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Microsoft Dynamics CRM Software Review

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Integration and Customization
Dynamics CRM uses the xRM framework to extend Dynamics core capabilities and empower ISVs to develop a variety of derivative line of business applications beyond Customer Relationship Management. The xRM framework includes the server-based application, Dynamics SDK (software development kit) and SQL Server. While simple Dynamics CRM customization can be performed using JavaScript, developers will likely need to license Visual Studio for more meaningful development.

With the Microsoft CRM 2013 release and more so with the CRM 2016 release, the company delivered Business Rules and a Portable Business Logic (PBL) customization framework that empowers business analysts or power users to create presentation layer modifications without coding. PBL is more of a visual and declarative modification language within the Dynamics app and replaces the need to rely entirely on java scripting for page modifications such as field controls and on-event triggers. PBL doesn't entirely replace java script, but it's a very useful tool and expected to advance in capabilities with continued Dynamics releases.

System administrators or IT staff can modify data objects, many-to-many entity relationships, navigation, forms, lists, reports, workflow processes and more, as well as create new objects or entities with various Microsoft framework products such as Visual Studio, Windows Workflow Foundation (WWF) and Windows Communication Foundation (WCF). New entities are not limited to traditional CRM objects such as accounts and contacts and may include more user-defined elements such as assets, items, tasks, documents or activities. With the most recent CRM software release, forms can be appended with child-grids which permit inline editing and one-to-many record (table) viewing on the same page—to avoid what can become navigation confusion from too many downstream or pop-up pages. Other helpful platform enhancements include field-level security, an Access Teams assignment which grants user defined groups access to specific entities or objects, and role-based views and page definitions whereby roles can be aligned with business units or territories. A user can also be included in more than one role.

Dynamics CRM Online also permits developers to install and execute foreign code in the hosted product at the Microsoft data center. This allows developers to take advantage of Windows Azure to create and deploy custom code using tools such as Visual Studio. Programmers can use the .NET Framework to incorporate Silverlight, Windows Communication Foundation and other platform technologies into their cloud solutions.

As a highly successful platform and tools software company, Microsoft brings extremely flexible, enterprise-level frameworks to their Dynamics CRM solution. While powerful, the trade off with these products is in the balance between technical sophistication and time to market. Many competing products offer frameworks for customization and extensibility with Platform as a Service (PaaS) solutions. While these solutions are sometimes less mature, and less powerful, they often provide a simpler environment for accelerated development. If your organization has Microsoft technical skills in house, Microsoft's frameworks will likely be considered a big plus. If not, you may need to weigh simplicity with sophistication in order to find the right balance to achieve your business software goals.

Software Technology
Dynamics CRM is developed in the .NET Framework and fully exploits the Microsoft stack, taking particular advantage of SQL Server and its many related services such as Internet Information Server (IIS), Analysis Services, Reporting Services, Windows Workflow Foundation (WWF) and Windows Communication foundation (WCF). Leveraging a vertically integrated platform stack with the Visual Studio development environment delivers strong technology efficiencies and extensibility to the business software.

One Dynamics technology of questionable value and longevity is Silverlight—a Microsoft development platform that facilitates the creation of an interactive presentation layer. While Silverlight delivers rich controls to improve the user interface and user experience as well as provides ubiquitous browser support, it requires a download and may not always play nice with Firefox, Chrome and other browsers. Further, we have heard continued rumblings from Redmond that with the release of HTML5, Silverlight's unique capabilities are no longer unique and simply migrating to HTML5 in the future can lead Dynamics into a more open presentation layer platform with native support for more browsers and more mobile devices.

Dynamics CRM is a true multi-tenant database architecture. Multi-tenancy provides clear efficiency advantages for hosting providers serving many customers, and can also deliver similar advantages to internal IT departments who may wish to provision their own internal private clouds among different departments, lines of business or geographical operations. Further, because of the much greater ease in rolling out multi-tenant CRM upgrades, this SaaS architecture promotes more frequent innovation for customers.

Microsoft now delivers sandbox environments with CRM Online subscriptions (although additional fees can apply). Sandbox test beds are extremely useful for testing, quality assurance and trouble-free upgrades and roll-outs.

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Microsoft Dynamics CRM Review






If you have Microsoft technical skills in house, Microsoft's frameworks will likely be considered a big plus. If not, you may need to weigh simplicity with sophistication in order to find the right balance to achieve your business software goals.


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