Your business has decided it wants to implement Dynamics CRM/Dynamics 365 for Enterprise (D365E). That’s great news! Your next crucial decision will be what approach you take in implementing the system, in particular, who you involve as part of the planning, designing and building phases. Businesses that lack individuals with dedicated, technical know-how will often need to engage the services of a Microsoft Partner or consultant to assist with some or all of this. On the flip-side, if you have a capable and technically competent team that is able to get up and running with how to use the system quickly, then there is a case to be made for deploying CRM/D365E as an internally led project.
In this week’s blog post, I will evaluate the 3 potential routes open to you if you are looking to implement CRM/D365E within your business, looking at it purely from a small to medium size business' perspective. For enterprise-size deployments, then it really does make practical sense to go down the Partner route, as this will ensure you can leverage the maximum level of expertise, as well as take advantage of resources/price breaks that can be leveraged via this route.
It’s hard to argue some of the clear and immediate benefits of involving a Microsoft Partner as part of rolling out CRM/D365E. With access to resources like PartnerSource/the Dynamics Learning Portal and, depending on the partner’s relationship with Microsoft, there is a lot of expertise that a Partner can bring to the table. Most Partners live and breathe the product, with a lot of passion backing this up, so it is a great way to get individuals involved in your system deployment who know the system inside and out. No need to worry as well if your CRM/D365E “expert” is ill/away or if your consultant is unavailable, as you can pick up the phone and speak to anyone there and guarantee that there will be someone there to help. This is definitely very attractive if your business cannot afford the overhead of a dedicated resource and gives you peace of mind that your system will always have someone there who can make the changes you need.
The downside? None of this comes cheap, unfortunately. Depending on the size and nature of your deployment, you could be looking at anything in the region of £20,000 - £120,000 or upwards for a deployment or migration away from an existing system onto CRM/D365E. Most partners will have specific change control procedures in place to manage any alterations to the original scope of work. If you’re a small business or in a market where your internal processes are subject to change at a drop of a hat, then that CRM/D365E deployment that your originally thought would cost £50,000 has now almost doubled as a result. It can also be very difficult to find a partner that aligns with your vision and objectives for the deployment. You want to make sure that your new system is a great success and that everyone in the business is shouting off the rooftops about it, but is this something that your chosen partner ultimately cares about? Or is their focus more geared towards, for example, hitting their required revenue goal and/or deployed seats in order to maintain their CRM Partner Competency? You have no doubt done your due diligence on which CRM system you want for your business; this should also be applied to any Microsoft Partners who are in the frame for helping to deliver your CRM/D365E project. You should focus on their track record, customer testimonials and, ultimately, your gut feeling when meeting them for the first time.
Independent CRM Consultant/Developer
You can potentially get a consultant on board that suits the level of expertise that you are looking for: if, for example, you anticipate using mostly out of the box elements of the system, then it may make practical financial sense to get on board a fairly junior level consultant; on the flip-side, if you anticipate needing to integrate with other systems within your business, then a consultant with development experience may be a better choice. You may also be able to secure more “face-to-face” time with an independent consultant or ensure that a set number of day(s) are spent within your business as part of the project, something which you may not always be able to guarantee going down the partner route.
Having just one consultant in charge of your entire deployment can prove to be incredibly risky for a business. For example, if the Consultant falls ills or is otherwise incapacitated, your entire project could be held up for long periods, costing the business money in the process. You may also find yourself in a situation where a Consultant is deliberately attempting to stretch out the time and length of the deployment, for selfish reasons. Businesses will also need to think carefully about their plans once a consultant/developer has finished the project. Who will be responsible for managing the CRM/D365E system? Who will carry out end-user training? These and other questions are ones you would need to have solid answers for if you’re are going down the independent consultant/developer route.
Speaking from experience, if you already work heavily with a number of “Microsoft stack” technologies within your business (SQL Server, C# etc.), then you should have very little difficulty in getting to grasp with CRM/D365E; which makes the internal project route a potentially attractive option. If you do get stuck at all, then CRM/D365E training courses are plentiful, and you could find yourself paying as little as 10-20% of what a fixed cost deployment from a Microsoft Partner comes back at, for what would be training for 2-3 individuals on the Microsoft exam curriculum (including the developer track). This assumes, of course, that your business has individuals within it who already have experience that you can potentially use as part of a systems rollout. These individuals may already, in addition, be well placed to understanding what the business needs and may already have a lot of passion around delivering solutions and service that meets and exceeds the expectation of colleagues. Who is better, therefore, to potentially spearhead and implement CRM/D365E within your business? There is also the risk that you potentially involve people within your project who may not fully understand or get how your business operates. Let’s face it, at the end of the day, you know your business better than anyone. You can avoid a situation where you are having to do additional work internally just to create process maps, documents etc. just so that someone else coming into your business cold can understand just what is that you do. And if there is any misunderstanding or confusion with this, then your project could get set back considerably and waste additional resource as a result.
Going down the internal route does present some major challenges and difficulties, which need to be mitigated from the outset in order to ensure the project is delivered on budget and on time. Getting a project manager involved from the outset (assuming your business has such a person available) is one way in which you can prevent against this, but be prepared for lots of frustrating moments. Getting to grips with learning CRM/D365E, even for those who have a good knowledge of the underlying technology, can be a major curve and you will need to be prepared to fail more than you succeed at first. You also need to carefully review and ensure that you have a fallback in case things go catastrophically wrong - if you go down the Online route, then this is provided for to an extent via Microsoft Support; but if you are adopting an on-premise version of CRM/D365E, then such support will be non-existent unless you involve a Microsoft partner.
Each business is different, so you can never make a number of arbitrary assumptions in respect to business size, turnover etc. when advising on the best route to go when rolling out a system like CRM/D365E. So, to summarise, my thoughts on this are:
If your business does not have any existing, internal IT technical expertise and a very fixed/focused line of business, then the Partner route is definitely the way to go
Ditto above, but if your business is subject to fluctuations, then a blended approach of getting a consultant on board for a fixed period and end-user training in how to use and customise CRM/D365E means that you get that immediate technical expertise, but ensure that you are not reliant long-term on unnecessary overheads
If you a small to medium business with already a lot of technical expertise, a tight budget, flexible deadlines and a business model that is subject to sudden changes, then the self-taught/internal project route is ideal and guaranteed to ensure there is sufficient passion and drive within your organisation to make your deployment a success.
Ditto above, but if you have a deadline and your business is highly specialised, then getting a consultant and/or Partner involved can really speed things along. Just ensure that you have a fixed budget in place and beware of scope creep or massive changes in requirements.
I hope that my analysis has been fair and balanced, and proves useful if you are currently contemplating how to go about your CRM/D365E deployment. It would be great to hear other people’s views and thoughts on the best approach in the comments below.