Microsoft Dynamics CRM is an enterprise-class customer relationships management application built around a flexible core that can be customized to any industry. Constructed as a business applications framework, Dynamics allows easy customization and development of extensions to meet the rapidly-changing needs of today’s online businesses..
Benefiting Association Staff
As with any Microsoft product, you can be assured of a consistent look and feel as well as compatibility with other Microsoft products such as the ubiquitous Microsoft Office suite. A full-featured plug-in for MS Outlook 2003 and 2007 allows access to the same data stored in a Dynamics-based application (such as the RAMCO product) without ever leaving the familiar Outlook interface. Contacts can be pushed and pulled between Outlook and Dynamics CRM, member data can be viewed and edited, reports generated, and much more.
The Dynamics platform is a proven, mature application currently in version 4. The RAMCO AMS is being built on CRM version 2011 to take advantage of the newest structure and ability to customize the software to meet individual needs. In addition to the mature platform at the core, one of the most stable vendors in the software industry will back the application with support and development for years to come.
Microsoft Dynamics is delivered as a hosted application, also called the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model. A SaaS approach means there is no expensive server hardware for the client to maintain, no server software of database licensing, faster turnaround on updates, lower support costs, fewer hardware requirements for end users and more time for IT staff to focus on new initiatives instead of supporting outdated applications.
The users of Microsoft Dynamics benefit in more ways than just improved efficiency. Using an intuitive construction tool end-users can build their own automated workflows to replace tedious, time-consuming tasks with automatic processes. These “workflows” can be scheduled to run on defined cycles (date, time), set to run when triggered by an event (such as an update to a member record) or run on-demand whenever the user requires.
Dynamics CRM reporting tools are driven by the powerful SQL Server Reporting Services and allow end-users to craft complex queries with multiple criteria, filters and exported fields, using a wizard-style user interface. Multiple export file formats, as well as live data views displaying your data in real-time, give you visibility into your customers and members like never before.
Benefitting Programmers and IT Staff
Extensive customization options within the Dynamics user interface allow for adding new fields (entities) to the data model as well as integrating those fields into reporting and other business processes. One-to-one, many-to-one, or one-to-many relationships can be defined for custom entities to further extend the platform’s ability for comprehensive business intelligence.
A fully web-service enabled platform allows technology professionals to greatly extend the capabilities of the Dynamics platform by creating targeted external applications. All fields in the data model, including custom fields, can be accessed by any system capable of making web service calls. Extensive documentation is available in the mature Software Development Kit (SDK) as well as through a host of 3rd-party literature.
Due to the collaborative nature of Dynamics CRM, Microsoft has devoted significant resources toward granular security controls. Users and be segmented and assigned role-based permissions and inherit permissions from their higher-level group memberships (Internet-facing deployments of Dynamics CRM use an active directory server hosted with the Dynamics application). Access to objects or records can be delegated and shared among users for added team collaboration without intervention by IT staff to modify permissions. Permission schemes even apply to custom entities created after deployment, so you can rest assured complete control over data access across your entire Dynamics installation.
Even vanilla installations of Microsoft Dynamics provide Internet-facing tools for the public (members, sponsors, clients and more) to interact with your Association. You can chose which information to expose to members on the web as well as which information is editable. Updates by members can even be placed into an automated workflow or queue so a staff person can review before committing the change to the database. Verification like this can help prevent errors and inconsistent information being posted to a record that can have later consequences when trying to contact the member or synchronize data.
Members, in addition to viewing and updating profile information through Dynamics’ online portal, can purchase products from Dynamics’ built-in inventory module, purchase registration to courses and events, and pay for other items like dues and subscriptions. This self-service access extends to processing refunds on items (minus applicable fees), viewing past transactions, viewing committee and group membership and more to further empower members when interacting with a Dynamics-powered Association outside of normal business hours.
Dynamics integrates easily with many existing .NET-based website content management systems (CMS). A good CMS allows even unskilled staff to create dynamic websites that display content from the Dynamics CRM database and update information in real-time. Member insights can be published on the web, while respecting security roles, with only authorized members (such as those on a particular committee, or Board of Directors members) able to access the content. The tools available when a powerful CMS is paired with Microsoft Dynamics CRM allow you to position your website as the focal point for Association communications.