We get asked this question a LOT.  When do I need CRM vs. using Outlook, Sharepoint, Excel, Access or any other Microsoft platform product that provides an ability to track data in some kind of structured way?  The answer is very simple – when you want to do more with that data than what you originally thought you wanted to do with it.  Okay, so maybe its not that simple so let me expand on my answer.

There are many companies that we visit who are tracking their customers in Outlook, their equipment in an Access database or Customer Service Cases in Excel.  Their solution is ‘doing what they need it to do’ for that specific business application at that particular point in time.  What happens when they want to do something else with that case or contact record or relate it to something else?  The strength of CRM is the ability to form an all-encompassing record that includes all the information you may want to track rather than just a slice of that information.

The simplest example is a customer record.  Yes, you can track a customer in Outlook and create shared contact lists. What else can you do with that record?  You can use it in a customer distribution email list – if you want to risk running email blast campaigns from your own Exchange Server and getting black-listed.  Can you see the results of that campaign and retain a historical record of the sales opportunities that were generated from that campaign?  Can you run reports to see campaign results and resulting sales across the entire organization?  Can you then manage those sales opportunities through a sales funnel for pipeline and forecasting purposes?  Can you track customer service incidents against those contacts?  Can you pull information from your accounting system or other legacy application into the record? Most importantly, can you go to one common place to see all of this information about the customer?  You can if you have Dynamics CRM.

Take this concept of a customer and replace it with a piece of equipment or an employee.  The power of CRM extends to any other ‘thing’ that you want to track.  Navantis works with a number of oil companies.   Our idea for using CRM isn’t about customers because the upstream oil companies don’t really have many customers.  What they do have in abundance are assets and stakeholders.  CRM can be configured to use the ‘customer’ record but call it a stakeholder or an asset record and modify the fields to be more pertinent to the needs of the oil company.  Now we can track all of the service inquiries, cases and communications to those stakeholder groups.  We can use automated workflows to send notifications to these key people when certain events occur.  Take the idea and apply it to Associations, Healthcare or Finance and you start to see the horizontal power of the CRM platform.

So back to the original question – when is Dynamics CRM the Right Fit?  We ask our customers to think beyond the immediate need to track a single piece of information in order to answer the question.  Chances are, the CRM platform will deliver significantly more value immediately and allow for growth over time.