs, can be found in Start Menu still under it’s old name: Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step 2010 Smile

Conclusion

All in all, this is a great release of Sure Step, and it’s obvious that the team had done a tremendous job. I’m glad that the focus is on products, verticalization and templates, which is precisely where it should be as long as methodology is most important here. There are things to be improved and changed, but having followed Sure Step closely since the first day, I believe Sure Step is really navigating into success Smile

I am particularly excited about the better alignment with PMBOK, as it reassures me that Sure Step team doesn’t spend too much time inventing wheels, but looking how to use those already proven and available.

I am still slightly sad to see that NAV, a powerhorse and biggest driver of Dynamics ERP, is underrepresented in Sure Step. It generates more business, sells better and easier, but is still behind AX in importance in Sure Step, and I hope future versions of Sure Step will do more justice to it.

11 thoughts on “Microsoft releases Sure Step 2012”

  1. Vjeko, great blog – thanks for your continued support of our Sure Step program!

    I wanted to get back to you on some of the points you have raised.

    Our Release Strategy:
    Our Sure Step releases are now intrinsically aligned with the Microsoft Dynamics product release cycles. As such, the focus of the Sure Step 2012 release was on AX 2012, with a secondary focus on CRM 2011 – as an FYI, we put out the Release Notes on PartnerSource earlier this week. As newer releases of NAV, GP & SL solutions are launched, we will have focused coverage for them in the corresponding Sure Step releases.

    Your “What’s New in 2012” & “What’s Fortunately New” sections:
    Glad that you like the content here – obviously a lot of work went into this release. Still more work to be done – and we have already started down the path of updating some of the process maps that we weren’t able to get to.

    Your “What’s Unfortunately New” section:
    The overall Solution Optimization diagram lists a few “examples” – but it is certainly not intended to convey that AX is about Analysis, etc. But I get your feedback – it is confusing, so will look to revise that in the next go-around.
    Regarding the individual roadmaps such as the ones for NAV, the intent is not that NAV doesn’t need “Design Review” – since Optimization Offering is meant as an oversight of an ongoing implementation or upgrade, the mapping essentially shows the services currently available. But again good feedback – and I will take it back to the NAV teams to try and enhance in future releases.

    Your “What’s Fortunately Not New” section:
    Glad you like the continued direction :). We saw no reason to make top-level changes, but we will continue to refine as needed – for example, we added an “Accelerated Proof of Concept with CRM Online” Decision Accelerator service in this release.

    Your “What’s Unfortunately not New in 2012” section:
    I have to respectfully disagree that we don’t need a Program Mgmt cross-phase. This is one of the most critical workstreams in an engagement, large or small. Regardless of whether one persona plays multiple roles (ex., a Solution Architect taking on Program Mgmt activities), this is necessary to stay on scope. It is also completely different from the Integration and Interface cross phase, which deals with integration of the selected solution to third party solutions that may exist in the customer org. Perhaps the confusion stems from the naming convention – bears noting that the cross phase names don’t necessarily have a direct correlation to the Project Management Disciplines.
    Statement of Work is a common consulting industry term in many parts of the world. While the Project Charter conveys the general constructs and rules of engagement, the SOW provides detailed deliverables by phase. I have seen smaller engagements go without a Project Charter, but not without a SOW.
    We will continue to look at doing more with the Agile project type. However, making the Deployment phase also iterative is not on the radar. As a matter of fact, all the customers and partners that I have presented to feel that a true Agile approach helps in solution “development” but not solution “deployment” of a Commercial of the Shelf product – and they appreciate the fact that we have adapted an iterative approach to solution deployment. Feedback I have received is that our project type gives them more practical usage patterns.
    Good catch on the name :). We saw that a bit too late to warrant stoppage of the release process – but we will fix that in the next update.

    Conclusion:
    Once again, thanks for your continued evangelism of our solution. As noted earlier, you will see more content on NAV as we approach the next NAV product release.

    1. Chandru: thanks for the comment. I believe you got me wrong on my “Program Management” point. I didn’t compare it with Integration and Interfaces cross-phase, because I believe I know as much as not to think there is anything in common or redundant in these two. I compared it to Integration Management discipline of PMBOK (and I also compared these two in a previous blog post as well). I honestly think that there is a lot of room for improvement in consolidating these two. The map doesn’t have to be direct to MSF and to PMBOK, it should be what makes most sense for Sure Step, and currently, I am still convinced that Integration Management of PMBOK and Program Management of MSF/Sure Step are essentially the same thing. I’m looking forward to future releases, and you can definitely count on both my evangelism, and honest opinion.

  2. Great, and we’ll be counting on your opinion 🙂

    First off, I want to make sure I clarify on your MSF-Sure Step comment. Sure Step is actually aligned to SDM (Services Delivery Methodology) rather than MSF. SDM has been restructured in the last years with three uber phases – Initiation, Performance, Closure. Sure Step and other methods, including those for iterative solution development based on MSF, are all now aligned to SDM.

    Would like to understand further your point about trying to consolidate the Program Mgmt cross phase in the project types with the Integration Mgmt discipline in the Project Mgmt Library. We have done some good work to align specific deliverables, and certainly open to suggestions.

  3. This was a tremendously helpful post. Few partners have time to dig through all of Sure Step to learn what is new and improved.

    Thank you for taking the time to do this. Sure Step is a wonderful tool and we are excited to see that it continues to get better.

    Jack Boyer
    http://boyerassoc.com/blog

  4. I was looking in the trainning partner source, a webinar that says it was published on February 3, 2012 about “Selling and Implementing in the Process Industry with Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step” that links guide you to a presentation made by Bob Jung (support analys-Fullscope) and Chandru Shankar (director-Microsoft Services) during the presentation they are showing a Sure Step version that can be seen at the bottom part (Platform 3.0.13.0, Content en-US 3.1.1.103), which seems to be even older than the one I have installed. The thing is that all the process industry addendums they are showing, mainly the documents, questionnairs, are not in current versions of Sure Step. Where can I found them? Can they be downloaded from somewhere and apply to actual Sure Step? Many thanks for any input!

  5. Hi Hector, actually, I delivered that Process Industry session in Jume 2010 with Bob – so the publish date seems to be incorrectly communicated. Please let me know where you are seeing this date, and we will get this fixed.

    As for the Process Industry content itself, you can find that under the “Manufacturing” solution dropdown. This is because we elevated the industry to Mfg, with the plan to Process, Discrete and Lean guidance over time.

    Hope this helps….thanks.

Let me know what you think

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.