Posted February 17th, 2017 by Cambridge Online
At Cambridge Online, a Columbus company, we implement and support Microsoft Dynamics ERP (AX and NAV) and Dynamics CRM solutions. Both of the ERP solutions include CRM within the standard functionality offered. After all, Enterprise Resource Planning ought to include Customer Relationship Management within the enterprise! So, why do we also implement and support Microsoft Dynamics CRM?
The simple answer is, it means we can work with organisations who are not only looking for Dynamics CRM but also with no project to replace their existing finance / ERP solution. We can also approach this from the other side: i.e. implement Dynamics ERP for organisations using other CRM solutions. Where CRM is required within the scope of the ERP project, we can advise on best solution to fit the specific requirements.
This “best of breed” approach was first suggested by industry analysts in the late 1990s. At that time the polar arguments were “best of breed” versus “fully integrated” (“one stop shop”!). “Fully integrated” tended to win the argument as “best of breed” failed to effectively interface and, despite spawning an industry of system integrators, many organisations ended up with the frustration of data silos, inconsistent / duplicate data (which record was correct; which system should be authoritative?!) and unacceptable requirement for rekeying.
Although it was the right concept, the main reason that “best of breed” struggled was because it was the wrong time; these best products lacked the tools to interface. This meant that the process of linking systems involved bespoke development, often with third party products to help link the two. Once live, this fragile plumbing was best left alone; however, the individual product vendors would be issuing updates, new versions, patches; the users would want these whilst the IT department crossed their fingers and hoped it wouldn’t break the interfaces.
Consequently, Dynamics AX and Dynamics NAV were built as fully integrated ERP with CRM. With the CRM functionality within the ERP there are no interfaces, meaning users have a consistent view of data and the ability to easily mine data related to customers. It allows salespeople to feel they are working in an environment built with rigidity of finance process in mind, rather than the flexibility (and often less structured) than a standalone sales tool. The CRM specialists also followed a development path with the field salesperson in mind and so tending to be a step ahead in terms of mobility (even if this was merely the ability to work off-line and then synchronise later). The salespeople liked the usability of these systems but they were often unconnected to the rest of the enterprise.
That was then, this is now. Over the years, technology has improved. Let’s face it, 20 years ago the idea of ordering your groceries on a smart phone app as you commute to work was unthinkable! Resistance to “best of breed” is no longer so easily vindicated. Absolutely the question should be: which is the best solution to fit the needs based on user requirements?
With the availability of web services as an integration tool for the last 10 years and the launch of standard connectors between Microsoft Dynamics’ ERP and CRM solutions, it has never been easier to integrate “best of breed”. From May, the launch of Dynamics 365 will move the configuration of the ERP and CRM to a level of seamless integration, users experience with the apps on smart phones and tablets. The solutions are built with the users in mind. The technology can take care of itself.