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How do you choose between Dynamics 365 or bespoke CRM development?


How do you choose between Microsoft Dynamics 365 and a bespoke customer relationship management (CRM) solution if you want a new back office system to collect and manage information about customers, products and orders? Perhaps you want to capture new leads, allocate them to your sales team and then track sales conversations. When is a bespoke CRM system a better long term solution?

What is Microsoft Dynamics 365?

Dynamics 365 is a suite of applications that include customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning. There are apps within the Dynamics 365 family for marketing, sales, finance and HR.

Dynamics 365 can seem complicated - it’s more of an ecosystem than a single application. The CRM bit - tracking engagement with new leads and existing customers - is in the Sales Professional App. That’s where you should start if you want a Dynamics 365 based CRM solution.

Dynamics 365 is configurable - there’s a lot you can do to adapt it to your business processes. You can:

  1. Change data entry forms - add/remove fields.
  2. Customise the way tables look - so you can add or remove columns from things like customer or product lists.
  3. Change business workflows. For example, you could decide that users need to get approval for an invoice before placing an order.
  4. Use Microsoft’s Power App platform to extend the Sales App with your own bespoke data collection app. Power Apps can be developed by someone with little or no software programming experience.

Why choose Dynamics 365 - what are the benefits?

  1. It’s a leading enterprise software application with lots of online support materials and a well established developer/consultant community.
  2. Microsoft will continue to invest in it.
  3. It’s hosted - cloud based so you don’t need to install anything.
  4. Good integration with other Microsoft products (and other Apps in the Dynamics 365 family).
  5. Quick to get started, particularly when your requirements are relatively simple.

What does Dynamics 365 cost?

The Dynamics 365 Licensing Guide is 59 pages long. You can download it here:

Download the Dynamics 365 Licensing Guide

The Sales Professional App on its own currently costs £49 per user per month (Microsoft’s UK pricing page).

What about a bespoke CRM solution? What are the benefits?

A bespoke CRM solution gives you more flexibility and in some scenarios it can be more cost effective.

  1. You may have more complicated business processes that are harder to fit into a Dynamics 365 solution.
  2. A bespoke CRM system could be a leaner, simpler solution. You can start with a ‘minimum viable product’ and then extend it over time - when new requirements emerge.
  3. You can actually have zero ongoing licencing costs - no per user licencing. That can be a significant benefit if you plan to extend your bespoke CRM system to include external users (or users who pay you to use your software).
  4. Modern software tools and development techniques can bring the upfront cost of a bespoke CRM system closer to the cost of a heavily bespoked Dynamics 365 solution.

Bespoke CRM development - costs & implications

A bespoke CRM system will cost more than a simpler Dynamics 365 solution. Software developer day rates may be lower than Dynamics 365 consultant rates, but you’ll need more days for the bespoke solution (unless you need to pay a Dynamics 365 consultancy to make more significant changes).

You’ll also need to host the bespoke solution - there’ll be ongoing costs. Bugs will need fixing, server operating systems will need to be upgraded. And you’ll need a data backup solution.


Sheaf Digital develops high quality bespoke CRM solutions

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Dynamics 365 vs Bespoke CRM development - how do you decide?

It is requirements not cost that drive the decision. And the development cost difference between a simpler bespoke solution and a more complex Dynamics 365 solution may be marginal.

Dynamics 365 is a good choice if you want a relatively generic solution and don’t want to extend the solution to large numbers of external users. It’s also a good choice if integration with other Microsoft products (Office, Teams etc) is important to you.

A bespoke CRM solution is the way to go if you need to build something different - if you have business processes/workflows that don’t easily sit within Dynamics 365. It’s also the way to go if you want to grow your bespoke CRM solution into an online service that connects you with external users (customers) or becomes an online service that you resell to other organisations.