The purpose of this article is to compare Microsoft’s CRM solution, Dynamics CRM against the CRM functionality of its ERP solution, Microsoft Dynamics NAV. The better option for a particular business situation will depend on the way in which data is used and handled.
Revised October 2017
The term CRM, or Customer Relationship Management, is a term open to interpretation and can mean different things to different people in different situations but there are four aspects to customer relationship management systems, the first three of which are essential for a system to claim it is a true CRM:
Microsoft Dynamics NAV has had basic Contact Management since version one was released in the early 1990s. Initially this was the ability to hold multiple contacts against a customer, prospect or supplier and the ability to convert a prospect into a customer (or supplier) record. Over time this evolved into support Sales Process Automation (quote production, pipeline management, forecasting etc) and Marketing Information Systems (campaign management, segmentation etc). The addition of Service Management in version 3.7 meant that Dynamics NAV could properly claim to provide a full CRM solution.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM was first released to market in 2003 and has grown rapidly, partly due to ease of adoption, low entry price and integration with Outlook client being key factors to its success. The functional areas include all four aspects of CRM in both Dynamics CRM and Dynamics NAV although detailed features differ between the two systems.
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The key factor in determining whether to deploy Dynamics NAV or Dynamics CRM to meet your needs will depend on where the data is held that the CRM processes need to access. If marketing is based on static data then Dynamics CRM will work well. If marketing is based on transactional data then Dynamics NAV is likely to be the better choice.
The case is similar for service management processes. If the service desk needs to continually access data that is held in the ERP system (products purchased, warranty periods etc) then keeping everything in the one system will make sense and so the better choice is likely to be Dynamics NAV.
In 2010 Microsoft released a standard connector to integrate CRM and NAV. This offered limited functionality but can be further developed as required. However, building complicated interfaces is rarely the best options, especially when processes could be easily managed in one system.
Prior to the release of Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009, there were valid points about the User Interface being preferable in Dynamics CRM. This is no longer the case and most users would notice little difference between the two products.
Subscription based Dynamics CRM has tended to be more popular than subscription based Dynamics NAV. This has been because CRM is generally a simple process, and the pricing structure for subscription based Dynamics CRM is deliberately aimed at competing against Sales Force and therefore extremely cost effective.
Also some clients have felt more comfortable not having to host their own software and the implications of needing to support it. With browser clients for Dynamics NAV (web and smart-phone compatible) now well established in the market, this playing field has levelled.
So is Dynamics CRM or Dynamics NAV the right solution to choose? Where CRM is a standalone activity, Microsoft Dynamics CRM will suit you very well. Where customer interactions draw heavily on data in an ERP system, deploying Microsoft Dynamics NAV is likely to be the better option.