Make vs. Buy – Making the right decision when extending CRM 2011

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Microsoft Dynamics Customer Relationship Management (CRM) 2011 has many built-in tools that allow you to customize your installation to your organization’s requirements.  The included user-friendly customization features, workflows, dialogues and dashboards are powerful ways to shape your CRM environment and the way your users interact with CRM.  But sometimes that isn’t enough.  You need to add features and functionality that aren’t part of the core CRM offering to maximize the utility of your investment.

Extending your CRM can be done in several ways, each with its own advantages and pitfalls.  If you’ve got an internal IT team with in-house development skills who are familiar with CRM development principles, you may want to build the functionality internally.  If you don’t have your own development team, or the team you have doesn’t have the capacity for this type of project, you can outsource the development to an outside development firm.  The third option is to go to the rapidly expanding marketplace for CRM add-ons and plug in tools.


Developing a solution internally can appear to be an attractive option when you consider the cost and the fact that you have a development team that is already familiar with your business.  Custom systems can be designed to deliver exactly what you want, the way you want it.  However there are some drawbacks to this method.  Your developers may not have the same level of familiarity with CRM as an experienced CRM developer, and you may end up with customizations and code that do not follow CRM best practice methodology.  Developers may develop their way around a problem they encounter instead of finding a way to manage it using the existing CRM functionality.  The more custom development your system uses, the higher the risk you have of encountering issues when it is time for an upgrade.

Outsourcing custom development

While outsourcing can carry a higher cost, you are still getting a solution that is delivering the functionality that you need.  The development is being done by experienced, specialized CRM developers who understand the CRM framework and will follow CRM best practice methodology.  The areas where an outsourced custom development project can fail are often created early in a project when the requirements are not properly identified and the resulting deliverable does not match the envisioned outcome.  There are also potential problems that may be created when there is a CRM upgrade.  While the developer may have followed the proper CRM design methodology, changes introduced in the upgrade may “break” portions of the existing code, creating potential issues that are expensive to repair.  You may also have to wait for the service as the company you engaged for the work will be busy making these types of repairs for multiple clients.

Third Party options

Instead of re-inventing the wheel, going to the market to leverage the experience and resources of Microsoft’s strong ISV channel to find a 3rd party product to provide you with the additional functionality you require may be a better route.  These companies release regular updates that are compatible with the latest version of CRM, and you can enjoy the benefits of cost certainty from a software perspective.  The disadvantage of this option over custom development is that you don’t get input into the features and functionality of the product, and you may be forced to purchase more features than you require.

There is no silver bullet when it comes to the best way to extend your CRM, but being aware of the advantages and disadvantages of each option is a good way to start.  An experienced CRM consultant can be your trusted advisor to help guide you through this process.

BDO Solutions provides CRM and customized xRM Solutions across many different industries in Canada, including Healthcare, Government, and Not for Profits who may require customized solutions to enable their business relationships with vendors, suppliers, assets, programs, projects, facilitate grant management and manage patient records.

BDO Solutions is a national firm with local practices throughout Canada, including Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and Reseller of the Year in Canada for 2010, 2011 and 2012.

By Chris Cels, CRM Consultant with BDO Solutions.

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