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Microsoft buys ADXStudio - what is it and why it matters
This week sees the announcement of Microsoft intention to purchase ADXStudio.com - a Microsoft ISV partner with a unique stack of technology to extend Microsoft Dynamics CRM to web portals.
Another week, another announcement of a purchase by Microsoft to add to the growing set of tools that directly link or affect Dynamics CRM. This time, Microsoft have announced the purchase (or intention to purchase) ADXStudio - a leading Microsoft ISV led by Shan McArthur and team (congratulations to all the team over there). Over the last 18 months I have been involved in a project that has used ADX technology for an online solution that integrates directly with CRM - so, I feel I have a good insight into ADX and portal technology and I'ld like to share some of this - without releasing any commercial secrets of course.
Recently, we have seen a number of acquisitions that greatly extend the reach of the Dynamics CRM platform - this one is important and I've written this blog to help consultants and clients understand the logic behind this purchase and why it matters to the CRM community.
ADXStudio have been around for some time and originated (as I understand it) from a content management background - this no doubt is key in the new world of content management. Over the last few years, however, ADX have done a great job of leading the way in developing fully featured and rich customer portals that extends customer engagements from web to CRM and back again. The technology is called ADXStudio Portals and is primarily built as a Dynamics CRM managed solution. It is a .net solution and operates from IIS servers - as a customer you have the choice of using ADX as a cloud solution (a standard Azure service in the future we should now assume) or as an on premise web server.
Functionally, ADX provides the following
- A web site that your CRM contents can log into and manage their profile from
- Integration to allow your CRM data to be published (Cases being a common theme)
- Business functionality such as Events and Conferences
- Multi portal capability from one CRM instance
- SDK to provide developed extensions to CRM
- Web side content managment capability
- All content can be managed directly from CRM
- E-commerce shopping cart capabilities
- Forum and blog capabilities
- Integration with Sharepoint
Ask any developer how long it would take to build such a solution and it will quickly become apparent that ADXStudio Portal is pretty much a no brainer if you want to build a portal extension to CRM. However, there are other solutions on the market and remember also that Microsoft purchased Parature which comes with its own portal - challenge or opportunity here, perhaps.
Personally, I have installed ADX, created a standard portal using a pre-defined template and starting managing and publishing content within a matter of hours when demonstrating its capability. Demo versions of ADX are available and the ADX team are great at supporting demo instances. This means that as a CRM Consultant you can quickly run up an instance to work with end users to help define what a portal experience will mean to them - and with content controls available from the web site, you can make real time changes as you work with your clients. You can publish lists of CRM data and develop web side forms directly within CRM using standard CRM form building techniques. In addition you can build form logic into a process that you want to publish online and make available to your customers. ADX also comes with pre-built e-commerce shopping cart capabilities that directly interfaces with CRM Sales Order entities without too much complexity.
One thing to note is that ADX presents itself using Bootstrap technology - so it plays well with mobile devices across different browsers - CSS can be applied to build custom themes and smart developers can build custom components on ADX using the well defined SDK and in-built tools like Liquid Forms.
So, its all good news from a Consultant and Client perspective. Personally, I think there are some challenges. Firstly, pricing - ADX isn't cheap but reflects the reduction in typical portal development costs. In the same way that Dynamics Marketing and Parature have been implemented into CRM Enterprise licences - perhaps there is an option to include ADX licences here? Perhaps, it becomes an Azure service that you purchase in the same way that you purchase services like Hardoop? The second challenge, which I alluded to above, is how does this technology work with other tools, like Dynamics Marketing (think landing pages here) and Parature and perhaps other Dynamics products like AX and NAV?
The challenge from a client perspective is the one that I find most interesting. The concept of a customer journey which can be mapped out, managed and measured across a number of now standard Microsoft technologies really provides an exciting opportunity for sales, marketing and service teams to redefine how their organisation engages digitally with their customer.
All in all, then, an exciting announcement and one that fills a functional gap for Microsoft CRM customers. I expect to see a lot of activity around ADX and I'm really interested to see how Microsoft plan to extend and build on the core product that they have acquired. Watch this space!