Your company is using CRM Dynamics, since version 4 you’ve seen the complicated mess it is to upgrade it to a new version. The costs of testing, running your upgrade scenarios, checking your code, making sure it all works and inevitably there are always some issues left behind. From an upgrade/migration point of view, I’ve found CRM to be one of the most difficult pieces of software to upgrade and one that involved the most people (besides maybe Team Foundation Server). Why do I bring this up in a CRM Online benefit blog? well selfishly maybe because I never want to do one again, unselfishly because the cost of upgrading CRM is larger and the process is cumbersome and the risk is high.
Let’s take a step back. With Microsoft’s cloud and mobile strategy, Dynamics CRM is one of the prime pieces of software to move to the cloud. With it’s resource requirements, and lack of rich client (using a web based client instead), Dynamics CRM is one of the first pieces I’d move to the cloud in my personal strategy, maybe only third after having to sync Active Directory and then Exchange. One of the nice things about the CRM implementation is it’s simplicity in that there aren’t any hybrid scenarios to think about. Your CRM installation either lives on premise or in the cloud.
Why do I think CRM Online is the most obvious candidate for being migrated to CRM Online?
When I think about the advantages of keeping in on-premise only one advantage comes to mind, the fact that it is a great development environment and you tend to lose some of that ability in the cloud. As a development environment, CRM has become a great product to not only for customer relationship management, but also helpdesk and other applications that CRM typically wouldn’t be used for. In CRM online, it’s development tools are not quite as robust.
What are the advantages to moving to CRM Online?
- Always be up to date. One of the issues CRM has always had was it’s difficulty in upgrading it. There are so many variables, large databases, downtime to deal with, that I’ve seen alot of CRM upgrades or migrations simply fail and I’ve seen what Microsoft considers small upgrades/systems take 8+ hours and an army of techs, developers and QA people to accomplish. With CRM Online, you will never have to worry about these upgrades. Microsoft allows you time to get everything in order before you decide to upgrade and you don’t have to worry about the peripherals of upgrading such as SQL servers, databases etc.
- Simplicity in networking. Exposing CRM on-premise to the internet can be a daunting task. You need to worry about IP Addresses, firewall rules, two (minimum) additional servers (ADFS and proxy), network zones and expertice. Setting up an internet facing deployment is not trivial and it gets even more difficult if you are using SharePoint for document storage as you will have to make portions of it internet facing as well. Oh yeah and certificates, those certificates… CRM Online completely removes that load, there are still things to think about depending on how and where you are storing your data but with Azure Active Directory there are some really cool identity tricks you can manage to give access to your CRM Online deployment.
- Lack of required infrastructure. This one is obvious but necessary to understand and much of your savings will fall into this bucket. Utilizing Microsoft data centers, you no longer require the 13 million servers you once required for CRM. Your 6 front ends, 24 asynchronous servers and SQL server requirements and you still can’t figure out why things are slow will disappear. Microsoft will take care of that in their data centers, you have to worry about making the application as robust as you require it to be. Having less infrastructure will save you in server costs, upgrade costs, help desk costs, electricity costs and on premise compute and storage costs.
- Disaster Recovery. While you will have to still have a disaster recovery plan and fully understand it, you won’t have to worry about designing it. Microsoft maintains data centers in every continent and are always opening new ones. Recently they opened two data centers in Canada (Toronto and Quebec City) and word is there are more on the way.
- License management and costs. I could have stuck this one in Simplicity, but interperting Microsoft licensing can be such a scientific art that it deserves to stand out on its own. If you completely understand licensing, you too deserve to stand on your own. With CRM on-premise you have to worry about a multitude of licensing from Windows servers and cals, to CRM licensing to SQL licensing and migrating to CRM Online forklifts this. You now have to ensure that you have to correct monthly or yearly recurring licensing with Office 365 which is greatly simplified and can be summed up in this statement: Do I have a license or Don’t I?
I recently went through an exercise where we roughly calculated ROI on migrating to Office 365. The consultants we had with us came with an open mind and basically said it is what it is, if CRM online does better then we should go with it, if on-premise does better we should stick with it. The bottom line without going into specifics is that CRM Online paid for itself before the term was up when all things were considered, and our techs and developers can focus on other things. I would like to end with a few recommendations.
- Get in touch with your Microsoft representative and arrange 2 meetings. a feasibility meeting to review what you have and determine how easy or hard it would be to move to CRM online as well as an ROI meeting to determine if CRM Online will pay off as an investment.
- Find a partner. Don’t attempt the migration yourself unless this is what do for a living. CRM is a huge investment and is probably the backbone of your business and it’s worth it to find a partner to journey through the migration with you. There are lots of great partners out there ObjectiveSpark, Navantis and Microsoft just to name a few.
- Don’t worry about your staff. I have yet to see many “layoffs” since companies have moved to the cloud. I could be dead wrong in reading the tea leaves here, but there is still plenty of work to do besides worrying about hardware/software.
- Become a business expert. This idea goes hand in hand with number 3. Since you don’t have to worry about hardware and software as much, get involved and learn how to use your technical skills to be a business expert as well.