Microsoft Dynamics CRM - A Platform For Application Modernisation

Louis Mierowsky Posted 12 April 2016

Traditionally Microsoft Dynamics CRM provides customer relationship management functionality and reporting on customers, products, pricing, salespeople, customer order history and manages this information across sales per geography, sales per salesperson, top customers’ order averages and other insights into a businesses’ client’s buying behaviour and sales analysis. Marketing modules added to this platform are used to manage targeted marketing campaigns.

Microsoft has extended the use of this platform – colloquially known as xRM - where the “x” either stands for ‘extensible’ or ‘anything’. The ‘x’ is a variable that represents any relationship that you want to manage. If an organisation has data points that relate to one another and they want to build a system that is easy to view, add, change and report on, then xRM provides the framework to create and manage these relationships.

Application modernisation

How does this relate to Application Modernisation? If an organisation has many legacy databases (e.g. Access, Excel), then this platform can be utilised to centralise these disparate legacy databases. The crux here, is that due to xRM being a platform and not an application, it has the structure to provide for multiple entity relationship constructs and is not limited to being a replacement for one database application.

Typical uses for database based applications to be modernised onto xRM can include : Equipment Registers & Tracking; Process Automation; Asset Management; Manage Field Work Orders; Recurring Services Contract; Offline Quote and Order Management; Case Management; Warehouse Management; Complaints & Issues Management; Quality Feedback; Help-Desk with sophisticated routing; Licence Management; Training Systems and Grants Management.

xRM naturally integrates well with other Microsoft products but also has out-of-the-box connectors to integrate with other vendor or bespoke products. This is useful in modernisation cases where an application is being modernised, but which as part of its functionality still requires some data to be sourced from other systems.

Any gotcha's?

One thing to be aware of, using xRM as a modernisation platform, is the manner in which Microsoft Dynamics CRM is licensed. This product is licenced on a CAL (Client Access Licence) basis which means that each user has a charge associated with him/her. Typically legacy systems, such as Access, do not have these charges. If you have a consistent user base across a number of legacy systems being modernised onto the xRM platform then this is an attractive option; if not then this could prove to be an expensive exercise.

In either situation, Return on Investment and Total Cost of Ownership calculations should be performed. These should cover the anticipated life of the applications being migrated including aspects such as standardised support, accessibility, availability and cost of support people in terms of a contemporary platform compared with multiple legacy platforms.