Sure Step Spring 2009 release

Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step Methodology Microsoft’s Sure Step team has been pretty busy recently. They have just published the new update to Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step methodology, which includes several important new features and many content updates worth your attention.

I’ve just downloaded and installed it and I am impressed with the improvements.

Officially, this is what’s new:

  • The “Standard” project type, which has been simplified, makes it easier for you to use Sure Step for the implementation of Microsoft Dynamics solutions for mid-market customers.
  • A view of “key deliverables” for each project enables you the ability to more quickly and easily adapt Sure Step to your existing Microsoft Dynamics practice.
  • A new search tool makes it easier for you to quickly find the right guidance for any implementation situation.
  • Role-tailored and product-specific guidance developed by several Microsoft partners provides you even more best practices that can be applied to your projects.
  • Improved product upgrade guidance helps you set the stage for successful technical upgrades to current and future Microsoft Dynamics releases.

Now my five cents:

  • Standard project type has been completely streamlined and focused on adding value, and removing any unnecessary overhead. Standard project type, according to definition, is a lean approach for implementing at a single site (I like the "lean” in this definition). This release of Sure Step really means it. It only takes a casual look over “Project Plan” document (it was previously called “Work Plan”, which I liked better) to communicate precisely what lean is all about.
  • Key deliverables is a fantastic feature, it shows you what documents are necessary in which phase, and how information flows from one to another. It is nicely hyperlinked with the templates so if you are a newbie project manager, you can click your way through your first implementation pretty easily with little to no confusion over what, how and when must be documented and in which form. Unfortunately, where “key deliverables” would be also a fantastic feature is the Documents area of Sure Step Methodology, where among “All Documents” and “Customer Facing Deliverables” view, the “Key Deliverables” would also be a nice-to-have addition.
  • Search tool blew my socks off. It searches everywhere, including guidance and document templates content (not only keywords). And it’s fast. Searching for any term produces results in under a second, and filtering capabilities of the tool are just right: you can filter by phase, cross-phase process, product, project type, owner, customer role, partner role, deliverable and document types.
  • Role-tailored and product-specific guidance is hard to find because it has been interspersed throughout the content, so I can’t offer a reliable perspective on this. I’ve noticed few new pages of guidance and links, but it will require more than a mere glance to see what’s truly new inside the content itself. Also, read below about some specifics.
  • Project upgrade guidance, the same thing here. On the first glance, there seem to be many changes, but listing them specifically is a little bit of a mission impossible.

Generally, after a few clicks I must say I love what happened to the Fit & Gap Worksheet, which now resembles more closely what is actually done during fit/gap analyses. It’s now called Fit Gap Analysis Template, it has a product agnostic version, and it is split into two separate documents: process based, and role based. Role based is what is frequently done, because it focuses on interviews conducted with various roles.

Also, there are many more sample documents which give you a feel for the deliverables. When you are first-time user of Sure Step, staring at empty templates might have easily resulted in filling completely wrong information there or doing too much, or too little, and in general to wander unnecessarily—now with the sample documents readily available, you can just go and see what exactly you are supposed to put there.

To upgrade to the latest release, simply open your current Sure Step client, go to Preferences, and click “Check for updates”. It will then show you the links to the download page, which also includes installation instructions. If you don’t have Sure Step yet, you can go to Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step page directly by clicking here.

For the time being, this release is available only in English, with other supported languages (Spanish, Russian, German and French) soon to follow.

What are you waiting for, go grab it!

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