Microsoft Dynamics CRM - Overview

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a system for managing a company’s interactions with current and future customers. It often involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize sales, marketing, customer service, and technical support. CRM can help reduce costs and increase profitability by organizing and automating business processes that nurture customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a customer relationship management software package developed by Microsoft focused on enhancing the customer relationship for any organization. Out of the box, the product focuses mainly on Sales, Marketing, and Customer Service sectors, though Microsoft has been marketing Dynamics CRM as an XRM platform and has been encouraging partners to use its proprietary (.NET based) framework to customize it. In recent years, it has also grown as an Analytics platform driven by CRM.

The CRM Solution can be used to drive the sales productivity and marketing effectiveness for an organization, handle the complete customer support chain, and provide social insights, business intelligence, and a lot of other out-of-the-box functionalities and features. As a product, Microsoft Dynamics CRM also offers full mobile support for using CRM apps on mobiles and tablets.

As of writing this tutorial, the latest version of CRM is CRM 2016. However, in this tutorial we will be using CRM 2015 Online version as it is the latest stable version as well as frequently used in many organizations. Nevertheless, even if you are using any other versions of CRM, all the concepts in the tutorial will still hold true.

Product Offerings

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is offered in two categories −

CRM Online

CRM Online is a cloud-based offering of Microsoft Dynamics CRM where all the backend processes (such as application servers, setups, deployments, databases, licensing, etc.) are managed on Microsoft servers. CRM Online is a subscription-based offering which is preferred for organizations who may not want to manage all the technicalities involved in a CRM implementation. You can get started with setting up your system in a few days (not weeks, months or years) and access it on web via your browser.

CRM On-Premise

CRM on-premise is a more customized and robust offering of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, where the CRM application and databases will be deployed on your servers. This offering allows you to control all your databases, customizations, deployments, backups, licensing and other network and hardware setups. Generally, organizations who want to go for a customized CRM solution prefer on-premise deployment as it offers better integration and customization capabilities.

From the functional standpoint, both the offerings offer similar functionalities; however, they differ significantly in terms of implementation. The differences are summarized in the following table.

CRM Online CRM On-Premise
This is a cloud-based solution provided by Microsoft in which all the servers and databases are managed by Microsoft. This is an on-premise solution provided by Microsoft in which the servers and databases are managed by the customer.
You can get started with an online offering in a matter of few days. You pay for the users and used space on-the-go. Setting up an on-premise offering needs technical skills as well as sufficient time to setup the CRM instance and get it running.
It supports relatively less customizations and extensions. It supports relatively more customization and extensions.
CRM Online does not give the ability to perform manual data backup and restore options, since the database is hosted on Microsoft servers. However, Microsoft performs daily backups of the database. CRM on-premise gives complete ability to manage your database.
CRM Online has various plans based on the data storage limits such as 5GB, 20 GB, etc. CRM on-premise does not have any such limits on storage size, since the data exists on your own servers.
CRM Online provides inbuilt capabilities of features such as insights, social listening, analytics, etc. CRM on-premise has extra costs for these features.
CRM Online supports automatic updates to future version. CRM on-premise updates need to be installed by the administrator.

Accessing CRM

Microsoft Dynamics CRM can be accessed via any of the following options −

  • Browser
  • Mobile and Tablets
  • Outlook

Product Competitors

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is undoubtedly one of the top products in the CRM space. However, following are the other products that compete with Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

  • Oracle
  • SAP
  • Sage CRM
  • Sugar CRM
  • NetSuite

Product Versions

Microsoft Dynamics CRM has grown over the years starting from its 1.0 version in 2003. The latest version (as of writing this article) is 2015. Following is the chronological list of release versions −

  • Microsoft CRM 1.0
  • Microsoft CRM 1.2
  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0
  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0
  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011
  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013
  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015
  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016