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Improving Enterprise Collaboration with Social Networking Solutions for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011

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In this post, I will discuss how Microsoft Dynamics™ CRM 2011 customers can benefit from extended social networking concepts to improve enterprise collaboration with two relatively new solutions: Vibe from Sonoma Partners and Pulse from Neudesic.  The goal of enterprise collaboration is to enable users to share customer insights more effectively while facilitating cross-departmental processes that allow organizations to meet the rapidly evolving demands of the modern marketplace. (If you are new to enterprise collaboration and the concept of Social CRM, I strongly recommend the Altimeter Group’s report on the use cases of Social CRM.) The two solutions come with different cost of ownership and deployment options and target different audiences, so with this post I will examine the two solutions from that perspective. In a future post, I will take a closer look at the functional features of each solution.

At the core of each solution is a newsfeed, the basis of most social networking tools. In an enterprise collaboration solution for Microsoft Dynamics™ CRM, the newsfeed summarizes business events in CRM that a user is interested in and has subscribed to. These events may include updates generated by the system when a record changes, direct posts by other users - such as questions on how to complete a specific business task, and recommendations for tools that can be useful in a certain business scenario.

The main benefit of the newsfeed is that it provides a “pull” mechanism for disseminating information within the organization. Compared to email, (which uses a “push” mechanism) the newsfeed does not flood a user’s mailbox with an overwhelming volume of messages resulting in an information overload.  And from the countless hours that most of us spend on social networking sites, we know that the newsfeed is a very effective way to both disseminate and consume information.

Let us, for a moment, put ourselves in the shoes of a Sales Manager who would like to keep track of opportunities that close in Microsoft Dynamics CRM.  This need can be met with an email notification, but Sales Managers are busy people who receive a lot of messages and their mailboxes are usually full. Instead, using Vibe or Pulse, we can set up a feed of closed opportunities for the Sales Manager and she can log into Microsoft Dynamics CRM and read the feed at her convenience and find out what opportunities have closed, for how much, and so on.  Sounds great, right? Now it is time to take a closer look at the two solutions.

Vibe Overview

Vibe was developed by Sonoma Partners, a highly-regarded Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, whose founders also author books on Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Vibe was designed to provide enterprise collaboration capabilities specifically within Microsoft Dynamics CRM and is built on the application’s xRM platform. It is distributed as a free solution on the Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace, but a licensed solution and services can be purchased from Sonoma Partners. All Vibe data is stored directly in Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Vibe posts are implemented as a custom activity. Just like Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, Vibe can be implemented both on-premise and in the cloud. Because Vibe lives within Microsoft Dynamics CRM, no additional hardware or software resources are required to use it.

Pulse Overview

The Pulse solution was developed by Neudesic LLC, a leading Microsoft Gold Certified Partner. Pulse was designed as a standalone Enterprise Collaboration platform that can be integrated with a variety of applications including, but not limited to, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 and Microsoft SharePoint 2010. Pulse can be deployed as either as a private cloud or an on-premise application.  Both versions come with a licensing cost. The on-premise version of Pulse requires dedicated software and hardware. Neudesic LLC provides dedicated mobile clients for Pulse that run on a variety of mobile platforms.

Comparison

The table below summarizes the deployment and integrations options, as well as the cost of ownership for both solutions:

Conclusion

If you have just started looking for Enterprise Collaboration capabilities and you want to implement a solution primarily for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, the free edition of Vibe is an excellent starting point. I would specifically emphasize the ease of creating system posts via CRM workflows as one of its strengths. And you can install and configure the solution in less than 30 minutes.  As your users demand additional capabilities, you can explore meeting these capabilities with the licensed solution from Sonoma Partners.   If on the other hand, you are looking for an Enterprise Collaboration platform that extends beyond Microsoft Dynamics CRM, integrates multiple line-of-business applications, and provides rich mobile clients, I would recommend taking a good look at Pulse.  If you need additional assistance with selecting one of these solutions, please do not hesitate to contact us or reach me on Twitter.

2 Responses to “Improving Enterprise Collaboration with Social Networking Solutions for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011”

  1. Ivan Kurtev says:

    Hello Chris,

    Good question. I wrote this post back in May before there was word that the Activity Feeds solution would be released. Activity Feeds obviously change the landscape for Enterprise Collaboration solutions for Microsoft Dynamics CRM significantly. In fact, in a recent post, Sonoma Partners announced that they have converted their solution to use the Post and Comment entities in Activity Feeds and they are focusing on the Vibe Desktop and iPad clients, since the other components are available out of the box with Activity Feeds.

    I also agree that email notifications are a poor way to manage workflow notifications and using Activity Feeds to replace them is definitely the way to go because they provide more of a pull rather than push mechanism for these types of notifications. As a result, they do not flood users’ mailboxes, while drawing them to use the system more, which is ultimately what we would like to see as champions of CRM.

    Hope this helps.

    Ivan Kurtev
    Delivery Director – CRM
    Green Beacon Solutions

  2. Chris H says:

    I am working on an upgrade from CRM 4.0 to 2011, and have installed Activity Feeds, but I was reviewing the Vibe solution as well. Aren’t they basically the same thing, or are they complimentary? One of the main issues we have with CRM is that we have to send a LOT of emails to various people notifying them that something has been assigned to them, or they need to take action, etc. I was hoping to use Activity Feeds and/or Vibe to cut down on a lot of these emails.

    Thoughts?

 

 
 
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