Buy Packaged Software or Build Your Own?

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Build Or Buy? Both!

The debate is old: build or buy? But the debate is framed incorrectly. These days, the answer is, more than ever: both.

Users want and expect software to work the way they want to, And every business is unique. These two facts often lead managers to decide that there is no way packaged software can meet their needs, so they invest huge sums to build custom software. That is typically a mistake.

The Short History of CRM

Take the “CRM” world. CRM, the acronym for “Customer Relationship Management,” started to gain traction in the late ’80s, evolving from packaged accounting software. Since every business has customers (or clients, or stakeholders, or whatever you call the people that give you money), software to track interactions with all of your clients just makes sense.

Since that time the CRM industry has undergone explosive growth and is now a mature industry segment. Salesforce is the most well-known offering today, although Dynamics continues to gain market share. Today, you can rent a full suite of CRM software today for a monthly rate of less than $100 per user from either Salesforce or Microsoft. Interestingly, Microsoft Dynamics is now a full suite of CRM AND Accounting tools, bringing the front and back-office together again in the never-ending pendulum swing of centralization versus decentralization.

Microsoft CRM aka Dynamics

Microsoft invests hundreds of millions a year in R&D to develop new features and expand its core offering. To believe that you can build a better mousetrap with a team of a few employees than a team of hundreds can deliver is your first challenge.

Now, to be clear, there is a reason for custom software. No off-the-shelf tool can possibly work 100% the same way your company does. But you don’t have to build it ALL. Instead, today, you can buy (or rent) a Dynamics 365 license to get the package software benefits AND customize this software to meet your specific needs.

Dynamics 365 is an amazingly simple yet elegant design. It builds around the concept of an “entity,” which you can think of an Excel sheet on steroids, or “tables” (and a whole lot more).

Each entity has the same architecture, but each will store different data. You can do the same operations, like search, view a list, and open a form to do data editing, on any entity. So once you know the core operations, you can apply them to any Dynamics application.

Feature Comparison: From the User’s Point of View. Why Build?

With Dynamics 365 Online, you get an amazing list of features that would have to be built from scratch in a custom app.

Dynamics 365 Feature Benefits Over Packaged Software; Equivalent Work Required to Obtain the Same Benefit
Access from Anywhere Dynamics is 100% browser-based, so whether you use Chrome, Edge, Firefox, or Safari, you can access Dynamics data on that device.
Mobility Not only can you use any common browser, you can also use PC’s, Macs, or smart phones.
Consistent UI Microsoft has invested millions in creating a modern, browser-based interface to Dynamics. Once you understand how to navigate to one view, and open one data entry form, you know how to work with any Dynamics data. The interface is very consistent, across views, forms, and dashboards, to minimize the learning curve.
Outlook Integration Most people use Outlook for email. Most people copy and paste snippets of conversation into their CRM email. Things undoubtedly get lost in that translation.
With Dynamics, Outlook integration is out of the box. Your user can be reading an email in Outlook, and with one click, track that email chain in your corporate database.
CRM can even synchronize your sales rep’s CRM contacts into their Outlook contact list, so they always have their full territory of contacts on their phone. CRM Appointments can automatically sync to your Outlook calendar, and CRM tasks can sync to Outlook tasks. No coding.
Dashboards Deriving maximum benefit from data is all about visualization. In CRM, I can build a dashboard with half a dozen pretty pie (or any other kind of) charts, and views in less than an hour. The dashboard users can drill down from summary charts to the originating transactions.
Your developers are going to tell you this will take man-months of effort to build. Or, you can just buy Dynamics, and click on “Dashboards.”
Security No matter the size of your application, you want to secure your data. If you have many departments, each of which currently has their stovepipe, you could build that same, protected data architecture with CRM. At the same time, you could also build a hierarchy of “business units,” each with their own sets of permissions, and share data, by users or team, according to your requirements.
For example, the customer service representative can either see all of the details, some of the information, or nothing about your sales process. Your Eastern division sales team can’t see the opportunities the Western team is working on; or, they can. Your call. Making the decisions about who can see what is far more difficult than implementing those restrictions in CRM.

Feature Comparison: From the IT Point of View. Why Build?

With Dynamics 365 Online, you get an amazing list of features that would have to be built from scratch in a custom app.

