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Microsoft Dynamics CRM as a Development Platform

Building Line of Business Applications Better and Faster

An Infostrat White Paper
Information Strategies 4301 Connecticut Avenue, NW Suite 135 Washington, DC 20008 202.364.8822 www.infostrat.com info@infostrat.com Published: December 2007 For the latest information, please see http://www.infostrat.com

Inc. Microsoft Windows Search. cannot guarantee the accuracy of any information presented after the date of publication. Inc. Microsoft SQL Server. or introduced into a retrieval system. no part of this document may be reproduced.The information contained in this document represents the current view of Information Strategies. or otherwise). photocopying. Inc. Exchange Server Public Folders. EXPRESS OR IMPLIED. recording. Microsoft Windows. Microsoft Outlook 2007. Microsoft. without the express written permission of Information Strategies. Information Strategies. stored in. Microsoft Office. mechanical. Inc. © 2007 Information Strategies. Windows Vista are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries. Windows Desktop Search. This white paper is for informational purposes only. Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. . IN THIS DOCUMENT. MAKES NO WARRANTIES. Inc. on the issues discussed as of the date of publication. The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners. All rights reserved. or for any purpose. or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic. Complying with all applicable copyright laws is the responsibility of the user. Without limiting the rights under copyright. Information Strategies.

.............................................................. 10 About Information Strategies...................... 9 Benefits of Microsoft Dynamics CRM .............................................................. 11 ................................................................ 2 The Challenges of Custom Application Development .......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 2 General Purpose Software .......................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 7 Extensibility ............................................................................................................................................................................................................................. 2 Line of Business Software ............................................................................................................ 4 Why is Software Development So Expensive? .................................... 9 Conclusion...................................... 8 Microsoft Dynamics CRM and SharePoint .................................................................... 8 Suitability of Microsoft Dynamics CRM . 1 Two Kinds of Business Software........................ 4 Microsoft Dynamics CRM as Development Platform .... 6 Microsoft Dynamics CRM Key Features ...............................................................Contents Executive Summary ...........................................

and implementation time. making it a development tool that warrants serious consideration. Microsoft Dynamics CRM is easily integrated with other elements of the Microsoft platform and to other products and technologies. handles many common low-level programming tasks. Microsoft Dynamics CRM can be used to build solutions for common business needs while significantly reducing technical risk. This white paper. It gives users a starting point for functional requirements. Building on the foundation of Microsoft Dynamics CRM avoids many of the common pitfalls of custom application development. written for business decision makers. addresses the challenges of application development and the role that Microsoft Dynamics CRM can play in creating customized line of business (LOB) applications. compared to traditional custom application development. It shows how Microsoft Dynamics CRM minimizes the risk of implementing solutions.infostrat. cost. and provides advanced functionality such as offline replication and integration with Microsoft Office.com 1 . Microsoft Dynamics CRM can effectively function as the primary interface to information in your organization.Executive Summary Microsoft Dynamics CRM offers more than simply an off-the-shelf Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software package. contains a rich data model. www. such as document management and business intelligence.

the business rules in the system must match the business rules of the organization. This type of software is often sold in bundles and may be purchased along with hardware. the same features are generally desired. For organizations with well developed processes. switching word processing software package is not likely to appreciably affect a company’s sales or profitability. The cost of switching from one product to another is not usually high. The market for general purpose software is huge.com 2 .infostrat. there are specialized accounting packages for specific sectors such as government and non-profits. if each business created its own word processing software. For example. For a system to succeed. word processing. and affords the leaders of a given software category to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on research and development and still make a profit at a low unit price. it employs business rules and assumptions. the LOB software business rules and assumptions may not match the organization’s practices. No matter what industry or sector a user represents. LOB software can bring much needed standardization and organization. Competition and volume drive the unit price of general purpose software down. or spreadsheet analysis. Most ERP packages force an organization to choose between extensive custom development to fit their business rules or to maintain the off-the-shelf attributes of the ERP package and change the business rules of the organization. such as e-mail. www. While general purpose software has an impact on the overall productivity of an organization. General Purpose Software General purpose (horizontal market) software performs functions that are common to most businesses. Because LOB software is generally tied to a particular industry or function. “Off-the-shelf” software. because other organizations can buy the same software. The software that runs an orthodontist’s office is not suitable for an automobile factory or a county housing agency. it rarely provides a competitive advantage. Furthermore. Changing LOB software to conform to existing business rules can be a painful. The conventional wisdom is to change an organization to suit the product when implementing an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution like SAP or PeopleSoft rather than attempting to make the solution “fit” the organization. also called vertical market software. provides this general purpose functionality. Table 1 shows examples of general purpose and line of business software. web content management. even as the power and features of the software grow. Certainly. which likely represent a significant component of the organization’s competitive advantage. For organizations that lack defined processes and business rules. Line of Business Software Line of business (LOB) software.Two Kinds of Business Software Most organizations use two types of business application software in their daily operations-general purpose software and line of business software. is developed to meet specific industry needs. Accounting software also falls into the general purpose category because all businesses must conform to accounting standards. on the other hand. productivity would suffer as employees moved from one organization to another. because general purpose products provide similar features. There are benefits to businesses as a whole on standardizing their general purpose software. but overall the common features of accounting packages are greater than the differences. such as Microsoft Office. such as ease in file sharing and improved training efficiency. expensive process.

