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Does Microsoft Dynamics CRM Require Additional Process Functionality?

Submitted by Michel Braunstein on Tue, 2014-03-25 13:33

Dynamics CRM includes several workflow/process design and execution capabilities. Organizations that use Microsoft’s CRM may require more advanced process management. The question is, can it meet the process needs of such organizations, or must they look further afield?
The good news is that things are improving. Dynamics CRM 2013 includes more process features than its predecessor, 2011. Business Process Flows now enable administrators to design stages for entities, and this goes a long way toward making CRM work more orderly and process-driven.
Other improvements include the ability to add business rules to form fields, meaning that editing one field can affect another. This too, is an added benefit.
And of course, as in 2011, users can design workflows, which are usually a linear sequence of events, triggered by an update to an entity or other CRM actions. Now such workflows can even be executed asynchronously.
And yet many organizations have process requirements that are not answered by these new and existing features. For example:

  • Processes that are cross-organization: processes which trigger tasks or notifications beyond CRM, to other users and stakeholders.
  • Processes that are cross-system: processes which must leverage or surface data, and/or communicate with other systems (e.g. ERP-CRM integration).
  • Process with complex flow diagrams: such processes are difficult to design with the linear, text-based Workflow Design interface of Dynamics CRM.

And so, what many organizations and CRM consultants have begun to seek is BPM (Business Process Management) for Dynamics CRM.

BPM for Dynamics CRM

BPM suites are used across many industries today, and are deployed on many IT platforms. These include ERP, SharePoint, Website-based, standalone and other hybrid options. What about CRM? Several BPM suites include integration with Dynamics CRM, usually via web services. Some actually come with direct BPM plugins for Dynamics CRM. If employed correctly, such solutions can provide an answer to the above-mentioned Dynamics CRM process gaps.
Here are some tips on implementing BPM with CRM successfully:

  • Clearly document your process requirements with relevant stakeholders prior to development.
  • Define who designs and modifies processes, and set clear KPI for process performance and ROI.
  • Ensure that users are trained in how to execute BPM-CRM processes successfully. User adoption is crucial. Use some of these tips to promote adoption of BPM processes.
  • Determine which processes can be defined as native CRM processes and which require a BPM designer (the more advanced processes).
  • Monitor and optimize processes over time.
  • Try to keep processes simple, even though the temptation is for complexity when using a more advanced BPM suite.
  • Try to leverage cross-organizational benefits of BPM – assign tasks and send notifications outside CRM, to extend its reach to other users.
  • Use BPM to design processes which can be exported to other systems and exposed externally, such as on company websites and portals.

What Does the Future Hold?

BPM and CRM are two fields which have come closer together over the years. Now, with the advent of BPM suites which integrate more closely with CRM, this synergy has become even more advanced. I hazard to predict that eventually, these disciplines may be unified into a grander, more far reaching system, which perhaps includes such systems as ERP and SharePoint as well.

Michel Braunstein
I worked for many years in the IT field. I specialized myself in virtualization. With the years, I had the chance to work with BPM people and I got very interested by the profession. Now I’m working as BPM/Marketing consultant. My passion goes to the sea and more especially below the surface, where I love to find subjects to shoot (with my camera). My personal website (not related to my work) is:
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