If in 2014 someone had told us that we would create a program which governments and big corporations would buy without a second thought – do you think we would have believed? A young IT company from a small European country reaching this success – not impossible but very challenging.
Yet it happened. The solution which now accounts for a serious share of our profit, the one that over these years still doesn’t have any competitors on the market, and the one which let us put our foot in the door with large clients and ensured our introduction to the “Champions League”.
The product we are talking about is a ready-to-use solution which synchronizes security settings between Dynamics 365 and SharePoint when they are integrated. The things is, because their security models differ a lot, a standard free synchronization from Microsoft doesn’t sync D365 permissions and SharePoint privileges. This leads to potential data breaches: those who don’t have access to sensitive information in the CRM, like contract values, salaries, signatures, contacts, etc. can get them from SharePoint, because in the document management system they are not protected. The solution which syncs security settings automatically is called
Those who don’t have a proper synchronization in place, risk financial and reputational losses. This is why every organization integrating Dynamics 365 and SharePoint eventually becomes a customer for this product. And there are a lot of such companies. Firstly, because D365 is one of the most popular CRM systems and quickly cutting the distance to leadership. And secondly, because many organizations have realized the advantages of integrating it with another Microsoft product - SharePoint. To prove the point, the Department of Justice Canada, a nation-wide department in New Zealand, a state planning board in Ireland, such giants as Compass Group, Spirit AeroSystems, RPS Corporation and many more are among our clients.
But it hasn’t been like this from the very beginning. In the early days, we didn’t know where to start and how to market our solution. However, there is this famous saying that success happens when preparation meets opportunity, and this is exactly our case.
How the CB Permissions Replicator was created
Sometimes, the market is not ready for your ground-breaking solutions, especially if you are playing out of your league.
In 2011, we launched
The Connect Bridge platform was good, but to our frustration, we didn’t get a chance to prove its worth. Nobody believed a small IT firm was capable of it. It was a king’s class, and we were out of rank.
Our team tried to pitch the solution to various decision-makers until we finally got a conversation with Technology Solutions Professionals of Microsoft Austria. They told us: If your platform is so powerful, why don't you solve a big security issue like the Dynamics CRM and SharePoint integration environment?
Our developers checked the software, made a proof of concept and launched the first version in four months. It was fast because we built it using our own platform. In four more months, we had the first customer for the Dynamics CRM to SharePoint Permission Replicator. Shortly after, we became the global market leaders in this small niche. It is still one of our most successful products.
Several conclusions we have made after we launched the CB Permissions Replicator.
- Listen to your target audience.
Various complains about software pitfalls can give you an idea for a next best-selling product, so talk to people from the area of your interest: customer relationship managers, salespeople, system administrators who run software for organizations. Also, from our experience, right answers can be given to wrong questions, or even when questions are not asked. So, don’t downplay your time spent with the target audience, especially informal chats. As most of the successful software is problem-based, and not based on what you think is good to design and sell, roaming around managers, sysadmins and other ISVs nagging about CRM and other adjacent topics can switch on a light bulb in your head.
- The market is not always ready to accept your solution, but you need to find its one feature that sells.
In our case, the combination of factors helped the solutions to make their way to the big market. The Connect Bridge integration platform didn’t evoke much trust at the beginning. But because the CB Dynamics 365 to SharePoint Permissions Replicator was the product that everyone suddenly needed and was built on this integration platform, just like our other successful
- Don’t sell the product. Sell the trial.
Even if you really need an urgent solution to a production problem, you may be reluctant to get it from an unknown company, especially when it is about security issues. This is why all of our marketing efforts aim at convincing a person to install a trial version for free and see if it covers their needs. Building trust is easier when people can experiment with your product. They lose the fear of working with an unknown company from a different country (or even a different continent). And after a trial, they better understand how much effort it took to become more open to paying a fair price. Making your product easy to deploy, run and maintain will also help. If the need arises, our experts train folks on how to use the product for free. This sees good results: “If a client treated the trial seriously, verified its capacity for 2-3 days, we close 80 percent of deals”, says Thomas Berndorfer, CEO Connecting Software.
How did the clients phrase their concerns that led to purchasing the synchronization software?
“The main pain point that led us to Connecting Software’s solution was the need for synchronization. Our CRM system was such a large global rollout. We spanned multiple countries, teams, and territories with one system. Out-of-the-box Dynamics 365 has very powerful security capabilities and robust SharePoint integration. But our challenge was bringing these two areas together. Our in-country users deemed it unacceptable to restrict access to sales or contract information to specific teams in CRM but then allow unrestricted access to the related documentation in SharePoint. Or to have to manage this manually. Our implementation partner at the time suggested Connecting Software as a possible remedy to this issue”, says Anthony Crook, Head of Client Business Solutions for Compass Group PLC.
In the beginning, the company was not aware of the missing security integration between Dynamics and SharePoint.
“We identified the gap in the Dynamics 365 to SharePoint security model fairly late in the implementation. User acceptance testing was already started. This integration wasn’t a critical factor in the implementation but the gap in security did prevent the use [of] SharePoint for storing documents via Dynamics 365”, continues Anthony Crook.
“The most important issue we solved was limiting access to confidential documents via Dynamics security roles and entities. Not needing to manage SharePoint rights has simplified the overall process and allowed us to implement a more complex security model”, says Peter Lukschanderl, Head of Applications, IT at Liebherr Tower Cranes, a Global Constructions Machine Builder.
“In cooperation with Connecting Software, we have received a perfect product to solve the dilemma of two independent permission models of Dynamics and SharePoint. The cooperation was very constructive, which we greatly appreciated”, says Raphael Sick, Project Manager at ZF Friedrichshafen AG, a German automotive giant.
Creating a CRM-related app that everyone needs doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all recipe. But something definitely can be done. As an American author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar used to say, success comes when opportunity meets preparation.
Hadn’t we had an integration platform which solves complicated software tasks, designing the CB Replicator would have taken much more resources and brainpower. And who knows, maybe by the time it had been ready, someone would have already occupied this place under the sun.
Hadn’t we met the Microsoft guys who challenged us with the idea to create such an app, our products and platform would have never had this international outreach.
So everyone has a chance: just do your homework and look out for opportunities!
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By Anastasia Mazur,