Bespoke CRM Development or Microsoft Dynamics 365 - how to choose?

19/02/19

A lot of small businesses start out with MS Excel. They are run on spreadsheets - information about customers, products, quotes and sales spread across multiple workbooks. Valuable data is inconsistent, almost impossible to query and often never backed up.

Sooner or later someone decides to look for a new, more scalable solution. They want a cloud based system that:

  1. Can be configured or tailored to fit the business.

  2. Is safe - there’s no risk that it’s going to disappear (with the data).

  3. Has low ongoing support and hosting costs.

  4. Is a good long term investment. A platform for future development as the business continues to grow.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 can be a great solution. It’s a suite of customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning applications that cover everything from marketing (initial contact with potential customers), to sales, customer service and supply chain automation.

The challenge with Dynamics for a small but growing business is knowing where to start and understanding how the cost will change over time. Dynamics 365 is complex and it’s hard for the non-expert to find a way in and pick their way through. The Dynamics 365 licensing guide to runs to more than 50 pages.

A bespoke application is a viable alternative. It sounds like it should be more expensive but it’s worth remembering two things.

  1. Most organisations that implement Dynamics need support from one of Microsoft’s partner consultancies. A small, vanilla implementation may be ok but a larger solution can cost a lot. Dynamics 365 consultant day rates can be more than bespoke software developer day rates.

  2. You can start small with the bespoke application. You pick off the most valuable parts of the system and build those first, only adding new functionality when you know you need it. You can be more flexible about how you approach the development over time.

There are three other things that might tip the balance towards a bespoke CRM system:

  1. A bespoke system built with open source tools can be completely user license free. You don’t have to worry if you want to give large number of users access to the system.

  2. Development can be quicker than you think. Most experienced software developers will bring some out of the box components to a new development. They’ve built secure, role systems before and they get the framework of a new web application up and running in just a few days.

  3. Perhaps it is easier with a bespoke solution to focus on user experience. Users want simple software - less is often better. Bespoke software could be the way to go if you’re committed to the idea that you can build a solution that begins life as a minimum viable product, has a low (maybe zero) training overhead and grows over time.

Dynamics 365 can be the right solution. It’s comprehensive, obviously well supported and integrates with Microsoft’s other business applications. It’s a safe bet. But also consider the bespoke option. Modern software development tools, open source technologies and affordable cloud hosting can give bespoke software development the edge. You can design and build a highly usable, tailored solution that will grow with your business.