How Dynamic IS Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0?

Microsoft DynamicsThroughout my experiences instructing and consulting with Microsoft CRM, the majority of CRM implementations that I’ve seen and worked with, all look exactly alike! It doesn’t matter what industry they are in, or what they sell, or how they operate… the layout, look, and functionality are typically the same. Not all are setup this way; but the vast majority seems to struggle with deploying CRM to fit their needs. I like comparing it to walking into any Home Depot – it’s this huge open space that’s filled with potential and you have access to any tool you would need; but if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’ll just end up walking the aisles, wondering why the ceilings are so high and why you can’t find anyone that knows what they’re doing. The only thing you’ll accomplish is buying that hot dog on the way out.

Sometimes, I’ll ask my students… “Imagine that you are working for Microsoft and you’ve been assigned the task of developing a CRM solution. The only catch is that the entire application must be universally applicable to all users.” So, how do you design an application that provides organizational management, produces measurable data, and has the ability to grow with the company…all the while, making it unique and personal to each organization?

Answer? You design it so that every facet, feature, add-on, plug-in, field, form, view, and entity can be customized. Using customization to its fullest potential allows those like “Mom & Pop Liquors” or “Wholesale Distribution Centers-R-Us” or even companies like “Hewlett Packard” to all use the same application and apply it directly to their business model. In my opinion, Microsoft nailed it with CRM 4.0.

I was recently asked to consult on a Microsoft CRM 4.0 implementation for an organic food distributor. They had only been working with CRM for a few months and were struggling with user adoption, overall functionality, and the knowledge of what could be done “outside of the box.” There were some custom forms, tabs, and other modifications being used, but the missing features were those that were specific to their unique business policies and procedures. After analysis of their situation, I gave my recommended customizations and they were excited to see that they were merely scratching the surface of what CRM could provide.

They wanted to have Microsoft CRM work for them right out of the box, but their willingness to recognize the infancy of their initial deployment allowed them to take a step back. Realizing that CRM would be ever evolving, (nothing is customized overnight) they were able to prioritize their “Critical Needs” vs. “Critical Wants”, which gave them a starting point for a successful implementation. Sometimes we just need to know what’s possible … and why we need it in the first place!

Statistics show us that over 50% of ALL CRM implementations FAIL. It’s not surprising, considering that most managers and executives tell me they are tired of hearing their employees complain that they won’t work with Microsoft CRM because CRM isn’t working for them. I truly believe that the majority of these organizations just aren’t shown how dynamic Microsoft CRM can be! It’s not anyone’s fault… it just wasn’t clear as to what they should have done back at Step #1.

I’m sure that most of us have either experienced or worked with Microsoft CRM setups like this, correct? Is the “out of the box” version so great that there’s no reason to tinker with it? NO! Are the default settings good enough to get the job done? Maybe for some, but probably…NO! Does it take time, thought, and some self-analysis to understand what you should do with CRM? YES! So take the time and make it yours. Or if you are the one making these customizations; make sure the priorities are set and you know exactly how CRM is going to work within their needs. Otherwise, you’re just going to end up leaving Home Depot…only to buy ANOTHER hot dog.

Microsoft CRM Consultant
Unitek Microsoft CRM Services

1 reply
  1. MF - Microsoft CRM Consultant
    MF - Microsoft CRM Consultant says:

    Just a few more lines on that – a different point of view though, perhaps of the SMB perspective;

    I agree with the students answer; “You design it so that every facet, feature, add-on, plug-in, field, form, view, and entity can be customized”. True but not complete.

    To clearly dominate the marketpace, the “horizontal” approach HAS to be comprehensive and in MS CRM there are SO MANY things missing – things that EVERYONE needs. There are many examples of trivial things that anyone involved in MS CRM implementations was amazed to discover that are simply not there.

    Customer proposal extraction to MS-Office (not a silly mail merge); Serious Pricelist Management and Pricing policies (essential for sales people); SLAs; Recurring events (cases, activities etc); Product tracking; Serious service management (not simply incident based/issue tracking); Integration with the rest of the MS product stack for God sake! (Sharepoint, Microsoft ERP, Mappoint, ….) and many more. And even with this approach, many are still amazed to discover how binding it is in several aspects (eg. customer service, contracts etc).

    Now I’ll agree that all the above can be implemented through standard programming interfaces, but re-inventing the wheel cannot be the answer. Neither purchasing and maintaining tons of custom code and add-ins. I was expecting from MS to do a much better work in terms of horizontal business needs asessment and then leave the ecosystem develop purely VERTICAL solutions on their platform. This is what they’ve been evangelizing but it still seems far from being true.

    So here’s what happen in many customer scenarios; Very few can really afford time-consuming and costly development/implementation projects so they compromise to the “good enough” approach, and try to settle to a basic set of customizations corresponding to the “Critical Needs” of the organization that you mention. But this does not work for users (employees) who expect real functionality and time-saving automations, so it’s not strange they complain; They still need to do too much work out of their CRM system – Excel, ERP, legacy apps etc.

    So my point of view is that MS CRM CAN be dynamic, but it may require a heavy investment to prove it. And I’ll agree that you cannot have champagne taste and beer budget, but it was MS that positioned this product for the Small and Medium market. And everyone who’s dealing with this segment, knows well the limitations.

    My 2 cents.

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