Several key factors that affect an ISV’s efficacy are common across the software industry. Factors such as time to market, development, and maintenance cost form a critical part of the balance of profitability when building software solutions. An ISV should choose a development platform that can provide an accelerated development cycle and reduced ongoing maintenance and engineering costs.
The build versus buy conundrum often arises when undertaking complex software solution projects. Many operations in a given solution can be regarded as common across many platforms – and therefore it does not make financial sense to recreate what has already been developed. This approach not only accelerates time to market but also reduces development and maintenance costs.
By building upon the engineering efforts of a software company such as Microsoft, ISVs are able to free up development and solution resources to innovate at the business layer. This approach ultimately allows a greater focus on delivering end user solutions rather than core components and infrastructure. ISVs need to focus on their core competencies and capitalize on their ability to turn intellectual property and industry knowledge into profit.
The Microsoft platform provides the base foundation for solutions and partner ISVs build upon that infrastructure to deliver end solutions to customers. This is particularly relevant for ISVs building highly specialized vertical solutions. By leveraging the common infrastructure components of the platform, ISVs can create powerful solutions while also reducing their time to market.
For example, an ISV building a CRM solution for the financial services industry may choose to build that solution from scratch, which would take a considerable amount of time and investment. The ISV would need to consider, security, presentation, data structure, integration, management and UI design – to name but a few. Alternatively, the ISV may choose to build upon the Microsoft solution stack – where the Windows Server System, SQL Server, and Microsoft CRM deliver all of the core components – thus leaving the ISV to focus on tailoring the solution to the needs of their customer. Instead of having to focus on core infrastructure, the ISV is now free to innovate by using Visual Studio and the Microsoft CRM 3.0 Software Development Kit (SDK). This model allows the ISV to capitalize on their core competencies – building solutions.
This model of innovation by extension means that the intellectual property in the final vertical solution remains with the ISV – who is free to re-package and market that solution to other customers – with the full backing of Microsoft.
Extend, Connect & Embed
When talking about ISV solutions with Dynamics CRM we tend to categorize them into their main models of integration – extend, connect and embed.
Extend – this type is pretty much self explanatory, the ISV has chosen to add extra functionality to the base application. In many cases this is an ISV solution riding the “bow wave” of Microsoft’s CRM efforts. Creating a value add to users by bringing in new or often requested functionality. Typically these solutions are functional pieces of technology – rather than vertical solutions.
Connect – this type of solution is becoming more commonplace. Often it is the case that an ISV has a solution in the market, often established and mature, but realizes that there is considerable benefit from integrating this with complimentary technology such as CRM. In some cases this is broad horizontal functionality but often we are finding that very specific industry vertical solutions are being integrated to Dynamics CRM to provide a complete solution.
An example of this is the work of Data Reduction Systems, a document management and software company based in Union, New Jersey. DRS provide a patented solution to a very specific market segment – pharmaceutical sample accountability and compliance. This is an industry tightly governed by Federal regulation – and PharmaSync is the DRS solution. http://www.drscorp.com/page_22.html The integration between Dynamics CRM and PharmaSync provides a crossover in functionality between specific vertical functionality and generic call planning and marketing management provided by the CRM application – all tailored to suit the needs of the end customer.
Embed – the third type of solution is where we really start to look at Dynamics CRM as being the underlying platform for the solution. As mentioned in the opening paragraph this is where the ISV has to consider the build versus buy conundrum. Does raising the raw materials costs of the solution make sense? Well in many cases ISVs are finding that the answer is definitely yes! Letting Microsoft engineer a lot of the common infrastructure of the solutions allows them to focus on building and delivering the top layers of their solution – faster and more efficiently. (Watch this space for a detailed case study and ROI of several ISV embed solutions).
Finally it’s worth taking a quick look at the idea of platform choice. An ISV can develop an application or a complete vertical solution and deliver that to its customers as an in-house or SaaS offering all from one development effort on a single code base. A solution developed on Dynamics CRM 3.0 Professional Edition can be deployed on Dynamics CRM 3.0 Service Provider Edition (with some minor tweaks depending on the solution). Effectively this gives the customer and the ISV choice. Many ISVs are currently considering whether to follow the current market trend of SaaS and as they do so they may limit their platform choices – or they are creating extra development effort for themselves as they develop the same solution for multiple “different” platforms. By choosing to develop a solution on Dynamics CRM 3.0 the ISV can be provide their solution in many different delivery models from one code base.
An ISV who chooses to develop applications on Dynamics CRM 3.0 is able to serve customers in both the traditional in-house model as well as software as a service (SaaS). Furthermore as we get closer to delivering CRM Live we will be working with ISVs to deliver solutions via the third choice….again all from a common code base. Watch this space for specifics on integrating solutions with CRM Live.
Microsoft CRM ISV Technical Evangelist