infostrat. While the cost and risk of implementing a new LOB package is typically high. and its use determines. to a significant extent. the benefits of a LOB system that enables the organization to provide greater value are immeasurable. leading to high unit costs. enforces and validates standard operating procedures.LOB software becomes the heartbeat of an organization. the overall efficiency of systems. workflows. because it embodies. www. This software is essentially a virtual model of how an organization operates. Many of these are small companies which focus entirely on a single industry. The market for any given vertical product is limited. The implementation process can be used to examine and refine processes so the resulting software deployment results in significant organizational improvement. As a consequence. not generalized. and other processes that make the organization run. such as retail point-of-sale terminals or telecommunications billing systems. General Purpose Software Word processing Spreadsheet Email Accounting Line of Business Software Time billing system (law firms) Medical record tracking Warehouse Management System (WMS) Retail point-of-sale (POS) Table 1. so cost of development must be spread across a smaller group of customers. LOB systems are specialized.com 3 . Examples of General Purpose and Line of Business Software Line of business software is typically more expensive than general purpose software both in terms of cost per user and overall cost. so they rarely provide price reductions over time. there are a small number of companies that provide vertical solutions to a given industry. Managers look to LOB systems for performance metrics and make far-reaching business decisions based on the information these systems provide.

time. custom application development carries significant risks and pain. or motivation to supply well thought out functional requirements. the problem is even more acute than in building a house. halfway through construction. decided you really want a twostory home.com 4 . Despite these benefits. boosting the cost and extending the time required to complete the system.The Challenges of Custom Application Development Since one size does not fit all for line of business solutions. or Federal records management requirements or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Regulatory compliance can create scope creep. but software engineering is not. Most end users do not have the time. and functionality. www. but users can easily ask for software requirements that are not practical or possible. When converting a manual process to an automated system. The Requirements Challenge The most fundamental challenge of custom development is defining requirements. and the ability to make the right tradeoffs of cost. some caused by external factors such as regulatory requirements or competitive threats. guaranteeing that no organization will run itself quite like yours. the traditional approach is to develop custom. It is a daunting challenge to present an end user with a blank sheet of paper and ask for a wish list of the features in a new system. an organization runs the risk of “paving the cow paths. so architects and builders spend significant effort developing detailed plans and designs. electrical codes. and a floor. when new requirements or changes are introduced after the original requirements have been approved. if you started building a one-story home and. You would expect a house to be built from standard materials such as wood or brick. plumbing. Most homebuyers would not pretend to understand structural engineering. the devil is in the details.infostrat. time. one-of-a-kind solutions. such as the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate requirements. your decision would carry additional cost and risk. The custom approach creates a unique opportunity to align your system with your business.” or creating an automated system with all the inherent inefficiency of its manual predecessor. walls. and ergonomic standards. the process of delivering software to users (after the formal requirement gathering phase) generates new innovation as users can better visualize the possibilities of their new system will look like. drainage. Requirements describe how a system is intended to operate. scope creep. may also precipitate change orders. Sometimes the scope creeps because the very process of requirements gathering uncovers business needs that are not being met or expose liabilities that were previously hidden. such as a roof. specifying how users will interact with the system and defining many of the aspects of the solution. A custom application is only as good as the requirements that define it. Business rule changes. Why is Software Development So Expensive? The high cost of custom software development is primarily due to three factors: effectiveness of requirements gathering. The process requires discipline. House construction is common knowledge. Scope Creep Another problem dooming many custom development projects is scope creep. With custom software. Many are tempted to answer quickly or avoid the question so they can focus on their daily responsibilities. and the development platform. For example. While people generally understand the elements of a house. Incomplete requirements may lead to mid-stream changes in a development project. experience. More often than not.

www. developers have to reinvent the wheel each time. In traditional custom development. Some programming languages are more efficient than others at automating business requirements. reuse some previously developed code blocks. Recently. In most cases. building this flexibility into a custom system initially adds significant cost. audit.The best requirements are based on an organization’s vision.com 5 . data binding. Development Tools The choice of development platform determines the effort required for development.infostrat. at best. In many cases. security. or. anticipating the direction of future changes and allowing for dynamic business rules. developers can build lookup tables that contain reference information that users can change as necessary to prevent recoding an application. For instance. etc. an alternative development platform has emerged using proven software components which can be customized and integrated quickly with low risk and low cost. more than half of development time is dedicated to solving common issues such as generic way to display data. instead of “hard coding” reference fields.

