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Sure Step Methodology
Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step Methodology
Sure Step is the official Software Process from Microsoft for Dynamics Projects. Like any other Software Process, Sure Step tells you WHO shall do WHAT in WHICH ORDER and who is RESPONSIBLE for what. So a software process can be seen as the sum of years of knowledge and best practice in software development. Sure Step defines process phases, milestones roles, artefacts, cross-phase-processes and additional projekt management processes. Sure Step supports a broad range of products: Dynamics AX, Dynamics NAV, Dynamics GP, Dynamcis SL and Dynamics CRM. And different project types: Full Implementation, Rapid Implementation, Optimization and Upgrade. Products and project types can be combined. Microsoft provides the Sure Step Overview Diagram for sales and training situations. Assuming this is a "Training Situation" I have uploaded the Overview Diagram.
The Process Guide
Microsoft provides both, an electronic process guide, and an editor. The process guide is an HTML Project combined with ActiveX Elements. It is possible to filter the process guide content with the ActiceX Filter. Internet Explorer is required to view the process guid properly. The Editor is part of the Sure Step Package. It allowes you to tailor the process to your needs. I've encountered serval problems running the editor on a non-english windows version. Generating the static content breaks with an error message that some path cann't be found. Solution: Setup an english windows on a virtual pc image and edit the content there.
Sure Step defines 6 Main Phases and 2 additional phases for optimization and upgrade. It covers the complete lifecycle from project initiation, development, deployment, optimization and upgrade to the next version. A phase ends with a milestone. A milestone is a sum of artefacts created or refined in the phase. If the milestone is accomplished you may start the next phase. At the first look the phases look like a waterfall model, but of course Sure Step isn't waterfall. Cause waterfall don't works in reallity.
Sure Step Phases:
- Diagnostic: The diagnostic phase contains analysis of the customer process at a very hi level. Focus of the diagnostic phase is the project initialization; To setup a project plan, agree on an approach and scope definition.
- Analysis: In the analysis phase most of the business processes are identified and documented at a high level. If necessary an external specialist helps you to do so. Goal of the analysis phase is to understand the customers business and processes performed. Modeling and documenting the customers business is important. Microsoft Provides a new tool for the modeling: Microsoft Sure Step Business Modeler
- Design: Main purpose of the design phase is to find a way how the customers processes and needs can be implemented with Dynamics. At this point there may be more than one solution for a topic. You need to identify the best strategy for the implementation phase. Although prototyping is not covered in sure step, this is the point where to build prototypes and do load testing on the prototype implementation.
- Development: Most of the programming work is done in the development. Development covers the creation of new features and adaption of existing features as well as the data migration. All features and the data migration has to be tested. Beside feature and data migration testing it is necessary to do security testing. The phase ends when most of the specified features are developed and tested and the data migration is done.
- Deployment: Goal of the deployment phase is to setup the operational dynamics environment at the customer. Beside installation, configuration and feature deployment, the phase focuses on testing at system level. So you have to run the user acceptance tests, process tests, security tests and load tests as defined in the test plan. When the system runs and all tests pass the deployment phase is finished.
Cross Phase Processes
While a Phase is a view on the process between milestones, a cross phase process is a view on the process for a specific software engineering disciplin. Like the name suggests Cross Phase Processes are performed in serval phases. In general, most Cross Phase Processes are performed from project start to end. Without the Management Disciplins, Sure Step defines 8 Cross Phase Processes
- Business Process Analysis
- Data Migration
Sure Step defines 20 different roles and devides them in "Consulting" and "Customer" roles. Sure Step gives hint what skills are necessary to fulfill a role and typical tasks for the role. A role can be performed by more than one person, eg. there may be more than one Development Consultant. A person may performe more than one role, eg. a consultant may be both Application- and Development Consultant.
Consulting Team: Sales
- Executive Sponsor
- Account Manager
- Sales Represntive
- Technical Sales Specialist
Consulting Team: Project
- Engagement Manager: The Engagement Manager participates only in the starting phase of a project. He is responsible to transfer a sales project into a implementation project.
- Project Manager: The project manager is what the name suggests; The project manager. He keeps the project running, allocates resources, maintains the project plan, work break down structure and is the contact person for the Customers project manager. The Project manager has a representive function and coordinates meetings with serval team members.
- Business Analyst: The BA is a specialist on a certain domain, like production, financial, etc. He supports the project team during the Diagnostic and Analysis Phase. He is responsible for outlining existing processes at the customers company. In the Analysis phase the process knowledge is transfered from the Business Analyst to the Application Consultant.
- Application Consultant: The Application Consultant has a deep knowledge of the Dynamics System and modules. He takes part in every project phase from diagnostic to deployment, optimization and upgrade. His main purpose is to bring the customer processes into a Dynamics like form. Optimizing existing processes to fit the Dynamics built in processes and defining new processes.
- Solution Architect: The Solution Architect in Sure Step is described somehow as the God of Dynamics. He knows everything! The Solution Architect has a deep knowledge of Dynamics as well as Development in Dynamics. He is familiar with .NET, Visual Studio, BizTalk, Windows Server Systems and of course Database Systems. He knows about the technical aspects about Application Integration, Webservices as well as the benefits of a service oriented architecture. By the way the Solution Architect has also skills in business modeling and software documentation.
- Development Consultant: The Development Consultant realizes the requirements in Dynamics. He is an expert in Dynamics Development and Development Tools. The Development Consultant has a broad knowledge about .NET and Development with other Microsoft Products. He is familiar with the Microsoft Software stack from Operations Systems and Servers, to Database Servers and Sharepoint, BizTalk, etc.
- Technology Consultant: The Technology Consultant can be described as a kind of Administrator. He has a deep knowledge on installing and configuring Microsoft Products and especially Dynamics Software. He is responsible for setting up a production, development and testing environment. The Technology consultant is also a networking specialist.
- Support Engineer
- Executive Sponsor
- Business Decision Maker
- Purchase Manager
- Project Manager
- IT Manager
- IT Team Member
- Key User
- End User
An artefact can be anything, a document, a piece of code, a test plan, etc. Sure Step defines what artefact is created where in the project and how they are linked. Microsoft provides Office templates for most artefacts.
There are quite a lot of topics that are left blank. For example sure step says you should perform Unit Testing, feature tests, system test, load tests, security tests and user aceptance test. But it gives no hints how to performa a suitable load test or doesn't tell you how to write a security test plan. Most artefact templates are simple Word documents with nothing more than headlines. A certification and a proper education canbe very costly for a firm, as one class in Sure Step can cost around 2000$.