At the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference Microsoft announced the upcoming release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM LIVE. As with all things software, new releases are always around the bend and of course that wanted new feature.
What is fascinating about Microsoft Dynamics CRM to me is that I continue to find buried "features" and cool stuff. The product is well designed to grow with a company.
The toughest part is starting that growing cycle. Out of the box the product needs configuration. Oh you can use it pure vanilla, but most companies quickly find that they can do a few configurations and make it mold to their business model.
CRM LIVE offers powerful configuration, as does Microsoft Dynamics CRM SBE and Professional.
Configuration can be broken down into parts.
The first is simple data entry. You need to spend the time to enter the data that applies to your basic business model. This includes the product catalog, the service categories, fiscal year end date, CRM users, security roles and more.
The second part of configuration is what data do you want to capture and how do you want to capture that data. What do you want your data entry screens to look like and do you have any unique field requirements. The entry screens are very robust in a vanilla mode, but in the services industry few firms capture freight and shipping data and as such these fields can be turned off.
Another part of configuration is how do you want to slice and dice your data and what type of views are you interested in. These views look like Excel Spreadsheets (and actually tie to Excel for analysis). The software comes with numerous pre-defined views, but you can also setup your own. You can do this as a configuration option (new company wide views for everyone) or you can create personal views on the fly using advanced find.
Configuration also ties into setting up work flow rules and automation. The workflow engine is a powerful feature of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Workflow includes everything from an automated sales process to asking the software to automatically send an e-mail when a new contact is added. It can be as simple as outlook rules and as complex as a set of code. The tool has incredible potential all from Configuration!
Notice that in all of the above I have not mentioned CUSTOMIZATION. To me customization is writing .NET code, extending the existing software and even writing Jscript. It also needs to stay appropriately in its place. Managing custom software is a responsibility that companies need to accept with their eyes open.