Microsoft SQL Server. Reporting. You can build business workflows to route transactions and track progress of work activities based on the Microsoft Windows Workflow Foundation. Compatibility. ad hoc query tool. contracts.infostrat. 4. and support for handheld and wireless devices. allowing you to control access to individual records. The standard product includes off-line capability. The platform includes extensive templates for tracking organizations. Reporting Services. marketing activities and service activities. 3. and the Office clients. a key benefit to many users. contacts. the time to market is much quicker and the quality is much better because each component has been widely tested prior and proven prior to use. Outlook integration means that CRM features can be accessed without leaving Microsoft Outlook (figure 1). Security. and Microsoft Dynamics CRM contains a fully featured user interface based on Microsoft standards. Additional features. people. The security is highly granular. More importantly. The level and sophistication of features for a product delivered today far exceeds the best custom development efforts of a decade ago.NET technologies and is fully extensible and customizable. Microsoft Dynamics CRM provides the core functionality required for LOB solutions. Many of the components of a finished application come straight out of the box with Microsoft CRM: 1. 6. Microsoft Dynamics CRM is built on the Microsoft platform and therefore takes advantage of Windows server and client operating systems. among other features. based on Active Directory. a data importing wizard. Data model. You get a fully developed system for user authentication. User interface.Microsoft Dynamics CRM as Development Platform Microsoft Dynamics CRM provides a major piece of the puzzle as an off the shelf solution for common components required for most line of business applications. Start with a set of prebuilt reports and an extensible reporting architecture (Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Service). Workflow engine.com 6 . Microsoft Dynamics CRM is built using standard Microsoft . www. 7. 2. and report export to Excel and PDF files. The result is that what was a one hundred percent customized approach prior to 1980 has shrunk to a fraction of the overall effort. user administration and role-based security. Microsoft specializes in usability. 5.

any single feature in the following list would require extensive work to duplicate as part of a custom application. Key Features of Microsoft Dynamics CRM User Interface Integration with Microsoft Outlook Customizable user views Offline capability Integration Features Link and export functionality to Microsoft Excel Web services support Word Mail Merge Mobile client for PDA or Smart Phone access “Click through” capability to related records Workflow Windows Workflow Foundation Queuing capability Reporting Ad hoc query capabilities SQL Server Reporting Services Data Features Record merging Rich data model Import tool Security Integrated with Active Directory Business roles Granular permissions Hierarchy of users Table 2.microsoft. They have been implemented. Microsoft Dynamics CRM shows data inside Outlook Microsoft Dynamics CRM Key Features Microsoft Dynamics CRM includes hundreds of features that are useful for business applications.Figure 1. If you build on the foundation of Microsoft Dynamics CRM.com. Without Microsoft Dynamics CRM. and are widely deployed.com 7 . these features are at your disposal. tested.infostrat. www. For an up-to-date list. Key Features of Microsoft Dynamics CRM A comprehensive list of the features of Microsoft Dynamics CRM is beyond the scope of this white paper. consult the evaluation guides and product information on www.

a portal framework for digital dashboards. maps. and aggregation tools such as Microsoft PerformancePoint Server 2007. Figure 2. Similarly. while Microsoft Dynamics CRM is not a document management product. Microsoft Dynamics CRM and SharePoint SharePoint technologies include two products. For advanced business intelligence. you are likely to find some business requirements that it does not fulfill.Extensibility Despite all the features that are included in Microsoft Dynamics CRM. document management (including versioning). you can extend Microsoft Dynamics CRM by integrating other products and by writing custom software modules. For instance.com 8 . The content management features of SharePoint allow you to build a page on your website which can display reports or other data from Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Business Graphs Dashboard displayed in Microsoft Dynamics CRM Microsoft Dynamics CRM can host dashboards that highlight key business metrics.infostrat. SharePoint is easily integrated and provides this capability. you can easily add this extensive functionality to your solution. Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS 2007). you can add a tab to a Microsoft Dynamics CRM screen that shows a document library containing draft documents. In these cases. For example. and a powerful search engine. Figure 2 shows several graphs that summarize data from Microsoft Dynamics CRM. many customers augment standard Microsoft Dynamics CRM reports with visualizations. By integrating SharePoint with Microsoft Dynamics CRM. www. you can show the location of your prospects or customers on a map as pushpins on a Virtual Earth map or satellite photo. For instance. Virtual Earth can be used to render geospatial data which comes from Microsoft Dynamics CRM. SharePoint provides web content management.

