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Tips for Deploying Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online (and the Difference From On-Premise)

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Before the release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, there were some key differences between the on-premise version of the product and the cloud-based version. For example, the cloud-based version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM version 4 was sometimes limited in respect to complex configurations and customisations. This meant that you would usually choose the on-premise version if your business processes needed complex workflows or ‘xRM’ type functionality. The differences between the on-premise and cloud versions of Microsoft Dynamics CRM in version 4 not only influenced the initial choice of deployment, but also some of the steps involved in the implementations process.

In the latest release of the product, there’s very little difference between Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online (the cloud-based version) and the on-premise version. So now the choice of deployment is much more of a business decision than a product functionality-based decision. The key factors in your choice of deployment will typically be the internal IT resource and infrastructure you have available, and whether you prefer CRM as an operational cost, as with deploying the cloud option where you pay a monthly fee, or a capital expenditure, as with on-premise where you pay the majority of fees during or shortly after the implementation stages of the project.

What’s Different?

So, what do you have to do differently if you’re implementing Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online as opposed to on-premise?

Because the two products are now effectively the same, the implementation process for Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online is also much the same as the on-premise version. That’s not to say there’s no difference, but the most important considerations are similar, just with a slightly different slant.

Rapid Implementation

The rapid implementation times possible with Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, which can even provide an ‘instant on’, is an advantage in many respects. However, as with any CRM software project, be careful not to do things too quickly, or do everything at once. For example, you still need to carefully define your business processes, choose which functionality you need to start with, take the time to get user buy-in and make sure everyone uses the new CRM system properly. You also need to maintain good communications during implementation, especially if it’s a fairly complex project or you have a high number of users in different areas of your business. Whether it is formal project reviews or informal updates, make sure users, business partners, consultants, project managers and everyone else involved in the project know what’s going on; talk to each other, and keep talking.

Take Ownership of the System

With Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, the application is not stored on hardware in your business or looked after technically by your IT staff or Business Partner to the level that an on-premise version would be. So, it’s easy to feel less ownership of the system after it’s up and running. But the implementation of a CRM system doesn’t stop on the day it ‘goes live’. Regularly review the system, check that people are using it properly, make sure new users are trained and that the system’s functionality from a process, user and technical perspective continues to meet the needs of your business.

The Flexibility to Adapt and Change

Microsoft Dynamics CRM, however it is deployed, is an extremely flexible product that can be changed and adapted as your business changes.

One of the key benefits of Microsoft Dynamics CRM over many other CRM products is that, not only is it available as both an on-premise and cloud-based CRM solution, but it’s also easy to change deployments. It’s straightforward to move from a cloud to on-premise deployment or vice-versa. So you can start off with Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online (you could take advantage of a free trial Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online), then if on-premise is your preferred deployment option, change over when the time is right.

In addition, unlike many cloud-based CRM software solutions, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online integrates extremely well with a wide range of other applications. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it integrates well with other products in the Microsoft business software portfolio such as Outlook, and products in the Office suite (so you can easily import and export documents to applications such as Excel and Word). It has ‘out of the box’ integration with SharePoint, making it easy to share information with all departments within your business, your customers, and suppliers. It also works well with Microsoft ERP solutions, and for example Microsoft Dynamics NAV, in its latest release, has built in integration with Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

Whether your choose to deploy Microsoft Dynamics CRM in the cloud or on-premise, make sure you discuss your options fully with an accredited and experienced Microsoft CRM business partner. They will be able to advise you on the most suitable deployment option for your business, help you define KPI’s and business processes, scope your project, and will usually work to a defined implementation methodology. They will also be able to provide comprehensive advice, training, project management, reviews, and support services, and help you tailor Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 to meet the precise needs of your organisation.

By Concentrix Ltd: an independent CRM specialist in the UK

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