Saluting One of the Greats
I am sad to report that the Dynamics CRM MVPs will soon lose one of their most passionate voices.
Shan McArthur, the CEO/CTO of Adxstudio Inc. is about to lose his MVP status. This is a shame because the MVP community will be lesser for it. MVPs are sometimes accused of being the Polyannas of our product; the public relations arm of Microsoft, but Shan proves this is not the case.
In the time I have known him, (he has been an MVP as long as I have) Shan fought passionately to turn Dynamics CRM from being a great product to being the best it can be. Shan is unflinching in giving feedback to Microsoft on how to improve their product, sometimes in the MVP channels, sometimes face to face.
Has Microsoft cut him off for not being “Disney” enough? Have they silenced the “No” in a room full of “Yes’”? Not at all, they have acquired his company and put him on the payroll. The MVPs’ loss is Microsoft’s gain. He can no longer be an MVP because you cannot be an MVP and work for Microsoft.
This decision also speaks to the character of Microsoft and shows a maturity not always seen at the big end of town. It makes me proud to be associated with them.
Fortunately, Shan lives near Redmond so there will be opportunity for those of us left behind to catch up with him when we converge on Microsoft for the annual MVP Summit.
What Adxstudio Brings to the CRM Table
Adxstudio brings a couple of things to CRM. Firstly, Shan has created a range of great tools for organisations developing for CRM. Microsoft now owns these and, presumably, they will continue to innovate the tools and make them available to the CRM development community. Secondly, Microsoft obtains Adxstudio Portals. Adxstudio Portals turns Dynamics CRM into a content management system with its own web portal.
For the online version of Adxstudio Portals, this web site is hosted by Adxstudio themselves (presumably on Azure). For on-premise, you have the web site on your IIS. Moreover, Adxstudio Portals comes with templates and add-ons for different website functionalities, like a web forum, which get added into CRM as solution files. Too easy.
Adxstudio fills the gap of a portal for CRM, a common business requirement.
This had me thinking which other third party add-ons would take Dynamics CRM from great to unassailable, if Microsoft acquired them.
There is often confusion over this one because of Microsoft Dynamics Marketing (MDM). Does CRM need ClickDimensions if we have MDM, albeit at a cost? The fact is while both augment Dynamics CRM’s marketing capabilities, their value propositions are very different. MDM is a comprehensive marketing management tool, the result of the acquisition of MarketingPilot. It covers everything from media buying to document collaboration. In principle, your marketing department could run MDM even if you do not use Dynamics CRM.
On the other hand, ClickDimensions is built on Dynamics CRM and strengthens a number of weak areas in the product, providing many marketing features required by businesses using a CRM system such as:
- Mass communications and monitoring tools
- Lead scoring
Because ClickDimensions is ‘all in’ with Dynamics CRM, all of the data it generates is held within CRM entities and, just as CRM gains functionality from ClickDimensions, ClickDimensions gains functionality from Dynamics CRM, such as the analytics capabilities and workflow engine.
While the competitors have isolated, loosely-connected ‘clouds’ of sales and marketing functionality, by acquiring ClickDimensions, Microsoft gains a single product with comprehensive capability across both sales and marketing.
It is true that Dynamics CRM has mobile functionality, in terms of cross browser/device compatibility and apps in the various stores to access CRM, but the functionality has its limitations and there are products with pedigree in the market which take CRM to the next level.
Two common mobile add-ons to Dynamics CRM are Resco and CWR Mobility. Both have similar functionality, although the preview videos suggest you need to develop CWR Mobility to meet some of the standard functionality of Resco.
So what do these products offer which the mobile solutions of CRM do not have? Really, there are three key features which make them integral to the mobile experience:
- Linking the device’s GPS to CRM to show things like Accounts and Contacts nearby
- Linking to the device’s camera to capture images in the field and easily bring them into CRM
- Full offline capability (in the case of Resco)
While the mobile clients from Microsoft seek to replicate the web client experience on the mobile device, these two third party tools go beyond this to integrate CRM with the features of the device.
If Microsoft bought one of these two, their mobile client really would go from good to great.
The ‘R’ in CRM stands for Relationship but CRM systems are more adept at capturing records than the relationships between them. So where do you go when Connections does not cut it? Datahug and Introhive seek to fill the gap using readily available corporate data sources, such as the company Exchange server.
By seeing who is emailing whom and how often, not only can we improve the quality of the data we hold in our CRM system but also gain insight on how strong the relationship is and who may be able to provide an introduction. We can generate new leads, find other contacts at the companies we are targeting and see if the communication is two-way or decidedly going in one direction.
These products provide huge value using information usually going to waste and, if built into CRM, would be a clear differentiator from the competition where big data is generated but insights are going wanting.
Out of the box, CRM is good at managing the sales of physical widgets but not so good outside of this. For service selling and recurring revenue sales, CRM is a little weak. Also, for scenarios involving products with complex setup e.g. purchasing the parts to make a bicycle, it is very hard to put the dependency rules in. This last scenario is solved with a Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ) solution, such as those produced by Experlogix and Cincom.
By acquiring add-ons which go beyond simple product sales, again, CRM will gain a significant edge on its competitors.
Every software product has areas for improvement and Dynamics CRM is no exception and there is always a balance to be struck between building innovation and acquiring it. It is great news that Microsoft has acquired Adxstudios because of the power Adxstudio Portals brings to the Dynamics CRM platform. Perhaps some of these other products will, in the near future, also join Microsoft’s ranks taking Dynamics CRM to a new level.