Innovation is taking place at a rapid pace in both the CRM and CMS worlds. In the CRM space, organizations are extending their customer relationship software beyond the core functions of service, marketing, and sales force automation and using CRM as a platform for full line of business solutions with portal functionality ranging from basic customer self-service to more complex functions.
In the CMS space, organizations are turning to a variety of applications that can be simple or multifaceted, depending on the features required to run the different aspects of their website. The functionality required of a CMS can be vastly different from the capabilities available in a CRM portal solution. An organization that’s using WordPress to run its entire website for its affordability, ease-of-use, and blogging functionality and wants to use Microsoft Dynamics CRM as a line of business solution with customer portal will have to look at several factors when evaluating its options.
What Functionality Do You Need from Your CRM Portal?
What are you using your CRM portal for? Are you collecting or displaying simple data, or will your portal require complex logic, automation and validation around custom datasets in your Microsoft Dynamics CRM deployment? Is there an eCommerce component involved? You’ll need to determine whether your organization needs a line of business solution for Microsoft Dynamics CRM with full back-end functionality or just an add-on portal solution.
How Deeply Does Your CRM Portal Need to Integrate with Your CMS?
Can your portal be standalone or does it need to be fully integrated with your main website? Is single sign-on (SSO) required between your CMS and CRM portal so that users aren’t required to login twice to view secured CRM data? Some organizations are okay with having a separate portal for customers to interact with CRM data… there are some fairly common use-cases for requiring a standalone portal. We see this often with some of our customers that manage certification programs. That being said, the vast majority of organizations want an integrated website and CRM portal so their web users are none the wiser to the back-end distinction of the various components they interact with online.
Are You Looking for a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Portal Solution or a CMS?
The most popular portal solutions for Microsoft Dynamics CRM today offer some impressive features spanning a wide range of functionality, but present a dilemma in that they’re either positioned as CMS’s themselves or have tethered their portal solution to a CMS. Now, if your website management needs are very simple and barebones, this might be an ideal scenario where you can manage all of your web-facing content from your CRM portal solution. This model falls apart, however, when you need more out of your CMS than what’s available in your portal solution.
It’s important to remember that CMS’s are a diverse universe of applications that can feature broad or niche functionality that wouldn’t fall under the feature-set of CRM portal solutions. Not to mention the added benefits of using a dedicated CMS with a large community of users and developers writing extensions and creating themes and templates that will help you get more out of the product. WordPress has over 40,000 plugins (https://wordpress.org/plugins/) and Drupal has over 30,000 modules (https://www.drupal.org/project/project_module) to extend and expand the functionality available in their platforms.
It isn’t uncommon to see an organization with Microsoft Dynamics CRM running a CRM portal solution that either is or requires a CMS in addition to another CMS for its main website. This can be a costly and wasteful option as you’re paying for unnecessary duplicate functionality across both applications and are still faced with the challenge of integrating the two. From a cost and value perspective, the CRM portal solutions might have robust portal functionality, but they are not complete line of business or industry solutions for CRM.
On the other end of the CRM portal solution spectrum, there are available solutions that aren’t CMS’s or built on top of a CMS, but that are lacking in depth of functionality. While these solutions are cheaper and designed to work in tandem with an external CMS, they’re also lacking in terms of portal functionality and complexity.
Assessing our available options, there’s a clear market gap for solutions that offer simple to complex CRM-driven portals that can be integrated with your organization’s CMS of choice.
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Bridging the Gap with Cobalt Web Elements
In Cobalt’s 2.7.1 release, we introduced multiple methods to integrate with Cobalt products, as well as the ability to have SSO with most any CMS on the market. Our vision was to give our customers the ability to embed the portal components of our robust line of business modules for Microsoft Dynamics CRM directly into any page of their CMS. By decoupling our products from any single CMS, our customers are free to select the CMS that best meets their website needs regardless of CRM portal considerations.
In our latest 2.8 release, we’ve built upon this foundation by adding several out-of-box Web Elements, the portal components of our line of business modules that can be embedded into your CMS. We also greatly enhanced our Web Element Designer, giving our customers unparalleled control over their Web Elements. Finally, we’ve added the ability to create custom Web Elements using CRM views that can be dropped into your CMS!
Focused on Functionality
As CRM experts, we concentrate on extending the Microsoft Dynamics CRM platform to create robust and flexible line of business or industry solutions that include back-end CRM and front-end portal components. We don’t want to be a CMS provider because we know that organizations choose different CMS’s for different reasons and that attempting to provide an all-in-one CMS and CRM line of business solution would be overreaching and ultimately restrictive to our customers. With this in mind, we created a product that provides:
- Full CRM & portal functionality for line of business solutions.
- Multiple integration points and options for single sign-on.
- Easy to use designer to customize the Web Elements to fit your website theme and design.
- The ability to create custom Web Elements using CRM views that can be customized and dropped into your CMS.
Web Elements for Profile Management, Events, & eCommerce
With this latest 2.8 release, we’ve made available Web Elements in the following functional categories:
- Get Started/Login Tile
- Profile Setup
- Forgot Password
- Home Page (Portal)
- Profile Update
- User Profile Tile
- Full Event Calendar
- Event Calendar Tile
- Upcoming Meetings
- Upcoming Meetings Tile
- Upcoming Classes
- My Meetings
- My Classes
- Meeting Details & Registration (with Payment Processing)
- Class Details & Registration (with Payment Processing)
- Online Store & Shopping Cart
- My Orders & Payments
- Account Balance Tile
Custom Web Elements
In addition to the many Web Elements we’ve created, the Cobalt Web Element Designer also allows you to create your own custom Web Elements to display CRM data on your website with several presentation options. These Web Elements can be before or behind login and in context of the logged-in user or not. With this functionality, you can easily create custom directories, product catalogues, and many more lists and grids of CRM records that can be acted on using only out-of-box features!
- Expose CRM Saved Views on your website.
- Choose from several options for presenting your CRM data on your website.
- Allow website users to interact with your CRM data.
- Secure your custom Web Elements.
As we continue to add to our line of business modules and industry solutions, we’re also constantly adding to our Web Elements functionality. In every major and minor Cobalt product release, you can look forward to:
- More out-of-box Web Elements.
- Additional features and options in the Web Element Designer.
- Expanded custom Web Element functionality and presentation options.