Product review – Microsoft Dynamics CRM

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Introduction.

When companies increase their productivity via the implementation CRM solution, this creates a powerful competitive advantage for many organizations while improving the customer experience. For this reason, a CRM solution has become the top priority for businesses of all sizes.

Why would you implement a CRM solution?

As companies try to keep up with business growth and demands, they often struggle to achieve a balance between meeting increasing customer expectations while keeping operational costs at a minimum.  The good news is with the establishment of new technologies, it is possible to keep up with customer demands while lowering operational costs and increasing employee productivity and revenues.

In many instances, productivity is associated with demanding more output from employees. Instead, companies should think more all-inclusively on how to increase business productivity.  This means coming up with a strategy for combining the appropriate selection of skills with the right technology and processes.

This is why more organizations are supplying their staff with the necessary tools which guarantee an increase in productivity and faster closing of sales without placing unreasonable demands on their employees.  One of the ways they are accomplishing this is through the implementation of CRM solutions such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

What is Microsoft Dynamics CRM and What Is It Used For?

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a full featured Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution that contains an advanced toolset for marketing campaigns, sales processes and funnels, and customer service capabilities that are efficient and flexible.  It is a comprehensive application solution which provides businesses of all sizes with the tools they need to locate prospects, convert them to opportunity, and grow customer relationships over the long term.

Dynamics CRM is typically delivered through a network of partners who provide specialized services. This type of solution is integrated with other Microsoft products and applications to customize and streamline processes for an entire business operation. The Dynamics Customer Relationship Management suite is delivered both in the online and on premise environments.

Dynamics CRM Product Features.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is offered in two different versions which include online and on-premises.  Each version offers its own set of features that provide businesses with access to the latest CRM technologies at a fraction of the cost of legacy IT systems.

1. Microsoft Dynamics CRM (On-Premises):

Although both versions of Dynamics CRM are relatively similar, migrating to the online version is more about moving IT solutions to the cloud than it is about differences in the CRM applications which are offered by Dynamics CRM.  Some of the features include:

• Integration with Other Microsoft Products:  Dynamics CRM is designed to integrate with other products such as Microsoft SharePoint and Outlook to allow for improved management and collaboration, Microsoft IM for communications, Visual Studio for customization, and Microsoft Lync communications software.

• User-Friendly Interface:  Dynamics CRM is designed with a user-friendly interface which helps facilitate ease of use.  This means your employees can adjust quickly without the complexities of legacy systems

• Large Partner Delivery Network:  Dynamic CRM offers a large partner delivery network. This broadens the scope of application add-ons and capabilities for customization

• Integration with SaaS:  The Dynamic CRM platform is interoperable between the on-premises version and the online SaaS (Software as a Service) version.  This improves productivity and flexibility when executing a wide variety of tasks

2. Microsoft Dynamics CRM (Online): 

Dynamics CRM Online is the newest version of the Customer Relationship Management suite.  This version is functionally equivalent to the on-premises version however, there are a few differences in the features due to the fact that the online SaaS version is currently on a different release cycle in terms of functions and features.

• Enhanced Integration:  Microsoft increased the investment in research and development for the online version of Dynamics CRM due to demand.  This has enhanced the integration features with other products such as Lync, Yammer, SharePoint, and Skype

• User Interface:  The user interface for the online version of Dynamics CRM is more procedure oriented which enhances the employee’s experience and makes the platform user-friendly on portable devices

• Common Application Model: Microsoft designed both versions of Dynamics CRM to correlate with one another in terms of the data processing models.  This means that there is no need to re-adjust when using the interoperable applications.

Many businesses are now working from the cloud. A helpful guide for novices can be found here.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Costs.

The costs of using Dynamics CRM will depend upon the size of your organization, specific CRM requirements for your business, and the version of Dynamics CRM you choose to implement.  There are also different support levels which include Basic CRM, Basic CRM Plus, and Advanced CRM.

If your company opts to use the Dynamics CRM on-premise version, you pay a one-time fee for the purchase of the server license plus the licenses for each user you designate.  The platform is installed on your own servers and hardware and your company owns the software applications including the Marketing Sales, and Service functions.  For this setup there is no minimum for number of users.

For the online SaaS version of Dynamics CRM, you are required to pay a monthly subscription fee for each user to access the software on-demand which is hosted on Microsoft servers.  This CRM model includes maintenance fees in the cost of your subscription but your company does not have ownership of the software.

To access the online version of Dynamics CRM you must have a minimum of five users.

How can a CRM Solution save me money?

When a CRM solution is implemented correctly, this is an extremely viable way for companies to save money on overhead costs, which paves the way to greater profitability.

The primary way that a Customer Relationship Management solution saves money is via technology.  CRM which functions as Software as a Service (SaaS) in particular is very cost effective since it can function on any type of device that has Internet connectivity.  This eliminates the need to implement costly IT infrastructure and the system is maintained by the CRM solutions provider.

CRM solutions are also an “out-of-the-box” type of configuration. This means a business can migrate quickly and save money on training costs since the training is typically supplied by the solutions provider.

It also takes a significant amount of staffing and manpower to continually capture new business when you use a legacy system.  A customized CRM solution which allows lead management tools and customer data to be shared throughout your organization streamlines processes without having to transfer the information from one department to the other.

Most CRM solutions offer advanced reporting tools that make purchasing and procurement more accurate and efficient.  This saves on costs associated with purchasing goods which are not successful while ensuring that the popular products remain in stock.

Other CRM Solutions on the Market.

There are wide varieties of other CRM solutions, which are both open source and paid CRM suites.  If you are considering an alternative to Dynamics CRM, you should have a handle on your business needs now and for the future.

There are other solutions worth considering such as Salesforce and SugarCRM which are very comprehensive and offer different packages and suites that suit any budget.  Depending upon the package you choose, the services will vary according to your customer service needs.

A CRM service such as Our CRM offers a minimum package which includes accounts and contacts, task and event tracking, email integration, mobile access, content library, customizable reports, and social networking tools.

Salesforce packages can range up to an unlimited package which offers a comprehensive set of enterprise features for $250 per month for an unlimited number of users.

For those who are considering an open source CRM solution such as CentricCRM and others which are available at no cost, you typically do not receive an “out-of-the-box” quick setup.  Instead, businesses that use open source CRM are those that prefer to tailor every aspect of the configuration and CRM experience from the ground floor up.

Conclusions.

The demand for CRM solutions is on the rise mainly because the benefits outweigh the drawbacks in terms of cost, increased productivity, effective lead management, and profitability.  In today’s economy, CRM solutions represent the answer to soaring IT costs and customer demand while helping companies to remain competitive in today’s marketplace.

Resource:

Official Microsoft Dynamics website – http://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/dynamics/default.aspx

 

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Nick Barnett

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