Well the SDSR is out and I suppose while it’s not good news in budgetary terms it’s not as bad as it might have been. But in the spirit of saving money let me reaffirm one of my earlier posts – use what you already have. The DII estate has access to most of our capability, so from the point of view of saving money this should really be the first port of call for any IT project.
One capability that isn’t included in the DII Enterprise Agreement however (though of course its supporting technologies Windows Server and SQL Server are) is our Dynamics application suite. One of these packages is Dynamics CRM, and it is particularly relevant to the defence marketplace. How so, you cry, as defence organisation typically don’t have customers? Not in the regular sense anyway :-). Well, Dynamics CRM is built on a technology called xRM, which succeeds in the abstracting away from the application creator any of the infrastructure or desktop gubbins that usually accompanies the building of an application. In xRM, you define your ‘entities’ (such as people, contracts, tasks, whatever you want – many of them are already predefined for you), describe the relationships between them (that’s where xRM comes from – anything relationship management), and describe the workflow which surrounds them, and xRM does the rest. It generates schemas, forms, processing, and everything else. You don’t have to manage the database, and if you change anything, xRM automatically regenerates anything that needs regenerating. It is already integrated with SharePoint and Office, is completely web based (though there is an Outlook client if you wish), and is extensible with .net though in most cases you won’t need that. Ah but isn’t this just another application platform? Well that’s the point – why build another application with a different UI, different infrastructure, and then try to integrate it into your document management, collaboration, workflow, and office processes, when you could use a scalable, consistent platform that’s already integrated into everything else you have?
Have a look at this:
Here you can see how the USAF have built a ‘request for forces’ application on xRM much more quickly and cheaply than their alternatives. In the UK many government departments, including the MoD are using xRM for a wide cariety of tasks – case management, tasking, scheduling, call centre, compensation, well you can read the case studies for yourselves, and if you need pointers let me know. I really feel it’s time to move away from the ‘army of developers building bespoke code on a bespoke architecture’ style of development, and towards a common infrastructure, common platform approach. As one customer recently said to me, if you can build an Microsoft Access application, you can use xRM, and this has to be the way forward.
If the SDSR is to have as little impact as possible on defence deliverables, in the IT application space, xRM is going to be a key tool. Let me know what you think – firstname.lastname@example.org
Peter - looks interesting. How can MOD evaluate the potential capabilites of this application to see how it stacks up against some of the thinrd party products we have already purchased - but not yet deployed yet?