SharePoint and Dynamics CRM Integration...and a good Dynamics CRM blog

I sat in on Ben Vollmer's session today at Convergence today.  The topic was focused on how to integrate Dynamics CRM into Microsoft Office SharePoint Server.  He started the session asking how many folks in the room (probably about 200-300 people) had deployed Dynamics CRM...about 80% of the hands went up.  He then asked how many people had deployed SharePoint...again, about 80% of the hands went up.  He then asked how many people had integrated the two together...about 30% of the hands went up...and then he asked how many want to...and everyone else raised their hand.

The scenarios sound at first technical, but they definitely show the power of an integrated collaboration, business intelligence and portal platform with a business application like Dynamics CRM.  As we all know, the key to success with any business application is ultimately user adoption.  The more you enable your people to work in the environment where they feel most comfortable, the better results you will receive.  So, what are the key scenarios customers are implementing for their sales, marketing and service folks:

Document Management - Easy enough, it seems.  The scenario Ben highlighted was the ability to automatically provision collaborative workspaces around customers.  He highlighted a proposal generation scenario where you have multiple stakeholders building and collaborating on documents in support of a customer opportunity.  You can really apply this to any document management scenario you have surrounding a customer.  The key to the integration was the natural linkage between the customer in Dynamics CRM to the workspace in SharePoint.  The views were embedded and natural.  The user would never know (or care) that they were accessing SharePoint documents versus CRM data.

External Portal - The scenario he showed off here was around selling through distributors, and providing access to distributors to the CRM system of the manufacturer.  This can also be used for reps who may or may not be a part of your internal corporate network, but need access to company data.  This is a scenario the chemical industry can relate to.  He showed how SharePoint can be used to extend the value of Dynamics CRM into this external portal environment to provide both access to structured data (orders, price lists, leads, etc) housed in the CRM system, and also the unstructured data (product brochures, MSDS, etc...) inside of SharePoint.  We are not talking about custom integration and is more about configuration for these base scenarios.

Internal Portal - Here he showed an example of the integration between SharePoint and Dynamics CRM for role-based dashboards.  For example, a sales person who has a view on one web page, or all their active opportunities, customers, contacts, and associated tasks.  This can be customized to no end, and he showed a sophisticated deployment and configuration used by 4,000 people, as well as a more simplified step-by-step sales process approach for a smaller company with a very high sales turnover rate.

Search Integration - This is one of the very cool areas of SharePoint, but imagine yourself a marketing person in a chemical company.  You want to do some research on a particular customer.  You go to your SharePoint portal, and search on that customer name, and out pops all the document related to that customer, a link to the actual account manager (if there is one) for that customer, and data coming from your CRM system about that customer.  All within one view!  This capability is provided by a feature of SharePoint that allows you to index and access data housed inside of business applications and integrate that into your search results.  Very powerful stuff - and that is true enterprise search capabilities.

Business Intelligence - The final scenario Ben showed was about integrating business intelligence onto dashboards that contain data from the CRM system and other sources.  When people talk about the need to get more value out of their business applications, they are usually referring to easily accessing data and information easily from that system and in a format where they have control of the data.  With our integration of Office, SharePoint and CRM, we do just that.

Check out Ben's blog.  Beware, it is more of a technical blog, but if you are into Dynamics CRM, it is a must read.