Peter was a pioneer in the Client Issue Management project based on MS Dynamics that we initiated mid 2008. He has progressed from the role of the lead IT Consultant leading a team of about 4-6 from Fujitsu Services to eventually taking on the overall Project Management of the project. The project is one of the most successful projects at the Bank which reached a user base of 3000 users in just over a year. He had liaised with both the IT technologists at the Bank from different areas as well as the varied user groups. A truly consummate professional.

Director. Barclays Capital

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CRM ISV - build or buy - the issues

Buyers of Dynamics CRM technology solutions have a wide range of vertical and horizontal functional solutuions to choose from before considering getting a bespoke solution built. The builders of these solutions are usually referred to as Independent Software Vendors (ISV's). Here at CRMKnowledge, we enjoy helping to inform and guide clients in where ISV technology is appropriate, but also where they need to pay attention to the small print. This short blog is a thought provoking view on how client's should approach the use of ISV software solutions.

The world of pre-built ISV solutions for Dynamics CRM that provide vertical industry or horizontal functional solutions is one that is not always well understood by clients.

Why is this?

Well, firstly, partners, are often driven by their experience and the solutions that they have signed up to as a reseller. Typically, these tend to be the largest and best known in particular market segments – for example ClickDimensions in Marketing Automation. So, you may find that the partner who is helping you build your solution in CRM will have strong views on where and when to use an ISV.

Secondly, clients don’t get great visibility of these solutions, even though there are some great sites out there providing good detail on ISV’s. For example, there is CRM Marketplace, the App store, MSDynamicsWorld and Pinpoint. The trouble is that few of these really answer the question about what they do, how they integrate with CRM and why clients should consider them.

Occassionally, we find that partners are reluctant to not look to the market for a ready-baked solution that will meet most of the needs. This can be often be driven by the demands of the client that the solution must have a specific process or feature that isn't found in a pre-configured ISV tool. It is difficult to keep track of all the ISV's that are available on the market but I do think that it is the interests of both partners and clients to consider the options available before embarking on a project.

Of course, there are important considerations when looking at an ISV solution other than the headline functionality.

1. What is the nature of the integration with Dynamics CRM. I have seen examples of solutions that highlight their out of the box integration when all they really mean is that they can call the CRM web service. For the less tehnical readers – there is a big difference!

2. Where is the product hosted from or installed to? This is a very serious consideration if you are an on premise customer and the ISV is cloud based. If you haven’t already, then you are going to have to dust off the IFD instructions.

3. What is the range of functionality and how will it be used. Most ISV’s have quite an extensive range of features and functions – many of them will not be relevant to the gap you are trying to close. It’s a good idea to document what you intend to use the ISV for and what functions are available but are deemed out of scope for now.

4. Where does it store it’s data. The best ISV’s (a personal view here) are those that you can configure from CRM and interact and update data directly into CRM. Senior IT execs should think very carefully about using a solution that stores data (even temporarily) outside of CRM.

5. Governance. This, for larger organisations, is the $64K question. Who provides support for the product, where from and in what time zone. Its most likely that an ISV’s head office support team is not in your time zone – often true in the UK.

6. Licencing. Its really important to understand the licencing model for the ISV product. Is there a server cost? Is there a per user cost? Is there an admin user cost? Finally, what happens to new users – do you have to immediately licence them? I recall a project where the solution stopped working as new users had been added to CRM and not configured as ISV users.

7. Lastly, ask some due diligence questions. Such as: what is the commercial viability of the ISV company – some are fairly new kids on the block and may not have been trading for long. Does their software comply with Microsoft’s SDK and have they achieved MS certification for Dynamics CRM – if they have then I believe that is a big plus sign.

For many clients, the ISV will be brought in by the partner, which means that they are the middle men in the deal and will probably bring their skills and experience to bear in configuring and building out the solution. At CRMKnowledge we would recommend you ask all of the above questions to the partner and don’t accept the line that says ‘we’ve worked with them for years’. It may seem like a small investment but ISV products can often be the difference between a successful project implementation and failure.

Here at CRMKnowledge we advise clients on the best use of ISV products and which ISV products (many sectors have several options available) is most suitable to the project. We also advise where we see Microsoft making investments in this area so that the client can consider whether to hold off on a decision giving an impending release by Microsoft. We have had interesting discussions with clients recently around the choice between Dynamics Marketing and Digital Marketing ISV tools and some early but interesting discussions about the role of the Parature technology in the area of customer service.

If you are considering the choice of ISV’s and would like to be able to make a more informed decision, then do contact us. We would be delighted to help.

Peter Clements.


Informing, guiding and mentoring for success with Dynamics CRM.

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