Friday, February 8, 2013

Estimating the Cost of Dynamics CRM Implementations: Part 4 -- Integration

If you have been following this series, part four takes us from the relatively clear formulae of software licensing and the function-driven, gap analysis of customization, into the wilds of software integration.   The cost of integration cannot be derived from the number of users or even the complexity of the xRM solution.  It can only be determined with a thorough understanding of the systems to be integrated and the nature of the integration that is required.

We often encounter implementation solicitations that include integration requirements.  Usually, there is a line in the long list of requirements that says something like "integrate with our accounting, timesheets, federal systems, etc." We always say that the price of an unspecified feature cannot be specified.  In order words, without a detailed definition of how two systems will be integrated, an estimate of scope is useless. That little et cetera often found in requirements is of course the worst three letters you could include in a fixed price RFP.

When forced to bid on integration without specifications, conservative companies will bid high to cover the risk inherent in the ambiguity.   More aggressive companies will bid low and place a bet on a combination of optimism and use of change orders once the deal is done.

Here are some of the details that can help derive a better estimate for integration:

  1. Provide documentation for the systems to be integrated, including the data models and options for integration such as web services.
  2. Define functional requirements for the integration.   Spell out how the scenario would work, where the data would be entered, how it is processed in each system, and where it ends up.
  3. Choose the direction of the integration (one-way or two-way).   Which is the authoritative system in the event of a conflict?
  4. Spell out any tools that you would prefer for data integration.   Do you own middleware or enterprise application integration software that would help.

If you are starting from scratch with an xRM application, you may want to hold off on including the integration requirements if they are subject to change based on how the xRM solution itself is developed.    You may even save money by having one vendor implement the solution and another perform the integration.

Dynamics CRM provides a modern, web services interface to allow integration.    You may want to assign the integration task to developers who are proficient in the other system with which you are integrating, especially if it uses a less open and modern architecture.

See our Dynamics CRM implementation cost calculator

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