What is CRM?

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. In simple terms, it is the thing that companies use to help their customers and more importantly themselves.

What is Microsoft Dynamics CRM then?

It is Microsoft's offering of CRM. It is a complete (Sales, Marketing and Support) CRM suite.

Is it just CRM? What else does it provide.

Under the covers, it is an Application Development Platform. CRM is just a reference application on top of it. Take out the CRM piece, you get a platform to build your own application. It provides users with a rich set of features such as built-in web application, strong outlook integration, mobile device support, reporting and a lot more.

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Why build on the CRM platform?

It saves you time and effort. The platform takes care of the basic groundwork so that you can focus on the business problem that you are trying to solve and not re-invent the wheel.

What is the bare minimum I need to know to develop on this platform.

An understanding of Entity Relationship (E-R) model. In simple terms think of entity as a noun and relationship as a verb. If you can write a sentence using a verb that links two or more nouns, you are using the E-R model! For example,

  • An employee supervises a department. Employee and Department are entities and supervises is the relationship.

Entities also exhibit certain properties which as termed as attributes.

  • An employee has a name, address, phone number, SSN, ... Each of this property is called an attribute in the ER model.

It is important to learn and use the basic terminology as that avoids ambiguity is most cases. Also the CRM platform uses the very same terminology for its components so that it is very intuitive for you to build your application.

Geek Notes: Do checkout Dr. Peter Chen's original paper on E-R model and the first 17 minutes of his latest interview on Channel9.

What else is good to know to develop on CRM.

HTML & JavaScript - the basic building blocks of a web application.

.NET in general, particularly ASP.NET

Transact-SQL if you'll be developing reports.

Enough of theory, can we do something else?

Okay... You can get test drive CRM as an application using the Hosted Microsoft Dynamics CRM Trial. I recommend trying out the online 60-day free trial. It is a very simple process and you'll be using CRM in a few minutes.

Note: For better user experience, add demodynamics.solutiondemo.net as an allowed site in your pop-up blocker. CRM 3.0, by default is presented in a full-screen application mode which is a pop-up window.

Now that my feet is wet, how can I dig-in and get my hands dirty?

In that case, please download the August 2007 release of virtual PC that has Dynamics CRM 3.0 and all of the related software installed.

What's on horizon for CRM?

The latest version out in the market currently is Dynamics CRM 3.0. The next version is Dynamics CRM 4.0 code-named "Titan". Titan will include a Microsoft hosted version of CRM called LiveCRM which is creating a lot of buzz in the market. Look for more information on Titan in a few weeks.

What about the cool stuff we've been hearing about?

Watch the video of Ben Riga and Jason Hunt at MIX '07 where they demo some cool applications built on top of CRM. Also check out Ben Riga, Brad Wilson & Bill Patterson talk about the CRM Platform in this Channel9 video.

I'll soon follow up with a detailed post that has various links and resources that'll get you rolling on CRM development.