Users find the product simple to learn and use. there are fewer points of failure. Microsoft Dynamics CRM is neither designed as an accounting system nor as an ERP system. contracts and more. manufacturing (computer-controlled machinery). contracts. Reduce training requirements. Reduce time to initial deployment. and NAV. Microsoft Dynamics CRM contains built-in functionality for importing data. and Microsoft provides reference and training materials for developers. You can avoid this fate with Microsoft Dynamics CRM. resulting in bonus features that would be expensive to develop. and other common business entities. you can: Shorten the requirements process. you will benefit from new features and enhancements. contacts. Gain upgrade power. Installing and configuring Microsoft Dynamics CRM can take days or months as opposed to the years required for custom development. A quick prototype with Microsoft Dynamics CRM provides a “straw man” for determining the data model.Suitability of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Microsoft Dynamics CRM is an excellent framework for line of business applications that track people. phone calls. suppliers. www. such as securities trading.infostrat. GP. reports and many other aspects of an application.com 9 . and for generating bulk emails. SL. Gain advanced functionality. and integration with other products such as Outlook and Word is valuable. you can adopt this proven user interface. Improve user adoption. constituents. Any of these taken alone would be a significant development challenge. and other interaction. Reduce technical risk. Because Microsoft Dynamics CRM is tested and proven. For instance. By taking advantage of existing functionality. With a familiar user interface integrated into Microsoft Outlook. Both of these functions are addressed by other Microsoft Dynamics products including Microsoft Dynamics AX. user interface. training is dramatically lower than a one-of-a-kind interface. The approach for customizing Microsoft Dynamics CRM is well documented. inventory. telecommunications. It also excels where workflow is required as well as tracking email correspondence. for taking records offline. For real-time applications. vendors. Benefits of Microsoft Dynamics CRM With Microsoft Dynamics CRM as a development platform. The greatest return on Microsoft Dynamics CRM is achieved by organizations with an extensive Microsoft infrastructure investment. Reduce development complexity. Microsoft invests billions in usability for its products. These include not only customer relationship management but related systems for tracking interactions with employees. organizations. Many custom development projects fail when users resist learning a new tool. For the price of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. End users can respond more easily to a product than to a blank sheet of paper. Microsoft has the advantage of extensive research and development that ultimately turn into new product features. Built-in functionality of Microsoft Dynamics CRM exceeds what most users would request. many modules will come from Microsoft Dynamics CRM rather than be written by hand for a custom application. custom development is still the preferred approach. As Microsoft improves its product.

com 10 . Microsoft Dynamics CRM allows organizations to build their unique processes and competitive advantage into the solution versus modifying their organization’s process and methods to “fit” the software. with high quality. www. SQL Server and Microsoft Office to provide a platform that helps people work more productively. As a Microsoft partner. The platform’s rich out-of-the-box feature set. a Microsoft Dynamics CRM-based solution is easier for users to understand and integrate into the way they currently work. allows developers to provide rapid turnaround on a “proof of concept” for an organization so business users can validate logic and assumptions early in the development process. The Microsoft vision of CRM builds on the strengths of key technologies including Microsoft Windows. business users can be fully involved in the development process which increases user acceptance.Conclusion Microsoft Dynamics CRM enables you to build line of business solutions in weeks or months that would take years as custom development projects. Because it can be customized and extended for virtually any conceivable deployment. The combination of these factors saves development time. Furthermore. greater reliability and lower cost. reduces risk and leads to a lower overall cost of deployment than custom developed applications. Information Strategies is committed to continue to deliver line of business solutions built on this solid technology foundation.infostrat. Because Microsoft has invested heavily in ensuring seamless integration with the Microsoft Office family of products.

customer relationship management. www. Information Strategies (Infostrat) has been delivering IT solutions to government and business customers. and Corporate Web Sites with Microsoft Servers (Addison Wesley.About Information Strategies Since 1987.com 11 . The portal has over one million users from dozens of civilian federal agencies.S. federal government. government and are winners of numerous Microsoft Partner Awards. including the most recent book Building Portals.S. hosted by the Office of Personnel Management. we have over 60 publications to our credit.infostrat. We were named Microsoft Federal Partner of the Year in recognition of our work with the U. D.gov. and custom database applications and integration. Infostrat helped develop one of the largest portals used by the U. Together. This book was the first to address the entire Microsoft portal platform. Information Strategies line of business solutions built on Microsoft Dynamics CRM include: • • • • • • • Recruiting Sales Force Automation Housing Management E-Permitting Case Management Association Management Lobbying Our main offices are located in Washington.C. Intranets. with offices in Charlottesville.. 2004). www. Virginia. Infostrat has completed over 800 technology projects. and contains valuable information not only for software developers but also for chief information officers and other technology managers.employeeexpress. focusing on portals. Texas. and Austin.