Yesterday, I revisited an old customer of mine. It was an unsettling experience when my contact proudly demonstrated the Microsoft Dynamics CRM based solution that they recently launched. The fact that the solution replaced a system that we built to them ten years ago was only partly the reason for my distress. My major concern was the difference in productivity and investment. The investment to rebuild the solution using Microsoft Dynamics CRM was a fraction (5%) of the initial investment in our custom built solution. Given my core value in putting the customer first, I take some comfort that the comparison is flawed to some extent. We considered Microsoft Dynamics CRM but found that it didn’t support our main requirements at the time. But, nonetheless, I am sure that there is a lesson to be learned here. In this blog post, I will try to dispel the myth that Microsoft Dynamics CRM is only applicable when pursuing a solution for sales force automation.
First, let us address the generic differences between packaged and custom built solutions. I have used the following table when trying to guide clients on the generic differences between customizing a packaged solution and building a custom built solution.
When presenting this comparison, I can always identify the stakeholders that favor a custom built solution. They are the ones that cling to the need for a unique solution and competitive edge. Given my insights yesterday, I would challenge them about their uniqueness and ask whether they are willing to pay 20 times the money for a custom built solution.
When engaged ten years ago, we and our client truly believed that we were building a unique solution. The solution, a deal management solution for an investment bank, was built to support their competitive edge on the market. During the demo, it was evident that they had been able to capture 80% of this unique functionality using some basic customizations in Microsoft Dynamics CRM. The remaining 20% was scoped out from the initial release due to the complexity to users, not that it was unfeasible to implement. To me, it is evident that Microsoft Dynamics CRM can accommodate most processes and products that make a business unique. There is another lesson learnt from the project. Most of the development budget was invested in building the architecture to support the business logic. I am the first to argue that you need a solid and extensible architecture, but are you willing to devote at least 30% of the development budget to build it yourself when Microsoft Dynamics CRM provide access control, audit trail, integration to Microsoft Office, reporting and business intelligence capabilities right out of the box?
Many make the mistake to assume that Microsoft Dynamics CRM is only applicable for Sales Force Automation in Business-to-Consumer environments (B2C). Microsoft tried to address that misconception with the xRM concept where x could represent deals, advisors, instruments, operating risks, portfolio companies, holdings, etc…
I have added a simple check list below to cut through the marketing lingo and help you assess when to consider Microsoft Dynamics CRM:
- The solution is to be used by knowledge workers on a daily basis.
- Users will leverage the solution to create, read, update and possibly delete objects.
- Workflows to automate reactions to events in the system are considered
- Reporting, dashboards and score cards will be used
- There is a need for integrated document management
- An architecture with access control, audit trail, exception handling and workflows is required
- Integration to Microsoft Outlook and other Office products is crucial
- Extensibility and time-to-market are imperative
- Mobility is considered
- Constrained project budget. Would appreciate to shift from CAPEX to OPEX. May consider Cloud
I would really recommend you to consider Microsoft Dynamics CRM if you checked seven or more of the criteria. The promise to get the functionality at 5% of the cost for a custom built solution should justify the cost for engaging a serious IT-consultant firm to perform a fit-gap analysis where your requirements are matched to the capabilities in Microsoft Dynamics CRM.