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The “framework” conundrum in ERP/CRM

What is the optimum limit to which we should customize an “off the shelf” product to meet the client’s need?

Microsoft Dynamics products have been positioned as more of a framework with “optimal” business processes built into the products rather than “hard-coding” all the business best practices that had been the selling pointy for most of the established ERP in the market. When Microsoft Dynamics brand was launched in market, the idea was to enable companies bring their processes into the system rather than following what is already provided by the product.

There are always people commenting on this positively or negatively, and both are right!

The ones in favor believe that any organization is like an individual with its own DNA and they need to work the way they have imbibed business principles and built their USP. It’s not that they would not have a P2P, O2C or Hire to Retire processes, but just that they would have their own way of achieving this in the organization. What Microsoft Dynamics gives is a framework with all components laid out on a drawing board, needing someone to connect the dots and color the same to form a big picture in line with what the organization would like to be. It works on the principal of accepting organizations (whether big or small) as mature entities who know their business, pain-points, solution needs and budgets they would like to spend on achieving that. With this school of thought, the clients are more “collaborative” in nature and would look forward to working with the partner and reach an “optimal” solution at the cost which justifies the same. They would not be attracted by the buzz words in the markets and the latest fads as pushed forward by the “gurus” in the trade. To them the business realities are of utmost importance and so is user acceptance to the new solution.

The other school of thought advocates, “best of breed” solutions – saying that the product companies have worked with Global league players and with domain consultants and all these learnings have been incorporated in the packages. The packages can enable business transformation and help clients realize value by adapting the processes that the application provides and these are “best of breed” processes. These are in line with what the industry players are doing and what the latest trends in businesses and operations are. With these packages the clients can actually reap value because there are lots of learnings which have been incorporated into the products. There is lesser risk in these implementations as the processes already built into the application would be applied as a template in the organization.

Well, both are right!

But then I have full right to have my opinion. Smile

I go with the first school of thought as I think to any corporate, it’s the people, who are working with them, are the real assets. While the prime directive of any business is to make profit, it’s the “people oriented” companies that have had success in the long run. And when we turn that thinking on the “technology led transformations”, I would actually extend the phrase and call it “technology led transformation for the benefit of people”. Ultimately whatever package we use, we need to ensure that people are going to use it on day to day basis and the under experience has to be such that they themselves find value in using the product. With attrition and movement of people, retraining people on complex packages with complex transaction scenarios is a big task needing lot of investment in terms of time and money; needless to say the loss of business in the intervening period.

The companies who are in business are very much doing their operations in a streamlined process, which may not be executed properly due to lack of tools that can enable this. Sometimes it actually makes sense to streamline the processes first and then go for an application that can tie these processes together into a single ERP/CRM system and this ERP/CRM system needs to have that flexibility to adopt the “best for business” processes for the organization. The customizations that are done to achieve this does affect the upgrade path, but then there are other questions around when to upgrade, why to upgrade and at what cost which need to be evaluated. Can we go with the option of making people change the way they do business to suit the application as we are concerned only about the future upgrade cost? Isn’t it more realistic to look at current needs as well – isn’t the business benefit required now? Long live - “technology led transformation for the benefit of people”.


I agree to the point raised above.I have had experience where companies have gone for best of breed solutions for their company, which in a way are not suitable for their vertical. With so many business models emerging today with new businesses departing in ways from old businesses it has become difficult to define best of breed.

Traditionally the best of breeds have been more focused on Manufacturing based industries and their best practices tend to be more inclined towards them as they have more statistical data.

For today's growing industries which are not typically manufacturing but more service and market oriented there is a need to have a solution which is fast adaptable and easily usable and allows companies to test their innovations Here lies the strength of 'Dynamics' to enable organisations to test out new ways of doing business.

Both the views are correct. While one hand , practising best of breed practises gives you a structured and more defined process excution, it may not always map to each business. Each organisation has their own menthodoligies with which they would like to run their processes, especially in the mid market segment. Here - the managment does not have the infrastructure ( resource of any form - money, systems, employees ) to imbibe the best of breed practices into the day to day running of their organisation. I particularly agree to the line - "With attrition and movement of people, retraining people on complex packages with complex transaction scenarios is a big task needing lot of investment in terms of time and money; needless to say the loss of business in the intervening period " - which according to me sums up the problem faced by the mid size companies ; hence Dynamics is the way to be. There is news of SAP ByD doing well in the market - which is it seems following similar principles as Micrososft Dynamics with an additional advantage of SAP brand name. Today's era is of upcoming SME segment; hence ERP players are moving in the direction of providing a framework rather than rigid processes. That's the way to be - after all - in present day's service orientated businesses - customer rules !! Give him what he wants-that will give you Customer Delight - key to success of any business

Thanks Somitra and nikita for your inputs. the name "dynamics" that has been chosen seem to be the prime motive from Microsoft in line with your thoughts. Others are making inroads into this thought process. I just want to know if there are more players who have in line positioning as dynamics as of now. If there are i am sure its going to become the next big thing in packaged solution space....any ideas!

After going through the post above, I am having a feeling of ambivalence. From my point of view, there are two ways of learning: first one, which is also a difficult one is to try it yourself, spend time in learning and go through the lifecycle of the process. The other way is to check with experts who already have past experiences on what works and what doesn't. Most of the time, I would like to go with approach two. There is no point in reinventing the wheel. In my opinion, we need a solution which is somewhere in between, which means, it provides both best of breed processes which is preconfigured in the solution and which also provides framework and tools for both customers and partners which helps in playing around with these processes.

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