- You are tasked with developing an enterprise application or business process solution using a stable platform tool
- You have MS SharePoint and MS Dynamics CRM options available and need to decide which to use
- SharePoint is a(n)
- Customizable and flexible business solution platform
- Content/document management and versioning system (CMS/DMS)
- Enterprise search engine
- Workflow system (WWF/Azure Workflow)
- Alert engine
- Extension for MS Office client apps and MS OfficeWeb Apps (OWA)
- Web site development and web content management tool (WCM)
- Publishing tool
- Personalizable web interface
- Social platform
- Cloud capable, multi-tenant framework
- MS Access web database platform
- MS Project platform
- MS Team Foundation Studio site platform
- MS Dynamics CRM document repository
- Dynamics CRM (xRM) is a(n)
- Customizable CRM line of business system
- For Sales and Marketing departments
- Query tool
- Workflow engine (WWF)
- Analytics tool
- Extension for MS Outlook, Excel, and Word
- Custom business solution platform
- Email and conversation-centric applications
- Customer service, tech support, employee relations, outreach, campaigning, contracts, etc.
MS Dynamics CRM is designed as a customer relationship management system and the platform has native relational design at its heart. It can be adapted to many conversational and relationship based business processes. The primary problem with CRM, is that it lacks the popularity of SharePoint due to reduced feature set and increased cost and is therefore less likely to be available as a platform to most business developers and end users. This makes finding third party solutions, developers, community forums, and experienced users difficult or costly. Dynamics CRM as a line of business app has many competing products that make the base feature set less important when choosing a solutions platform. These include those from MS partners built directly on SharePoint such as BPA Solutions CRM, SP CRM Template, and SP Marketplace CRM.
The capabilities of SharePoint far outweigh those of Dynamics CRM for general purpose custom business solutions. This is especially true when business solutions incorporate enterprise search, documents and content management, publishing and approval, personalization, collaboration, or public web content. SharePoint with a typical set of third party add-ins provides the best long term, affordable, and flexible solution architecture. Microsoft has embraced SharePoint as an application platform within most of its divisions, Dynamics being the outlier. SharePoint is also the fastest growing product within Microsoft due to its rapid adoption globally. Finally, SharePoint has many more third party solution providers and COTS line of business systems than Dynamics CRM.
For highly relational and performance based applications it is better to develop a user interface in SharePoint (app model or web parts) with a SQL DBA developed backend or MS Access Web Database rather than develop a solution using the Dynamics CRM drag drop interface or native SharePoint lists/libraries.
Microsoft Corporate Strategy and Product Roadmap Commentary
Ideal Objective: SharePoint = Microsoft's Web Operating System
SharePoint must be the single web based application platform for all Microsoft's business solutions. MS Dynamics CRM has not been ported to the SharePoint platform for the main reason that customizable relational models are not embraced within SharePoint. Every attempt by the SharePoint product team to incorporate true relational database (RDBMS) integrity, performance, and design into the product have met with limited success. External lists and lookups are feature deprived and difficult to configure. Access web databases are siloed from other SharePoint features and sites. Native lookup fields lack basic features and have limited relational support. Database synchronization to or from lists is non-existent. Many third party vendors have stepped up to fill these gaps, but that leaves Microsoft without the capabilities for internal development utilizing these missing features. For now, we are stuck in that period where the Dynamics CRM platform is not yet obsolete, but SharePoint (without third party add-ins) is not ready for the port.
Nearly 10 years ago, at the last SharePoint Conference he keynoted, I asked Bill Gates if SharePoint would get true relational design functionality. His answer was that they were working on some of these features (which turned out to be External Lists and Lookup RI) but he still insisted on using SQL RDBMS for highly relational solutions. This answer was inadequate and shortsighted. It is now time for Microsoft to step up and take advantage of the monumental opportunity to combine relational design into the worlds most prevalent and feature rich Web OS, SharePoint.