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Estimating the Cost of a Dynamics CRM Implementation: Part 3 -- Customizations

In the last installment of our saga, we looked at the Microsoft licensing cost for a Dynamics CRM solution.    Now let's take a look at the cost of customizations and software development.  This is significantly more complex than deriving the licensing costs, and is derived based on functional requirements for the specific solution.

The least expensive solutions usually are for the most common CRM scenarios, such as sales force automation, customer service, and marketing (or outreach).   These scenarios match the out-of-the-box functionality of Dynamics CRM well to begin with.   You are likely to require some additional data elements and reports, and nearly certain to need some workflows to match your business processes, but will not need too many new fields or entities.

The most expensive xRM solutions are those that do not match the out-of-the-box entities, forms and reports, and which require integration with other systems.   At the extreme end of customization, the cost will approach that of pure custom development.

Here are some of the key items to count and characterize:

1. Identify all the data elements you need to track, and map them to the Dynamics CRM data model.   This exercise will show which attributes you need to add to existing entities and which new custom entities you will need to create.

2. Examine the user interface and determine whether you need customizations to the look and feel.   If you want distinct forms for each user role, for instance, the cost of the implementation (and subsequent maintenance) will increase.

3.  Enumerate and specify all the reports you will need.    Try to categorize them by complexity to simplify estimation.     We usually break them into simple (lists), moderate (some aggregation) and complex (multi-entity and more complicated calculations). Every Dynamics CRM implementation we have done requires some custom reports.   Be sure to take a look at Advanced Find to see if it can satisfy any of your reporting requirements.

4.  Determine which dashboards you will need.    Dashboards combine business graphs with views into records.    Dynamics CRM comes with standard dashboards for sales, marketing and customer service, but these may not make sense for xRM solutions. 

5. Specify the workflows that will be created.  Again, categorize them into groups based on the complexity of the workflows.    If your workflow has a large number of exceptions you may want to reconsider whether it should be automated at all.

Armed with these lists and specifications, you can approach a Dynamics CRM expert and get a realistic idea of the cost.  If you are familiar with Dynamics CRM yourself, you can use these metrics to create your own estimate.   For instance, you may want to plan four hours for a simple report and twenty hours to create a complex report.

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