What is xRM?
Both Microsoft CRM and Salesforce.com can be extended to manage relationships and business processes outside of traditional CRM. There are a couple of different definitions for xRM. One is that the “x” stands for extended, as in extended relationship management such as employee relationships, constituent relationships, etc. The other definition is that the “x” is a variable, and means “anything” management, such as laboratory information management, project management, equipment management or even pet management (yes, we’ve worked with all of those and more!) Both of these definitions are referring to building any application on top of your CRM platform.
xRM enhances the value of all relationships, improve business relevance and fit, drive operational excellence and increase business insights. C5 Insight has mastered the delivery of xRM scenarios without writing code – although coding options are available to enhance flexibility and value – resulting in lower development and maintenance costs. With xRM, you can literally build any extension to your CRM system that you can envision, in a fully supported and upgradeable manner.
Building an xRM application can take the form of customizing the included customer relationship management modules in CRM, or by designing completely new line-of-business applications that are not based on the sales, service, or marketing capabilities included in CRM. The common thread to all the definitions of xRM and methods of extending it is that a business application is developed using CRM as a platform, leveraging the capabilities of the platform to deliver business value to the end users.
There are a number of advantages to building an application on top of CRM instead of building from “scratch.” The most obvious advantage is that the CRM platform comes with a number of in-the-box capabilities that are immediately usable. For example, both platforms include robust user security roles, Outlook integration, codeless customization, social feeds, activity tracking, reporting, dashboards, Office integration and a pre-built user interface. Developing any of one these components from scratch could take thousands of hours – not to mention the ongoing maintenance required to keep these features up to date. They also include pre-built modules for contact management, marketing campaigns, pipeline tracking and service case tracking – any of which can be leveraged as part of an xRM solution. The following features make a compelling argument for an xRM development strategy:
Security Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Salesforce.com have strong security models baked into the platform. This includes a concept of ownership and sharing of records (record-level security), roles, business units, and a permission model.
Workflow Both platforms have a workflow model including an end-user interface that allows business users to manage workflows on any object. This workflow model includes conditions, branching, and custom actions, including sending e-mails or creating additional CRM records. The workflow engine can also be extended by developers, exposing custom workflow actions in the workflow designer.
Reporting Microsoft Office Excel, SQL Server Reporting Services and Salesforce.com can easily be integrated with the platforms to provide reporting, dashboards and business intelligence. Both platforms include reporting wizards that walk the user through creating useful reports on data stored in CRM. These reports can be relatively static, or even dynamic with drill-down capabilities. Reports can include links to other data sources outside of CRM if necessary. These reports are then available to be shared with other CRM users.
User Interface When you customize CRM with your own custom entities for an xRM application, the CRM system will automatically generate a GUI for users to interact with the data. CRM includes a primary interface that can be customized for the xRM application. The user interfaces include lists with customizable views, record searching, editors for all tables, lookup dialogs, multi-tabbed user interfaces, and more. CRM delivers these user interfaces with no programming required.
Office Integration, Offline CRM and Data Synchronization Both CRM platforms have strong integration stories for Microsoft Office. They include an online and offline client that can be installed on a workstation. This brings the CRM user interface into Microsoft Office Outlook, or a local web client, where users can interact with the CRM system directly. The offline client allows for users to disconnect with the office network and still interact with CRM data while on the road, synching back up with CRM when they return to the office.
Data Modeling The platforms allow for the creation of custom tables, which can have attributes, forms and views, and relationships with other tables. In addition to standard relationships, all custom tables can have activities and notes if desired.
Web Services A Web services API can be used to interact with the CRM platform. These services allow for open extensibility and use across any platform using any language that supports Web standards. It is also possible to use third-party tools to implement modern data services with very little coding. This allows CRM data to be easily consumed in xRM Web applications using development in the platform of choice.