What type of system is right for small business?
Every small business is different; each has specific information that is critical to the top and bottom line. Successfully managing, relating, tracking, and alerting on this critical business data ranging from customers, contacts, students, vendors to trucks, technology assets or livestock requires careful planning. No one wants to end up with an environment of multiple disparate systems that all have their own technology, terminology and methodology or a behemoth ERP system that requires a large capital investment, can be hard to modify/extend and requires upgrades that can break a company’s pocketbook.
Option 1: Build from Scratch
My background ranges from architecting and building ecommerce systems from scratch to implementing and extending an enterprise ERP system. I have had fun building a custom application and deciding how we would architect the presentation, client, business and data layers, and design cross-cutting concerns like exception handling, messaging, event handling, transaction management, integration and background processing. There are numerous ways to handle this with a custom application and I will guarantee you that in two to three years someone will look at your application framework and say “Wow, can’t believe they did it this way, they should have done…”, and that someone will probably be you!
Option 2: Implement an ERP Solution
I also had the opposite fun of implementing an ERP solution which provided an extendibility framework for custom objects but this required developers to do most of the work. I lead a team of around twenty developers building custom user interfaces, modifying and creating workflows, creating custom reports (the out-of-the-box reports almost never met the needs), integrating to other core internal systems, etc. The decisions weren’t quite like they were with the custom system, it was more like “How do we extend the right way to keep upgrades working?” or “How do I integrate these two systems together the best and most cost-efficient manner?”
What does a small business need?
Small businesses want and need systems that:
- do not take a large capital investment
- do not require costly upgrades
- can be tailored to their specific needs
- can grow with them
Custom developed solutions can definitely get you exactly what you need but this comes with the cost of building a system from scratch and maintaining the system over time with an IT development organization. Buying something off the shelf can also get you what you want, but it will also have a number of features you do not want and need to ignore or turn off. You will probably need to modify your internal processes to match what the system can do.
A New Option: xRM
Enter a different type of solution to this problem, the Microsoft xRM application framework as part of Dynamics 365! I even love the terminology of using “x” in the name meaning “anything” as I have a mathematics education.
This framework provides the foundation to quickly build applications that target your company’s business objects and how they relate together. Much of this can be done with no or minimal application development. In our experience we can usually cut the cost of the system by 75% by leveraging the xRM platform. When development is required, it is implemented on a strong application framework foundation that utilizes Microsoft’s core technologies under the covers.
What does xRM provide for small businesses?
xRM provides a unified application framework that can be hosted in the cloud with Dynamics 365 Online or on premise with Dynamics 365 on premise with many pre-integrated, common elements and development tools that will greatly reduce the long term total cost of ownership (TCO). The platform provides the services needed to truly manage your business needs as shown in the wheel below. Everything from point & click customizations (yes, you can do much of this as a power user, no developer required) to integration with other systems using web service standards, to strong business analytics dashboards.
Just think, you can utilize one platform for your line-of-business applications that is tailored to meet your specific needs! Microsoft xRM provides strong, industry proven security and scalability that can be run in the cloud or on premise integrating natively to your productivity tools like Microsoft Office 365, Power BI, SharePoint, PowerApps, and more.
I am just touching the surface of what can be done with this framework and the power of starting with a solid foundation that is already integrated and ready for the cloud.
HBS has a dedicated team that specializes in the Microsoft applications including Dynamics 365, SharePoint, Office 365, SQL Server, PowerBI and more! Our team is continually researching new ways to utilize this technology to provide cost-effective, enterprise grade solutions to our customers. Please contact HBS and we can evaluate your needs and help you with the solution that best meets your company’s needs.