Basic, Standalone, or Integrated CRM Solution?

So, you’ve finally decided on Microsoft Dynamics CRM solution for your Small and Medium-sized Business (SMB) organization and now you need to implement it.

Before you get yourself into knee deep in implementation, you need to ask yourself “What type of CRM solution is right for my organization from budget and scope standpoint?” This is non-vertical specific question thus it applies to all organizations that wishes to implement a CRM solution.

  • What does your organization want to accomplish with CRM? What is your scope?
  • Who are the users?
  • What is your budget? How much are you willing to or can spend at this time?

Growing number of SMB businesses want to implement CRM solution for their organization; however, many of them are reluctant to spend lot of money implementing the CRM solution, at least not in the beginning, when they have not experienced the benefits of CRM first hand.  Thus in order for SMB businesses to engage in CRM application deployments, they need a path, a roadmap, or CRM implementation options that allows them to start with basic, minimal cost, CRM solution and then build up to comprehensive CRM solution.

In this posting, at a high level, I will group most common CRM scopes into three categories, describe what they are, and touch on key benefits of these solutions in the context of simplifying scope management and managing key stakeholders expectations.

Three types of CRM solutions are Basic CRM, Standalone CRM, and Integrated CRM. The Basic CRM, Standalone CRM, and Integrated CRM solutions categorization provides high-level grouping of CRM solution capabilities that helps organization to align their CRM strategy with available budget and scope.Grouping CRM solution as Basic, Standalone, or Integrated helps organization translate CRM implementation complexities and effort into basic/minimal, (intermediate/complex)/intermediate, and complex/high, respectively. This allows them to get a better handle on what they need to focus on to deliver a CRM solution that makes sense for their organization based on their budget and available resources.

So what do Basic CRM, Standalone CRM, and Integrated CRM solutions look like? Before we dive into details, keep in mind that this is general category guidelines and that one organizations’ Basic, Standalone, or Integrated CRM solution classification may be different in scope compared to another organizations’ classification since their business requirements and needs will be more than likely different; however, nevertheless they should all be able to identify their solution in one of these categories. The goal of grouping CRM solution into three categories is to provide simplification to the way an organization can manage its CRM deployment and expectations.

Basic CRM Solution

Basic CRM solution would be your out-of-the-box/cloud CRM implementation primary around Account, Contact, Lead, Opportunities, and Case entities with configuration being limited to UI layout (forms, fields, and/or views) using built-in UI configuration tool to edit necessary fields/attributes for one’s organization usage. There may be some workflows but they would be simple logic that does not involve extensive business processes. In Basic CRM implementation, there should not be any custom coding. It would be an exception if there’s a need for custom coding and it will need to be simple coding effort. You maximize your solution utilizing default settings/capabilities of CRM. Furthermore, in this solution, you may focus on only one component of the CRM modules like Sales to further limit your scope. Pre-built 3rd party Add-ons can also be added in Basic CRM solution, if they do not involve extensive setup and are cost effective.

Basic CRM also includes simple data migration of your Leads, Accounts, and Contacts into the CRM application. Condition of simple data migration is that the data is already cleansed with no duplicates and are single source for each of the entities. Having data in the system will improve user adoption since user will not have to enter all the data manually to start using the application.  Reporting is limited to out-of-the-box reports and simple reports using built-in reporting tools like Report Wizard.

Basic End User CRM training should be included to train the end users on how to navigate and use the CRM application.

Basic CRM solution allows organization to implement CRM solution in shortest time with minimal cost and start experiencing some of the benefits of CRM solution such as consolidated customer information and time savings in tracking or looking up customer information. Since it is basic out-of-the-box/cloud solution, it provides basic functionalities but powerful enough to make a difference to the organization both from productivity and in increasing revenue.

Basic CRM solution can also be used as pilot system for the organization to test out the concept of CRM and then leverage that experience to build out more comprehensive CRM solution.

Standalone CRM solution

Standalone CRM solution will be superset of Basic CRM and will involve implementing more complex business processes and rules via custom workflows, custom views/forms, custom jscripting/programming, custom reporting, add-ons, etc. to automate the organizations’ Sales, Marketing, and/or Service operations such as sending automated emails or notifications based on actions taken or prefilling fields or executing other processes based on business logics. Data Migration may involve multiple sources and require data cleansing/de-duplication effort.  In Standalone CRM implementation, you will spend more time in gathering business process requirements, designing solution, and implementing the solution than you would have done in Basic CRM implementation since your scope of work will be significantly more and complex.

Implementing more/complex business rules and standardizing processes within CRM system will help users become more efficient in their work and allow an organization to better understand the needs of their customers. Standardizing processes and maximizing CRM capabilities will allow an organization to be able to not only gather and maintain customer information but also allow them to analyze those data to uncover trends and information that may be key to winning more businesses or in improving customer services.

For an organization with the Standalone CRM solution, full End User CRM training will be required to train its users on how to properly use the CRM application.  In addition, Administrator CRM training will be needed if the organization will be self-maintaining the CRM application.

Integrated CRM Solution

Integrated CRM solution includes scope of Standalone CRM solution and integrating the CRM application with one or more external systems, such as backend ERP applications, home grown custom applications, websites, etc., to share data between these systems. Systems Integration can be done by either custom programming or by using Commercially available Off-The-Shelf (COTS) middleware applications.

Organizations that integrate CRM solution with their legacy applications are interested in automating processes and maximizing operational efficiency so that their employees can spend more time in marketing, selling, and/or servicing their customers rather than doing administrative work. Integrated CRM solution will also eliminate duplicate data entry, data synchronization issues, provide near real-time data synchronization with other system and CRM solution and save users from doing mundane administrative work.

For an organization with the Integrated CRM solution, full End User CRM training will be required to train its users how to properly use the CRM application.  In addition, Administrator CRM training will be needed if the organization will be self-maintaining the CRM application.

In the next series, Part 2 of 3, “SMB CRM Implementation: Which CRM Solution is right for you?” I will elaborate on choosing the right CRM solution from 3 solutions mentioned above.  Cheers!


Basic, Standalone, or Integrated CRM Solution? (Part 1 of 3)

Which CRM Solution is right for you? (Part 2 of 3)

Implementing Successful CRM Project (Part 3 of 3)

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