Dynamics 365 Feature Benefits Over Packaged Software; Equivalent Work Required to Obtain the Same Benefit
“Entities?” Each Dynamics 365 “entity” has many parts, each of which is automatically created anytime you create an entity.

  • A database table to store the data, comprised of
  • Fields – you can store text, numbers, and pictures in CRM.
  • Relationships – between this table and others.
  • Views – that display different slices of data.
  • Forms – On which you can perform rich data entry, including on mobile devices.
System Entities CRM out-of-the-box comes with dozens of “system entities,”

  • Accounts, to keep track of company info.
  • Contacts, to keep track of people.
  • Tasks, to keep track of your To Do items.
  • Opportunities, to keep track of sales.
  • Cases, to track support tickets,
  • And many, many more.
Custom Entities Through a very easy to use administrative module of Dynamics, you can build your own entities. This means that you can story any data you capture in any format today, in Dynamics.
This is the main reason Microsoft changed the name from CRM: because the software you can craft using the Dynamics toolset does not need to have anything to do with managing customer relationships.
Personally, I’ve built systems inside of Dynamics that:

  • Managed Adult Living Centers.
  • Enforced health care provider compliance;
  • Matched hundreds of thousands of guests with reservations;
  • Manafed brokerage relationship, with brokers, the firm, and clients;
  • Tracked the movement of custom tankers with luxury yachts on board;
  • Tracked the sales of suites, sponsorship, and advertising revenue for an NBA team.

All of these systems were built on the foundation that Dynamics 365 provides. Using the Admin tools, you can build complex systems with sophisticated dashboards, views, forms, workflow, routing, and tracking principles. All without coding!
An experienced consulting team that knows how to customize Dynamics 365 can build a robust application to track any data using any process.

C.R.U.D. A techie abbreviation for “Create, Read, Update, and Delete. Whenever you build software, you will have a “table” of data and a way (forms/web pages) for interacting with it. For each table you must write/copy code to “C”reate a new recore, “R”ead an existing record, “U”pdate an existing record, or “D”elete a record
This “CRUD” code is all done for you in CRM!This can save an amazing amount of valuable developer time, and free them up to concentrate on building your core processes. You also don’t need to write test plans, or execute htem, to make sure the application is storing data correctly. That’s Microsoft’s job, and in the 15 years I’ve been working with what is now called Dynamics, they have done a flawless job of maintaining your data in the Dynamics/CRM database.
Custom Server-Side.NetCoding Believe it or not, your.Net developer team can do exactly what they love to do, write .Netcode. Only, instead of spending months on security, infrastructure, backup, CRUD coding…you can buy/rent all that, and let your developers code the critical, custom, business functions unique to processes.
Dynamics CRM has a “plugin” architecture that enables your .Net team to write code to modify data and/or process, when the users save any record, from any entity. The architecture is built-in; all developer has to do is “plug-in” to it.
Customer Client-Side Javascript Code Dynamics also supports JavaScript. When a Dynamics user opens a form, you can run custom code that can modify data, change the appearance of the form, and much more.
Every time the user changes a field value, that can trigger your custom JavaScript.
Finally, when a user saves a record, you can run JavaScript to, for example, enforce data validation.
DEV, QA, PROD, backups, and disaster recovery.

When you build software, the users get the production version. Your developers work in their sandbox, usually with a subset of the production software. And when software releases and upgrades happen, you have to build a copy of production, and modify thatm and test that.
This all takes a lot of time you don’t need to spend if you rent Dynamics. Copying your production database, with everything included, to a new fresh QA version takes longer for Microsoft to do (minutes) than it will take you to specify (seconds).
And how about backups, recovery, disaster recovery planning? Can take months to do correctly on your own. (And who has time to do a full disaster recovery run-through, anyway?) Microsoft backs up your application every night. Ad admin can recover a backup with a couple of clicks. And Microsoft is responsible for keeping the lights on, not your IT team.
Free Mobility

Every entity, every view, every form can be made available on mobile devices, without modifying code. Forms scale to the correct form factor automatically. All you need to do is check a few boxes enabling mobility, and buy the phones…
Unless you build this all from scratch, of course.

Conclusion

In sum, if you have a team of talented developers and they and management are convinced that no packaged software product can meet the unique needs of your firm, please direct them to this article, and to Trovare, at .

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