xRM – What is it?
A week ago I went to my first Canadian MVP day at the Microsoft offices in Mississauga, Ontario. It was great to network with MVPs from other Microsoft products. Most were aware of Dynamics 365/CRM but I found a few who were not aware of the full platform capabilities.
So I thought that I would write a post as a primer to folks who are new to Dynamics 365 and may not be aware of the full power of the platform and what it can do.
Microsoft does a great job at promoting the Dynamics 365/CRM “Apps” that are really just a subset of features of the core Dynamics 365/CRM system; Sales, Service and Marketing and recently added Project Service and Field Service. Even the new licensing model seems to make customers either try to classify their users by these “app” models.
In the 100’s of CRM projects that I have been involved in, only a small handful have fit into this “sales-service-marketing” paradigm. Most of the projects that I have been involved with would be considered “xRM” or “anything” Relationship Management.
When someone asks me what Dynamics 365 (CRM) is, my answer is:
“Dynamics 365 is a platform in which you can rapidly build unique line of business applications”
The “x” factor is the ability to model business requirements and processes into a powerful business system.
Its a concept that I wonder if Microsoft doesn’t quite understand sometimes.
In 2006, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 was released. This version was the first to allow the creation of custom entities. This was pivotal in making Dynamics CRM a platform.
I was called into an existing customer that used Great Plains. They needed a custom “workflow” application to help manage requests for ReInsurance quotes. The insurance industry actually will buy insurance to cover their claims in the event of some kind of natural disaster. This is where they need to pay out their clients but don’t have the resources to pay all the coverage. Think of a hurricane Katrina wiping out thousands of houses in New Orleans and the local insurance company having to cover that. That is why they buy “reinsurance”.
This is a long and complicated process, it involves running various models, risk assessments, reviews. The process can take weeks. Whenever a new request came in, they started a binder with dividers for all the steps and began to pass the binder around. When a customer called in to check on the status, someone would run around the office to find who’s desk the binder was sitting on. They would check how far along the process was and call back.
So while I didn’t pitch CRM to run the modelling or analysis (that would be crazy). I did propose using CRM 3.0 to manage all their customers, and using a combination of custom and system entities, along with v3.0 workflow (ok, that was a bit crazy), managed a process where the ReInsurance evaluation process was tracked completely in CRM. Now when a customer called, the person answering the phone could immediately tell them where in the process the application was, who was working on it. Not only that, but the analysts could look in CRM and know the “next person” to hand ownership of the now virtual “binder” off to. This saved them hours of time and frustration.
Suffice to say, I was convinced of the power of “xRM”. In the years that followed, I built many unique line of business applications while building a very successful career;
- Donation Management
- Event Management
- Classic Car Auction Management
- Certification and Training Management
- Course and Class Management
- And many, many more…
For one of my clients, we replaced multiple discreet Access database applications into a single unified Dynamics CRM system.
This concept is something that Microsoft only briefly embraces, here is a video from a promotion a few years ago “One Platform, Many Applications, Infinite Possibilities”
No off the shelf management application for your specific business need? No Problem!
If a business has a unique need for a “database” or business management system, Microsoft Dynamics 365 becomes a great platform to build that system because many of the foundation components are already taken care of:
- Configurable relationship database
- Security model
- Configurable user interface
- Office integration
- Reporting engine
- Mobile integration
- Portal integration
- Configurable workflow, processes and business logic
- Published SDK and API for deeper extension
Of course the same rules about planning, scoping and designing apply to xRM as they would any other custom application development effort. However, most of the system can be configured by a business analyst and a developer only needs to be involved for the more complex functionality.
I know that I am “preaching to choir” for many of you who work with Dynamics 365/CRM on a daily basis. However, I think its important that we continue to evangelize the power of the platform.
If you are in the process of planning on building a new business application, you really should consider Dynamics 365 as the platform.
In future posts I will walk through creating a simple xRM application.
The “xRM Factor” image at the header of this post I stole from Adam Vero (Don’t tell him)
Nick Doelman is Microsoft Business Solutions MVP and recently has qualified for the Ontario provincial and Canadian national powerlifting championships.