I recently attended a conference for Microsoft Dynamics CRM users, and during one of the sessions the speaker informally polled the audience. “By show of hands, how many of you use CRM 2016?” Maybe ten people raised their hands. “How about 2015?” A few dozen more shot up. ”2013?” Not too many more. “2011?” Virtually everyone in the room — nearly 300 people, total — raised their hands.
I get it: change is daunting. People would rather stick with the system they know, however flawed, rather than plunge into the unknown. I also know from personal experience that many people were not completely enamored with Microsoft’s user interface changes in CRM 2013 and 2015, but with the introduction of CRM 2015 Update 1 last spring and CRM 2016 last fall, these user adoption issues have been addressed and you are now missing out on a wealth of new tools and services by clinging to this now outdated version of CRM. I also know that many of you have been hesitant to make the leap to CRM Online, fearing that the infrastructure is not ready for prime time. I believe that now is the perfect time for CRM 2011 users to take the plunge and migrate to CRM Online. Here are my top five reasons to make the move now:
The difference here is pretty stark: an on-premise deployment means you’re responsible for 100 percent of the infrastructure for running your CRM system. This requires a diverse skillset including SQL Server, Active Directory and Active Directory Federated Services, IIS (Microsoft’s web server), DNS and a whole slew of server configuration and networking protocols. Cobalt, the company I work for, has been managing Microsoft CRM deployments for more than a decade and it still takes us the better part of a day to set up a new organization, and we’re constantly monitoring the instances we manage to ensure optimal performance.
With CRM Online, Microsoft does the work for you. Setting up a new organization takes less than an hour and most of that time is spent waiting for the confirmation email to hit your inbox. As for ongoing maintenance, Microsoft has that covered too. They are dynamically allocating resources to ensure the best performance and the upgrades are all handled seamlessly using the new customer driven upgrade tool. The only piece that might require effort and expertise is if you wanted to integrate your internal Active Directory with CRM Online through Office 365. This allows your staff to log in using their local network credentials.
For most companies that use CRM, matching Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure would not only be cost prohibitive, it’d be nearly impossible. Microsoft has built-in redundancy within data centers as well as across data centers and regions. This provides a level of disaster recovery that you would be unlikely to replicate. What this means from a practical sense is that there are so many redundancies spread out across so many servers that a full data loss is a nonexistent risk. Additionally, the scalability of CRM Online goes well beyond what a non-enterprise customer would be able to implement on their own. In the US alone, Microsoft has three data centers across the U.S. dedicated to Dynamics CRM.
Microsoft’s CRM Online security is unrivalled. Whereas many on-premise solutions involve hosting the CRM on servers within your own building — which may be subject to all sorts of security vulnerabilities — Microsoft always employs best practices when it comes to security compliance (check out its Trust Center to get the full rundown of its security precautions).
Total Cost of Ownership
The first two categories are about ease of use and peace of mind. This one pertains to your bottom line. It goes without saying that maintaining your own servers is expensive. There’s the price of the hardware (and this includes replacing said hardware when it fails or becomes outdated). There’s also the cost of hiring skilled employees who know how to maintain those servers. There are the licenses for the software needed to maintain and monitor the servers. And that’s before you factor in the cost of the CRM software itself.
With Dynamics CRM Online, you’re paying a flat rate of $65 per user per month and leaving the entire server side of the equation to Microsoft. And for that $65 you get to take advantage of any updates to the software, whereas with on-premise licenses you need to purchase perpetual licenses up front and maintain active software assurance to stay up-to-date. In addition to the standard maintenance and licensing costs, you will also be responsible for the additional time, server resources, and headache associated with upgrading to the latest version. With CRM Online, these upgrades are handled automatically by Microsoft and they are done in line, essentially eliminating down time.
Microsoft is “Mobile-First | Cloud-First”
Microsoft has made its intentions abundantly clear: its attention is fixed squarely on the cloud and mobile. This means that any new piece of technology it develops will be prioritized within the cloud. You see this mantra reflected in its new releases: typically, there are two a year — one in May and the other in December. The May release is only available for CRM Online, which means there’s a six-month delay between when a new tool or feature is released and when on-premise users gain access to it.
In the short term, such a delay probably won’t have much impact. But given Microsoft’s public statements, it’s clear they’re trying to signal to their on-premise users that the train is leaving the station and it’s time to get on board. There are already a number of features exclusively available on Dynamics Online, including the ability to directly view and manipulate data in CRM Online, access to the new CRM App for Outlook and the new Voice of the Customer survey module. And speaking of exclusive features…
If I had to pick the technology that’s excited me most in recent years, it would be Microsoft’s Power BI, its business intelligence tool. Nothing I’ve seen has done more to take data and convert it into actionable intelligence via arresting visualizations. Not only is it extremely powerful, but it’s also inexpensive; its offerings range from free to only $9.99 per month.
That is, of course, if you’re using Dynamics CRM Online. Power BI doesn’t currently have a connector for CRM on-premise, which is really a bummer. Remember the “mobile-first | cloud-first” mantra? Well, here’s the downside for on-premise CRM users. I really hope the Microsoft releases a connector for on-premise soon, but assuming they don’t, why would you choose an option which precludes you from taking advantage of one of the most useful pieces of technology to emerge in recent years, one unrivaled when it comes to providing you with actionable intelligence?
One can’t underestimate the power of inertia and the status quo. It’s difficult to upend your entire way of doing things and try something different. But given the monumental shifts in how Microsoft is approaching its CRM platform, you can no longer ignore its clarion call that Dynamics CRM Online is the future of CRM, and the last thing you’ll want to do is let the future pass you by.