Are you a cowboy riding an ostrich?
If your collection of software applications running your business looks like The Island of Misfit Toys, then it’s worth considering some new alternatives.
Yes, his name is King Moonracer
If you are not familiar with the reference to the Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer movie (shame on you), the story goes like this: Rudolph and his newfound friends (who consider themselves misfits) go on an adventure to run away from their problems.
Their journey takes a (maybe cute, maybe disturbing) turn when they happen upon The Island of Misfit Toys. These toys range from a choo-choo train with square wheels on its caboose to a Jack-in-the-box named “Charlie” to a cowboy who rides an ostrich.
Now, I don’t know the origins of these film icons, and I’m not here to debate the fact that some of their problems seem almost too easy to solve (“Hi, I’m Charlie, but you can call me Jack.”). But what I do know is that in my 22 years working in software development, I’ve seen a lot of misfit toys.
Why custom applications go awry
They come about in several ways, but by far the most common reason/history behind these weird contraptions is a creative person using a convenient tool to achieve a very specific goal. The resulting application gets used for something else, and new features continue to get added.
Then as more and more people discover how it makes their lives easier, they start sharing it around so now there are multiple copies and differing versions, different data, and heaven help us if something breaks because now everyone is relying on this Rube Goldberg monstrosity to run the business.
And if you haven’t already guessed, it usually starts with Microsoft Excel. Not always, sometimes Microsoft Access is the culprit.
I am a developer and in the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you it’s not just the creative accounting code dabbler types who do this. I’ve seen certified, degreed computer scientists throw themselves into a project and wind up with the software version of Edward Scissorhands because they were enamored by the latest "buzz-wordy" trend in coding and insisted on doing it the new way.
A better way
The "Cowboy Riding an Ostrich" happens a lot and my comments are not at all meant to be critical towards the authors of these solutions. In fact, I am often genuinely impressed at what they were able to assemble with the components of which they had to work. They are seeing a need and trying to meet it. But whoever or whatever the culprit is, nowadays there is usually a better way. Especially within the Microsoft application stack.
The most recent versions of Dynamics 365 for Sales, Office 365, SharePoint, and Power BI to name a few, are coming together so quickly that complete software solutions which seamlessly leverage the right tools for the right job are now within reach.
- Need an application which gives you the ability to track client engagements including secure storage and management of related documents?
- How about flashy graphs, rich reporting, and KPI’s around your sales data?
- How about a web portal that offers clients limited access to their customer profile data inside CRM?
- Maybe those clients would want to upload files in a secure way?
By judicial use of the XRM concept (an acronym for eXtended CRM), we can tie all of these various products together to develop unique, effective, maintainable solutions that make use of the right tool for the right job.
Of course, the more options you have, the more opportunities for absolute software mayhem. That’s where a technology consulting organization with expertise across multiple disciplines can help.
Take advantage of compatibility
These products no longer live in a vacuum, and it would be a crime not to take advantage of their compatibility. If an organization knows CRM but next to nothing about Sharepoint, they’re going to miss some big benefits in the area of document management. They may still get the job done but without proper knowledge of the companion products you might wind up with a water pistol that shoots jelly.
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Posted by Chris Johnson
CRM Practice Lead, XRM evangelist, husband, father, musician and artist